Before we dive into projections, we need to define the difference between projections and predictions.
A prediction is a forecast with high confidence in a specific outcome. A projection is an array of predictions leading to a mean value of outcomes, basically a projection is a grouping of predictions.
Projections are often wrong and usually don’t mean much, but we all read into them anyway, as I am about to do with FanGraph’s latest projections for the 2018 Padres. You can crunch all the numbers you want, look into an endless amount of analytics, but nothing can measure the human element in our great game, and that’s what makes it fun.
For example, Fan Graphs projected the Giants to win about 87 games last season and make the Wild Card.
Instead, San Francisco finished as the worst team in baseball. And they also picked the Twins to finish last in the AL Central, yet Minnesota earned a Wild Card berth. However, I will give FanGraphs credit as they predicted seven of the ten playoff teams correctly and even nailed the Boston Red Sox’s win total of 93 exactly.
The Friars surprised many by not losing 100 games last year, going 71-91 instead. Most expected the Padres to not even touch 70 wins. Based on their runs scored versus runs allowed formula, their “Pythagorean” win-loss record last season should have been 59-103. They had the worst run differential in baseball by a large margin at -212. With that information, the Padres winning 71 games might have been a bit of a miracle.
Let’s take a look at their projections for the 2018 Padres season win total and individual statistics.
Projected Starting Lineup Statistics (using ZiPS)
- Manuel Margot, CF .267/.316/.412, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 20 SB, 2.7 WAR
- Carlos Asuaje, 2B .241/.312/.357, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 0.6 WAR
- Wil Myers, RF .254/.336/.474, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 22 SB, 2.6 WAR
- Eric Hosmer, 1B .279/.346/.451, 23 HR, 91 RBI, 1.7 WAR
- Jose Pirela, LF .263/.312/.430, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 1.2 WAR
- Chase Headley, 3B .255/.331/.376, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 1.4 WAR
- Austin Hedges, C .232/.272/.403, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 1.5 WAR
- Freddy Galvis, SS .258/.304/.394, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 1.6 WAR
- Clayton Richard 4.50 ERA, 148 IP, 6.4 K/9, 1.7 WAR
- Luis Perdomo 4.48 ERA, 149 IP, 6.6 K/9, 1.7 WAR
- Dinelson Lamet 3.92 ERA, 150 IP, 10.7 K/9, 2.6 WAR
- Bryan Mitchell 3.79 ERA, 90 IP, 7.7 K/9, 1.7 WAR
- Tyson Ross 4.99 ERA, 71 IP, 6.7 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Brad Hand 3.04 ERA, 30 saves, 12 K/9, 1.3 WAR
FanGraphs is not optimistic Clayton Richard can get close to the 30+ start/200-inning threshold starters aim for every season. Richard got close last year with 197 innings over 32 starts. This would be an improvement in ERA and WAR, but a drop-off everywhere else. Perhaps FanGraphs is projecting the Padres will go with a six man rotation? Luis Perdomo needs to be more consistent this season, and these numbers would indicate that. This projection has Perdomo improving his ERA (4.67 last season) while slightly increasing his strikeout rate (6.5). Again, I am not sure how much stock to put into the innings and WAR projections.
Dinelson Lamet may became the ace of this rotation before season’s end, at least when it comes to production, and these projections agree. He had 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings last season, the best among rookie starters. If he can maintain that while also lowering his ERA to under four, watch out, we might have a 200+ strikeout guy on our hands.
It’s tough to evaluate the back-end of the Padres’ rotation with so much uncertainly flying around. Most projections have Bryan Mitchell and Tyson Ross rounding out the rotation. If Mitchell posts numbers like these, I’m all in. He has a career 4.94 ERA in 48 games, only nine of those were starts so this projection is very favorable. The Padres would be doing cartwheels if Mitchell posted this ERA and strikeout rate (career 5.9 K/9). I wouldn’t get my hopes up just yet. Ross is aiming for a redemption season and these numbers wouldn’t be it. Although this would be his best ERA in two seasons, that is not saying much. It would be disappointing to have Ross win a rotation spot, then struggle to keep his ERA under five with fewer than seven strikeouts per nine, which would be almost two whole strikeouts per nine innings off of his career 8.4.
Brad Hand is liked among most projectionists. Asking for a repeat of last season may be unrealistic (2.16 ERA, 192 ERA+, 2.8 WAR), but these numbers would still hold up as one of the most solid in any bullpen. Among pitchers who threw at least 70 innings last season, Hand’s 11.8 K/9 was sixth best in all of baseball. Keeping his strikeout rate around there, or even higher, would be astounding and worthy of a second straight All-Star bid. We all have high expectations for Hand and these numbers don’t do anything to douse that.
I won’t insult your intelligence by lecturing you that these hardly mean anything, especially when not a single regular season pitch has been thrown yet. Are projections totally worthless? Not necessarily. Teams use these things to make decisions on possible trades or signings (see 2017-2018 offseason). They even get it right on occasion. We will revisit these later in the season to see where they are. Overall, these look like realistic expectations with a few more optimistic and others more pessimistic, as is to be expected. The player I expect to exceed these projections the most is Austin Hedges. We all (or at least most of us) hope the Padres will prove everyone wrong and be a year ahead of their rebuild. We just don’t know until they take the field on March 29th, and that’s what makes baseball fun.