Archive for 2014 Positional Power Rankings

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Relief Pitchers (#16-30)

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Also, keep in mind that these lists are based on rosters as of last week, so weekend transactions are not reflected in the rosters below. In some cases, teams have allocated playing time to different reserves than these depth charts show, but because they’re almost always choosing between near-replacement level players, the differences won’t move the needle much if at all.

And now, for our final act:

PPRRP

Your best bullpens in the league, separated by millimeters and likely to look completely different by the end of the year. In reality, this is the hardest group to project, because bullpens are more fungible than any other position on a roster. Starters who fail to pitch well in the rotation will get moved to the bullpen unexpectedly. Guys who look like fringe prospects will start throwing sidearm, destroy the world, and come up in a few months to dominate. The guys who were great last year will be less great this year, and new great guys will come out of nowhere.

Don’t yell at the projections, they’re doing the best they can with 60-inning samples. And we did the best we could to get the forecasted roles correct, but then Neftali Feliz gets optioned to Triple-A and who knows how long he’ll be there? So, yeah, imperfect exercise. Interpret accordingly.

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers (#16-#30)

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Jeff already rolled out the Top 15 this morning, so here’s the second half of the starting pitching list. As with this morning, here’s the chart, though we will talk about the right side of things in this post.

sp_ppr2

Again, keep the separation in mind more than the ranking itself, as you can see from the graph that there’s a big chunk of teams from #11-#23 that aren’t all that different. And, as Jeff noted, some teams that are transitioning relievers into the rotation will be overrated by the forecasts, which are still going to have relief pitcher projections stretched out to starting pitcher innings totals. These aren’t perfect, and we don’t pretend that they are. Take them as an overview, not gospel, and realize that with this many moving parts, there’s a huge amount of variance around all these forecasts. Projecting pitching is hard.

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Designated Hitter

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Also, keep in mind that these lists are based on rosters as of last week, so weekend transactions are not reflected in the rosters below. In some cases, teams have allocated playing time to different reserves than these depth charts show, but because they’re almost always choosing between near-replacement level players, the differences won’t move the needle much if at all.

And now, for the last crop of position players. Or position-less players, I guess.

PPRDH

Given the various uncertainties of projections, there is not much practical separation between the number seven team and the number 13 team on this list. One could even say there is not practical separation between the number five team and the number 15 team. Superstar DHs (in terms of actual value, rather than perception and marketability) are a rarity. It is not impossible for DHs to reach that level. David Ortiz (more on him in a bit) had a couple of superstar seasons years ago, and hitters like Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez made careers as superstar DHs.

Some have argued this is because teams are not utilizing their DH spots properly. While that may be true to an extent, it seems a bit too simplistic. Finding a player who is worth two wins above average (which would make him a roughly average player as a DH) just on offense is hard enough, and finding one on the free agent market who is willing to not play the field (even if he should) is even more difficult. Moreover, even teams who have money often have older players signed to long-term deals who are no longer really able to play the field every day, and thus need some of the time at DH. This makes it impractical to commit to one player at DH. It is an advantage when teams are able to do so, but it is easier said than done.

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Also, keep in mind that these lists are based on rosters as of last week, so weekend transactions are not reflected in the rosters below. In some cases, teams have allocated playing time to different reserves than these depth charts show, but because they’re almost always choosing between near-replacement level players, the differences won’t move the needle much if at all.

This time last year, the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were first and second on this list, respectively. This, of course, had mostly to due with the presence of Ryan Braun and Mike Trout. This year, Braun will be in right and Trout is expected to patrol center. This, along with the expected progression/regression of certain players has mixed up the top tier of the left field positional power rankings.

PPRLF

The departure of Braun and Trout from this list also flattens the peak a bit — whereas the Brewers and Angels were projected to receive more than five wins from their left field, the highest-projected left field in 2014 comes in at a shade above four wins. So, who grabbed the top spot?

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Center Field

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

If you’ve been looking at the scale of these charts and wondering why we set the top end of the range to +9 when the best team is usually closer to +6, here’s your answer. Stupid Mike Trout.

PPRCF

Trout’s dominance actually obscures McCutchen’s own greatness, as the gap between #2 and #3 would be the largest at any position if there wasn’t such a huge gap between #1 and #2 at this same spot. After the two franchise center fielders, things get a little more normal. Because of the strength of CF right now, no one is carrying a total zero at the position, and this group overall is stronger than most. It doesn’t hurt that two of the game’s premier players are carrying the top end either.

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Shortstop

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Eyeballing it — and what else would you use to look, really — shortstop seems to have one of the larger gaps between the top spot and everyone after, failing to lead that list only because Evan Longoria and Mike Trout exist. That’s because while Andrelton Simmons (No.2) is an unmatched fielder, and Hanley Ramirez (No. 3) is an offensive powerhouse, Troy Tulowitzki (No. 1) does a bit of everything, which is why you can see the 1.3 WAR advantage he has here:

PPRSS

I’m starting to wonder why we don’t just have the final team to the right there always labeled “Marlins, probably,” because, spoiler alert: it’s the Marlins here, too.

On to the shortstops!

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

As we make our way around the infield, we now land on second base. To the graph.

PPR2B

At the keystone position, there’s a clear top three, a bunch of teams in the same general range, and then there’s the Blue Jays. Make a trade, Blue Jays.

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: First Base

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Jeff’s already covered the catchers, so let’s move to the other end of the defensive spectrum, and look at the position on the field where teams expect the most offense.

PPR1B

There’s a clear top tier, with a few very great hitters at the high end before the drop-off. And then there’s the bottom. This is what the Marlins get for not spending any money. This is what the Phillies get for spending a lot of money very poorly.

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Catcher

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Dave’s hit you with the introduction, so it’s time to begin this series in earnest. And we’ll begin, as we always do, with the catchers, even though catching might be baseball’s most mysterious position. For an idea of the spread of what you’re going to see — which is more important than the rankings themselves — here’s a graph with green in it:

catcherwar2014

You’ll notice there’s a big gap between first and second. It’s a gap of 1.2 WAR. That’s as big as the gap between fifth and 24th. Let there be no question: by our system, there’s a clear first place, looking down upon the rest of the landscape.

But of course, our system isn’t all-encompassing or perfect, and not just because the projections are arguable and the playing time is arguable too. There are just things about catching that aren’t included, one invisible one being game-calling, and one visible one being pitch-receiving or pitch-framing. You’ve seen the pitch-framing research, and you’ve seen some of the numbers it suggests. Including those numbers would shake up these rankings. The market doesn’t seem to believe too heavily in the numbers, and conversations I’ve had suggest people in the game think the numbers are too extreme, but there’s little question there’s some kind of skill there, and so catchers should receive at least partial credit. I’ll take care to talk about pitch-framing below, for catchers where it makes sense. You can mentally shuffle that information into the rankings. Now it’s probably beyond time to proceed, from the top.

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2014 Positional Power Rankings: Introduction

Over the last couple of years, we’ve previewed the upcoming season by going position by position around MLB, looking at the how teams stack up to their various competitors at each spot on the diamond. We’ve enjoyed doing these pieces, and we like that they provide an alternative to the team-by-team or division-by-division approach to other season previews. By starting at the position level, we can see exactly where a team’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and identify some areas of for potential upgrade as well.

Additionally, by not just focusing on the starter at each position, we’re able to compare and contrast different strategies for manning a particular position on the field. How will one team’s everyday player compare to a left/right platoon? Or is a team with a hot young prospect on the way up in line for a second half upgrade once the service time issues are out of the way? What teams have enough depth to sustain quality performance in case of an injury? These are the kinds of things we can readily identify through this series.

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