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Introducing FanGraphs Depth Charts and Standings Pages

Posted By Dave Cameron On May 9, 2013 @ 11:00 am In Daily Graphings,Essential,Featured | 114 Comments

Here at FanGraphs, we enjoy rolling out cool new things. It’s fun to be able to add stuff that we can all use on a daily basis, and David Appelman has done a great job of building some incredible tools for public consumption. Today, we’re going to introduce you to the newest additions to FanGraphs: Depth Charts and a dedicated Standings page. We’re rolling them out together because they actually go hand in hand.

We’ll start with the standings page, because that’s what you’ll see first when you visit the new section of the site. The standings table is broken into three sections: Year to Date, Projected Rest of Season, and Projected Full Season.

Year to Date presents the data you’d expect to find on a standings page, including games played, wins, losses, winning percentage, run differential, runs scored per game, and runs allowed per game. This is the basic information about what has already happened, and gives you an overview of how each team has performed in games that have already been played. I won’t spend too much time on these columns because I’d imagine those are pretty easy to understand.

Projected Rest of Season is where we kick things up a notch. We’ve taken the two projection systems that we have daily updated forecasts from — ZIPS and Steamer — and combined them with playing time projections that are based on daily updated depth chart information for each team. This gives us the best of both worlds: high quality performance forecasts based on multiple years of data, but also playing time projections that account for a player’s current health and position on the roster.

We’ve then taken those individual player forecasts and summed the totals at the team level in order to forecast an expected Win-Loss record for the remainder of the season. First, the forecasted totals for each team are put through the BaseRuns formula — generally regarded as the best model for estimating run scoring — which produces expected runs scored and expected runs allowed totals. Then, those RS/RA numbers were put through the PythagenPat calculation, which is a more accurate version of the well known pythagorean expected record, and that turns expected runs scored and runs allowed into expected wins and losses.

The Projected Rest of Season section contains the same columns as the Year to Date section, but these numbers are all generated based on the hybrid ZIPS/Steamer forecasts and the daily updated FanGraphs staff playing time projections. For each team, this section tells you what this forecasting model expects the franchise to do over the remainder of the season, given their current roster and depth chart. As that roster changes, so will the forecasts, but given what we know through each day, it is our best estimate of what that team will do going forward.

The Projected Full Season section is simply the combination of the first two parts of the standings page, adding together what has already happened with what the model forecasts will happen. This gives you a final expected record for each team in baseball, taking into account that some portion of the season is already complete and the results will not change. So, for example, while the forecasts still see the Dodgers and Angels as quality teams — on the day we’re publishing this, they have the 5th and 6th best projected records over the rest of the season — their poor play over the first five weeks of the season lead to records around .500 for both squads. By combining their current record with their forecast record, you can see just how influential the games already played have been, and see which teams are on track to grab spots in the postseason.

The entire table is sortable, which means from this one page, you can now easily see which teams are leading the league in run scoring, or if you’d rather, you can find out which team is forecast to lose the most games when 2013 is over and done with. This page can essentially be seen as a summary of team performance and expected team performance, all in one neat little sortable table. I’m going to be using this page every day, I’m sure.

But we didn’t just stop with the team summary page. Since we’re going through the trouble of manually updating each team’s depth chart every day, and creating a rest-of-season projection for every player in the league (and some who aren’t yet), we figured we’d show you all of that data too. So, from the standings page, you can simply click on each team’s name (or use the divisional drop-downs to click on the team you want to see) and you’ll be taken directly to their specific depth chart. On that page, you’ll see the forecasted rest-of-season projection for each player at each position, as well as the team’s total expected production at that position, for catcher all the way through the bullpen.

There are also two boxes on each team’s page that sum up each player’s overall expected performance across all positions, if you’re more interested in a player’s total forecast than his projection at a specific spot on the field. On the right hand side of each team’s depth chart, you’ll also notice a table that shows the rest-of-season WAR forecasts broken out by batters and pitchers for each team. Like the standings page, this table is also sortable, and will give you a pretty decent idea of a team’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe you don’t just want to know how your team’s catchers are going to perform over the rest of the year, but you also want to know where that rates among expected performance among other catchers as well? For that, we have tabs for each position on the field. If you click on the Catcher tab, for instance, you’ll see that the Giants are forecast for +4.8 WAR over the rest of the season, nearly a full win more than the next highest team. Here, the individual totals are displayed for each player expected to get playing time at that position, and the list is sorted by total forecast WAR. On the right is a sortable summary table which shows just the team totals, if you’re interested in looking at the team’s positional forecast by Batting Runs, Base Running, or Fielding Runs.

This is basically the same data we presented in the Positional Power Rankings back in March, just updated on a daily basis, and now available for your enjoyment whenever you’d like. And, if you’d just like to see a complete overview of the team WAR forecasts by position, you can click on the Totals tab, which gives you a summary table of each team’s projected WAR at each position. And, yes, it’s sortable too, so if you want to quickly see which team has a glaring hole at shortstop or a weak rotation that could use upgrading, you can simply re-sort the table by position and see where each team rates.

Personally, I think this is one of the best things we’ve ever added to FanGraphs. The depth charts and standings pages provide answers to so many of the questions we ask on a daily basis. Is Carlos Gomez really an elite center fielder now? What do we think of the Blue Jays now that they’ve fallen flat on their face out of the gates and lost Jose Reyes for a few months? What team should be most interested in trading for Jake Peavy? Who is the best team in baseball? Who is playing second base for the Marlins these days?

You can find answers to all of those questions on the Standings page or in the various Depth Charts pages. Now, these numbers aren’t handed down from on high, and you might disagree with the forecasts from the ZIPS/Steamer systems or the playing time allotments that were created through the depth charts. We’re not claiming these numbers are the be-all, end-all of baseball forecasting. We’re going to maintain the depth charts as well as we possibly can, but we can’t know precisely how many innings a pitcher is going to throw or what date the Astros might dump the rest of the guys on their roster who were alive when Bill Clinton was president.

But, as far as forecasts go, I’d put ZIPS and Steamer up against any publicly available system out there, and studies have shown that using an aggregate of multiple projection systems usually leads to better results than relying on just one forecasting model. By combining the daily updated ZIPS and Steamer numbers, and then using humans who read the news to create playing time forecasts, we think the projections on these pages are as good or better than anything you’ll find anywhere else.

To welcome the new tools, we’ve even modified the site’s toolbar, and you can now quickly access all of this information by clicking on the Standings tab at the top of the page. From there, you can drill down to a team’s depth chart, data by position, or just about anything else you might want to know. We’re excited to add these new tools to FanGraphs, and hope you enjoy using them as often as I know I will.


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