Archive for 2012 Positional Power Rankings

Positional Power Rankings: Relief Pitchers

For an explanation of this series, please read the introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

This post represents the final installment of our 2012 positional power rankings. This edition looks at bullpens.

A couple notes on these rankings. Because, over the course of a season, any number of pitchers will appear in relief for a given team, I’ve decided to concentrate on those pitchers who are most likely to receive high-leverage innings during the season. Additionally, note that a number of relief pitchers are also projected for starter’s innings. In those instances where this is the case, I’ve preserved the raw ZiPS rate projections (i.e. K/9, BB/9, HR/9), but adjusted both the innings and WAR projections, while attempting to represent the bump in performance that starters receive when moving to the bullpen.

In terms of criteria, these rankings are based both on the projected WAR of the relevant relievers and also each club’s relief depth. While the Rays, for example, don’t necessarily have the highest-end arms at the back of their bullpen, they have a wealth of slightly above-average ones.

Finally, please note that absolute precision is not the objective here — nor a possibility, really. Indeed, a reasonable argument could be made for moving most teams up or down a couple spots. Rather, the idea is to get a general sense of where each team is situated relative to the rest of the league.

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Top 15 Team Prospects & Positional Power Rankings

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Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers, 1-15

For an explanation of this series, please read the introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

This series was a lot of work, but it was also fun to go through each organization and look at some of the interesting projections that ZIPS has spit out for various starters. The projections listed below are a combination of rate stats projected by Dan Szymborski’s system combined with my estimation of innings pitched and then a calculation of WAR based on the combination of my quantity estimate and Dan’s projection of quality. These aren’t intended to be exact projections, which is why we’ve rounded to the nearest half win, but I think they’re probably going to fair pretty decently – I did do my best to ensure that the total IP and WAR projections lined up very closely with league totals from last year, and I tried to figure out the seven or eight most likely starters for each franchise – the depth chart information isn’t always crystal clear for every team, so I had to make some guesses, but I think the selections are reasonable in most cases.

There were definitely some surprises once I finished the calculations and sorted from top to bottom. If this a purely subjective exercise based on my opinion, some teams would move around a decent amount, but I’ve tried to make it clear where I think the ZIPS rate stats might be too high or too low on a specific group, or gave an explanation for the thinking behind the IP total. Besides the shocker in the top five, I’m pretty comfortable with most of these, and think they line up with general consensus pretty well. But, enough ramblings – on to the rankings.

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Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers, 16-30

For an explanation of this series, please read the introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

This series was a lot of work, but it was also fun to go through each organization and look at some of the interesting projections that ZIPS has spit out for various starters. The projections listed below are a combination of rate stats projected by Dan Szymborski’s system combined with my estimation of innings pitched and then a calculation of WAR based on the combination of my quantity estimate and Dan’s projection of quality. These aren’t intended to be exact projections, which is why we’ve rounded to the nearest half win, but I think they’re probably going to fair pretty decently – I did do my best to ensure that the total IP and WAR projections lined up very closely with league totals from last year, and I tried to figure out the seven or eight most likely starters for each franchise – the depth chart information isn’t always crystal clear for every team, so I had to make some guesses, but I think the selections are reasonable in most cases.

There were definitely some surprises once I finished the calculations and sorted from top to bottom. If this a purely subjective exercise based on my opinion, some teams would move around a decent amount, but I’ve tried to make it clear where I think the ZIPS rate stats might be too high or too low on a specific group, or gave an explanation for the thinking behind the IP total. Besides the shocker in the top five, I’m pretty comfortable with most of these, and think they line up with general consensus pretty well.

Since we’re covering so many players and it just got incredibly long, we’ve split this post in two, with the second post set to run in a couple of hours. But, enough ramblings, on to the rankings.

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Positional Power Rankings: Designated Hitter

For an explanation of this series, please read Dave Cameron’s introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

Whether you believe that every team should have a designated hitter, or that no teams should have one, there is no denying that the DH is an interesting position. While it’s still a position of high-octane performance — as a position, DH’s .771 OPS was second-best in the American League, behind only first base — it is also the one that most resembles a carousel. Last season, teams started — on average — more than nine different DH’s. Seven teams — the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rangers, Rays, Twins, White Sox and Yankees — had more different starting DH’s than they did starting pitchers. If you’re scoring at home, that’s half the AL.

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Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

For an explanation of this series, please read Dave Cameron’s introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

Left field has traditionally been a power of power for big league lineups, and for the past decade, it has also been a place for teams to hide poor defensive players. Think Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Lee, Adam Dunn, and Pat Burrell.

In 2011, however, that standard has begun to shift. The league-average wOBA for left fielders (.320 wOBA) was lower than both center field (.324) and right field (.334). Players such as Brett Gardner, Desmond Jennings, and Alex Presley project to start in left field for their respective teams. Those are not the traditional left field types that we grew accustomed to watching over the past ten or fifteen years, but as we will see, that does not mean the teams with those players rank near the bottom of the positional rankings.

Let’s take a look …

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Positional Power Rankings: Right Field

For an explanation of this series, please read Dave Cameron’s introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

One thing jumped out at me as I pored over the depth charts of the 30 Major League Baseball teams in my research for this post: right field is a position of hope.

Sure, there are going to bad right fielders, as there are bad left fielders and bad second basemen and bad catchers. But as I looked at this year’s crop, it was difficult to find any teams in an unequivocally bad spot when it comes to right fielders. Even the teams which rank towards the bottom of the list have somebody who can either hit well enough or field well enough to be worth their while. Perhaps this should be expected given right field’s spot on the positional spectrum, but regardless, most fans should get some entertainment out of the position this season.

As a note, some liberties have been taken with respect to declaring the differences in reserve right fielders and reserve left fielders. Chances are if there’s a player you expected to see here who isn’t, he will show up in this afternoon’s post on left fielders.

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Positional Power Rankings: Center Field

For an explanation of this series, please read Dave Cameron’s introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

Center field is a glamour position. Think Willie Mays. Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio. Ken Griffey, Jr. For some teams in 2012, center field will feature strong, glamorous players. Think Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies. For other teams in 2012, center field will feature not-quite-there and been-there-done-that guys. Think Astros, Indians, Blue Jays, and Nationals. The other teams feature players — or platoons– that fall somewhere on the lackluster-to-glamorous spectrum.

As my colleagues have noted in their positional power rankings, this is an art, not a science. We do our best with the information we have, to which we add our analysis and judgment. I have not projected anyone to have more than 600 plate appearances as a center fielder, even though a number of  players have seen 650-plus plate appearances for several seasons. Things happen. Injuries happen. It just made sense to me to be conservative, particularly with a position that requires a great deal of athleticism.

And now, on to the show.

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Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

Here’s the introduction to the series from Dave Cameron, and here are some caveats: we’re doing our best to guesstimate, the WARs are approximate, there are tiers here that we will try to identify, and the season is a souffle that might rise or might not for any particular team. And yet, the result of all this might be a decent understanding of how the teams stand in comparison to the rest of the league at each position. Surely, at the very least, it will spawn some discussion.

Perhaps we should rethink the defensive spectrum! Perhaps third base is the hardest position! Last year, third baseman had a .707 OPS — worsted only by catchers… and still shortstops. But the .252/.317/.390 collective batting line at the hot corner was just barely better than the shortstops with their .263/.317/.380 ways. That’s not usual.

Still, the decline of the third base position may just have been temporary. There’s a new infusion of youth on the way, and there’s also a fair chance that some veterans bounce back and make the position look more palatable. And don’t forget a couple key position switches coming our way this year — the inclusion of these new offensive third basemen will boost the offensive numbers, and their bad defense may hurt less than it might seem.

Could this year represent a renaissance at the position?

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Positional Power Rankings: Shortstop

For an explanation of this series, check out the the introduction courtesy of Dave Cameron.

I think it’s important to remember a couple of things here:

(A) The WAR estimates are kind of ballpark figures. As Cameron notes in his intro above, a 2.0 WAR projection should be considered nearly the same as a 2.5 WAR prediction.

(2) Each of these projected playing times have been researched as diligently possible, but there are bound to be mistakes. Things happen and things change, plus, I’m like a human, bro; chill out.

(D) The danger of ordinal rankings is that we intrinsically assume the distance between each point is the same or close to the same. That’s not always the case. The middle group is pretty similar with lots of gray area. The top 10 or 12 are pretty much on a much higher tier that the following 18 or so. ALSO: Keep in mind: These rankings: They are not about long-term quality, just 2012.

Without any more of this ado, here’s the 2012 Shortstop Positional Power Rankings:
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Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

For an explanation of this series, go ahead and read the introduction. All the posts in the series can be found here.

We’re going to continue our positional power rankings series by focusing on the keystone. While playing time for some teams were relatively easy to figure, there were more than a few teams that have serious question marks at second. As Eric Seidman explained yesterday, the goal here is to determine how much value the position will produce. So while you will see Michael Young make an appearance on this list, his WAR only reflects his value at second base. Enough talking, let’s do this.

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Positional Power Rankings: First Base

For an explanation of this series, go ahead and read the introduction. All the posts in the series can be found here.

First base, unsurprisingly, has the best hitters out of all the positions in baseball, although what separates the very first basemen according to the ZiPS and Fan projections is fielding. Obviously, the “true talent” side of things is not my work, I just adjusted playing time and depth charts, prorated, and so on. Just a couple of notes before we get started. Obviously, this a more of a subjective exercise, as I am not a doctor who can tell you want is going to happen with player injuries with any expertise. More importantly, I am not a mind reader who can say how a certain manager will react if his young first basement has a nasty slump in June. I view this charts sort of like subjective versions of projectinos — I am simply trying to reduce the error. by listing potential players who might play at the positions and rough playing time amounts. I have no doubt that there will be some things in here that look pretty silly in retrospect, and perhaps even now. With that out of the way, let’s get to the rankings.

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Positional Power Rankings: Catcher

For an explanation of this series, go ahead and read the introduction. All the posts in the series can be found here.

We’re going to kick off the series with a look at how teams fare behind the plate. The catcher position is one of the most important on a team, and it’s unfortunately one of the toughest to evaluate given our limitations in measuring defensive value. Ranking teams at the position proved interesting since some of the best overall players who happen to catch are not going to derive their entire value from behind the plate. Mike Napoli might tally 5 WAR this season, but how much of that comes from time spent DH’ing or at first base? Teams also get boosts from having solid backups, as the goal here isn’t to rank the 30 starters, but to determine how much overall value is expected out of the position itself.

30. Los Angeles Dodgers
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Positional Power Rankings: Introduction

Now that it’s March, you’re going to see a lot of different Season Previews popping up around the web. Some of these will go team by team, others will go division by division, and a few others will just talk about the expected contenders while giving short shrift to those who might not be ready to win just quite yet. We wanted to do something a little different, however, so starting today, we’re going position by position around the league, and comparing the relative merits of each team’s options at each spot on the field for 2012. This is only looking at the upcoming season and doesn’t account for potential long term value – we’re just concerned with what each team may get from a given spot on the field this year.

We’re going to kick it off this afternoon with catchers and first baseman, and we’ll do a couple posts per day until we get through the starters and relievers on Friday. The goal is that, by the end of the week, we will have provided a look at where each team is strong or weak, and what kind of performance a team can expect to get from their current in-house options.

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