On Target, But Underwhelming




Welcome to the All-Star Break. Or, at least, almost the All-Star Break. This week, since we’re at the unofficial mid-point of the season (which is to say a bit more than halfway through), I thought it was a good time to take a look at how various Reds are faring compared to their preseason projections. I’m using the ZiPS projections here because they’re usually the best of the lot. Let’s take a look:

No Contest
More than anything else, injuries have derailed the season. I can’t remember what Mesoraco’s line was when he got hurt, but I know it was bad and I’m not looking it up. I also won’t blame ZiPS, which projected him at .255/.327/.462 with a total of 2.9 WAR, for being wrong here.

Homer Bailey, of course, gets similar treatment. ZiPS thought he’d be good for 3.54 ERA and 3.0 WAR.

The other “lost for the season” player is, of course, Zack Cozart. ZiPS had him at .244/.284/.359 and 1.8 WAR. When he was hurt, after playing only 53 games, Cozart had already generated 1.5 WAR while hitting .258/.310/.459, making him a good bet to have surpassed his projections.

Not Getting It Done
ZiPS was bullish on the Reds, but surprisingly, most of the healthy hitters are all, generally, meeting or exceeding their projections. There are, however, two exceptions. One is Marlon Byrd, but the problem is not with his bat. ZiPS thought he would hit .271/.314/.481, and his .249/.303/.472 line is not far off that, especially with scoring down again this year. However, ZiPS, for some unknown reason, thought he would be an above-average fielder. He hasn’t been, so that 2.3 WAR projection is not going to happen.

The other exception, of course, is Billy Hamilton. ZiPS had him at .262/.314/.368; he’s actually hitting .222/.272/.290. According to FanGraphs, his defense and baserunning are enough to make his total value roughly what ZiPS thought, but Baseball-Reference disagrees.

On the pitching side, Mike Leake’s 4.39 ERA and 0.6 WAR are not where he should be if he expects to match the 3.94 ERA and 2.4 WAR ZiPS expected him to finish with. (Surprise, when two of your three established starting pitchers are hurt and/or underperforming, it makes for a long year!)

Right in the Pocket
ZiPS thought Johnny “We’ll Miss You” Cueto was going to manage a 2.88 ERA with 4.8 WAR. His 2.61 ERA and 2.6 WAR have him close enough that we have to give ZiPS a check mark here. On a related note, can we get together a kickstarter or something to keep Cueto in Cincinnati?

Joey Votto is set to outperform his projected WAR, but that’s only because of playing time. ZiPS thought he’d spend some time on the DL (and really, who can blame ZiPS for that?). As it stands, the ZiPS slashline of .279/.417/.469 is very close to his current .281/.388/.492 averages. Yes, Votto is still very Votto-y.

Projection: .263/.307/.389. That’s what ZiPS had for Brandon Phillips. He’s hitting .277/.314/.369 right now and is on pace to be worth a touch less than 2.0 WAR. ZiPS had him at 1.9 WAR. Score another one for ZiPS

ZiPS projected Jay Bruce to hit .255/.326/.470 and be worth 2.4 WAR. Well, he’s right on track for that WAR projection. Bad as his April was, his .240/.332/.444 line right now, isn’t too bad at all.

Beating the Odds
Three players this year have risen significantly above their ZiPS projections. You know about Todd Frazier, I presume. ZiPS thought he’d hit 25 home runs this season. He has 25 home runs before the All-Star break. His 4.1 WAR has already passed his 3.6 WAR ZiPS projection. Did anyone see this coming? To this extent?

Aroldis Chapman is great. ZiPS, like all projection systems, sees his silly stats and thinks, “those can’t be real.” But they are. ZiPS thought he’d be good for 1.9 WAR this year and he already has 1.4. Ridiculous for a relief pitcher (If only he’d been given a chance to start, the timeworn writer thought, beating a dead, dead horse while staring wistfully into the great abyss).

Do you know who else has been worth 1.4 WAR? Anthony DeSclanfani. That’s pretty cool, huh? ZiPS thought he wasn’t really ready, projecting him for 0.7 WAR. Young players are very hard to project, so we can’t blame ZiPS, but it’s still nice to see that the Reds have a solid pitcher right there. Oh, and if you’re keeping track, Mat Latos has 1.0 WAR right now. Feel free to chuckle.

The Odd Ball
Michael Lorenzen has numbers that look okay, but FanGraphs doesn’t like his peripherals, sticking him with a -0.6 WAR this season, while Baseball-Reference sees him as +0.6. In the middle is a 0.0 WAR player. ZiPS had him at 0.1 for the season (which really just means, “needs further seasoning”). He only has 65 innings under his belt so we probably need to wait a bit before making judgments on him.

Overall, ZiPS has been surprisingly accurate. Few players have radically diverged from what we expected, and looking at these projections only reminds me that if it weren’t for injuries, we might be looking at a possible Wild Card contender. Alas.

Jason Linden is a Nuxhall Way contributor who also writes for Redleg Nation and The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is out now. You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonLinden.

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