Reaction to FanGraph’s Season Projections for the Padres

Credit: San Diego UT

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 2018 NL West Standings

1. Dodgers 94-68
2. Giants 82-80
3. Diamondbacks 81-81
4. Rockies 80-82
5. Padres 72-90
 It’s apparent the widespread opinion is that the Dodgers will win this division handily. The Padres are projected to win 72 games, which would be one better than last year. Frankly, with how the starting rotation looks on paper, this is about right. If the Padres added a better starting pitcher to the rotation, they could flirt with 75-78 wins, in my opinion, and not be a cellar dweller in the National League West. I am also not convinced that the Giants will be that much improved after acquiring two stars past their prime in Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, and maybe there could be a battle for last like last season. 72 wins is a common projection for the Padres this season.
If the Padres don’t acquire a starter from the outside, they better hope one of their internal options emerges as better than expected. Their offense could be good enough for more wins, and selfishly, I am hoping the Padres aim for 78-80 wins this year as a goal. It’s time to start teaching these young kids how to win, not how to tank, but as of now, 72 wins is where they are at.

Projected Starting Lineup Statistics (using ZiPS)

  1. Manuel Margot, CF  .267/.316/.412, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 20 SB, 2.7 WAR
  2. Carlos Asuaje, 2B   .241/.312/.357, 9 HR, 50 RBI,  0.6 WAR
  3. Wil Myers, RF   .254/.336/.474, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 22 SB, 2.6 WAR
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B   .279/.346/.451, 23 HR, 91 RBI, 1.7 WAR
  5. Jose Pirela, LF   .263/.312/.430, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 1.2 WAR
  6. Chase Headley, 3B  .255/.331/.376, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 1.4 WAR
  7. Austin Hedges, C  .232/.272/.403, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 1.5 WAR
  8. Freddy Galvis, SS  .258/.304/.394, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 1.6 WAR
Let’s start from the top. Manny Margot’s projections are very close to his 2017 totals (.263, 13 HR, 17 SB, 2.5 WAR). With a slight uptick in average and stolen bases, I would certainly take this projection. We hope Margot has a bit more pop in his bat than this, but we all know he is bound for 20 steals very soon. Carlos Asuaje may not have double-digit home run power but I would expect his average to be much better than .241. He hit .270 with over half a season’s worth of at-bats last season.
Wil Myers’ numbers look very similar as well, with a better slash line. 30 home runs in any season is a really good thing, but if Myers can hit 30 bombs again while also improving his batting average and on-base percentage, sign me up for that. However, I do expect his average to be more in the .265 range as he will get some protection with Hosmer on deck.
Here is the question: would you be OK with Eric Hosmer’s numbers above? It would be fewer home runs, a lot lower of an average, and two and a half wins fewer than his 2017 totals, although the Padres desperately need a guy in the middle of the lineup who can maintain an on-base percentage near .350, and this would do it. For the first year, with all that pressure of his new contract, I would be content with these numbers.
Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America
Jose Pirela seems like the likeliest candidate to win the left field job. Given a full season, Pirela (.288, 10 HR, 40 RBI in 83 games) could have exceeded the numbers above. I expect the same this season as these projections seem a bit low for Pirela. With his power and consistency he showed in 2017, one would think he could approach 20 home runs while maintaining an average above .265. These numbers for Chase Headley honestly seem a bit generous, mostly because I don’t expect him to play enough to reach these numbers. If he can hit double-digit home runs while keeping an on-base percentage above .320, he won’t be a total disaster staying on the roster.
Austin Hedges clearly needs to improve his overall hitting from last season (.214, 122 strikeouts), but as a premier defensive catcher, I really don’t expect him to hit .270 either. With all the value he adds defensively, a .232 average is tolerable. It’s the home runs I have a problem with. We have seen the changes he has made in the spring and I believe he has 25-home run power. Freddy Galvis rounds out the starting lineup with numbers nearly identical to his last year in Philadelphia (.255, 12 HR, 1.3 WAR), with a slight swing up in his power numbers, and honestly, I’ll take it. His value is more on the defensive side as well as leadership in the clubhouse. Plus, this projected Galvis would be head and shoulders above what the Padres have gotten at shortstop recently.

Projected Starting Rotation Statistics 

Closer

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.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

8 thoughts on “Reaction to FanGraph’s Season Projections for the Padres

  1. Folks…I’m just not ready to kick Renfroe to the curb…this kid has unreal power,and a gun to boot…a full season under the ‘Stairs’ will do wonders for the kid,and could correct most of his early issues…I could see 25-30 home runs, and 65-70 RBI’s with a full season…let’s not give up on the kid so soon…we have a diamond in the rough….and all he needs is a little polish…?

  2. The media and essentially any organized body always go tough on the Pads with trades, predictions, signings etc. That being said, this team is going to have to overachieve to get to .500 this year. It’s nice to have Hos and everything but we are looking at 72-75 wins realistically. And sure… it’s a tough division and everything but you simply can’t compete with that rotation and a glut of your core hitters unable to reach base or have quality at bats.

    1. That’s a fair assessment and if all goes well they might sniff .500. Think about that for a second. They over achieved for 72 wins last year. If they play where most think they will 75 wins would be an improvement on 59 wins (Where they should have been). I’ll take that in another transition year trying to evaluate what is already here. Still got to grade on a curve but the mean expectation is getting better. Again for 2018, I will take that. Judging the Pads on how they will finish in the NL west is looking at a tree instead of the forest.

  3. I don’t think much at all of any of these projections for young players who are still moving in the direction of their prime. It is much better for teams with 28-32 year old players who have 5+ years of ML service time. Hence the results they got for last season. They are very scewed towards last seasons results with some adjustment for numbers over the last 5 years. Then they look at projected playing time and crunch the numbers. They are very conservitive at best. Having one player projected at an OPS over .800 is not going to cut it. None of these guys look like a starter on a contender based on these projections. I look at common players with similar skill sets and how they performed at similar stages in their careers much more than these projections. For instance for Margot I look at Kevin Kiermaier (4.1 WAR) or Byron Buxton (3.5 WAR) and compare. Defense never slumps so strides towards being the best NL CF and trasform his plus speed into actual SB results would help out allot. I think Margot is a 30-40 SB type player. Higher OBP would add allot as would more XBH (doubles and triples). Hosmer is going to suprise allot of people this season, who think he is a poor fielder because of zone rating and is a league average offensive player. Our starting pitching overall will be much better than most think. I am not sure where that improvment will come from but we have lots of options for a change. We will have 5 guys in San Diego, backed up by 4 more in AAA and another two youngsters in AA. Players like Ross and CY are valued at nearly nothing and most sports writers like yourself value current past results way too much. Like suggesting that Alex Cobb would be a big boost to this staff when he is one year back from two seasons of dealing with an injury, very similar to what Ross and CY are dealing with this year. Young players like Lucchesi, Lauer, Strahm, Erlin, or Rea don’t get good projections til they have a couple of consistant solid years under their belts. Which ones of these 5 will have break outs this year that impact the results of this team, I am not sure but a couple of the 5 will. This team WILL WIN 78-84 games this year. Better IF defense will be create much better results for our pitching, Galvis is better at SS, Villanueva/Headley are better at 3B and Hosmer is better than myers at 1B. It could be worth upto 0.35 off the overall team ERA. We have 4 vets this year in our everyday lineup in Hosmer, Myers, Galvis, and Headley that will help stabilize our offense overall. Every year a team is going to win 60 games and lose 60 games and it is what you do with the other 40 games that determines your overall record. We got blown out some games when pitching broke down last season but other times we scored some runs and the pitching held up. We were inconsistant, a common trait of young developing teams. We did have three Rule 5 guys on the bench which played a big part in our inability to impact final game results in close & late games. Our #1 vet pitcher last season Weaver was projected at 0.5 WAR but starting 9 games and the Padres lost them ALL, that is a big shift on the overall results of the season. I struggle to see any part of this Padre Team for 2018 that is worse than what we started with last year.

  4. If Mitchell is in the rotation and has that ERA the IP should be about double. They seem to be projecting Ross will get injured or be so bad he will get cut. If the Padres can’t get more than 150 innings from any starter they may not even get to last year’s record.

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