Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections for the Mets have finally arrived!!! It's like an early Christmas. In short, ZiPS projections are a quick and dirty forecast of how players will perform in the upcoming year. You can read more here.
ZiPS, like any computer projection, are not perfect. But I do like to look at it often -- if only because it is purely mathematical. It doesn't get caught up in hype. It doesn't develop personal likes and dislikes. It'll give you a cold hard look at the statistics and how they indicate that a player might do the next season.
As for the Mets, ZiPS had a couple of personal victories last season with regards to players who the media felt strongly about. For example, many writers and bloggers loved Daniel Murphy's grit and toughness. They thought his approach at the plate was great. They thought he'd hit .300 for sure. Well, ZiPS didn't. ZiPS projected him to hit .273/.324/.422 and he ended up hitting .266/.313/.427.
Fernando Tatis: ZiPS: .262/.327/.431, Actual: .282/.339/.438
Luis Castillo: ZiPS: .279/.351/.348, Actual: .302/.387/.346
Mike Pelfrey: ZiPS: 4.24 ERA, Actual: 5.03 ERA
Bobby Parnell: ZiPS: 5.38 ERA, Actual: 5.30 ERA
It was more optimistic than most on guys like Tatis and Castillo, who were not favored sons of the media... and they had seasons better than the expectations of most. Conversely, it was cautiously pessimistic on Murphy, Pelfrey and Parnell, who were both disappointments this year. Of course, it had its share of misses, but no more or less than anyone else.
So now, this year's projection is out. Here are some of the projections that stand out to me:
David Wright: .307/.396/.507, 140 OPS+
David Wright is a great player - but he only slugged .447 last year. Sure, his career mark is .518, but it is hard to point at one factor explaining the decrease. He also managed to bat .307 last year, but he did it despite striking out a disturbing 140 times. He was lucky to put up as good stats as he did last year, and suffered a concussion. I'd sign up for his above line right now if I could, because I could see him not doing quite as well.
Fernando Tatis: .277/.345/.458, 113 OPS+
I love Fernando Tatis, but this projection has him hitting better than last year and better than his career line. He'll be playing this season at age 35, so I think a duplicate of this years .282/.339/.438 line is more likely.
Luis Castillo: .290/.368/.349, 94 OPS+
Castillo's renaissance last year was great to watch, but this line projects him to be just about as good as last season's .302/.387/.346 line. He's hit about to that line over the last three years, but I see him falling off some at age 34 and on reconstructed knees.
Daniel Murphy: .274/.326/.408, 95 OPS+
As much as I rag on Murphy, I think he's more of the hitter we saw in the second half than in the first half. With a year of experience I expect improvement - lots of players experience sophomore slumps. He hit .282/.313/.485 in the second half and I think he ought to have an OBP somewhere around .330 and slugging around .450.
Fernando Martinez: .251/.297/.406, 86 OPS+
I've spoken at length about Martinez before, so I'll be brief. When healthy, I think he'll hit better than this (though it's worth noting that his slugging percentage forecast here is generous).
Alex Cora: 251/.322/.336, 77 OPS+
Cora we've blogged about here as well. He's not a great player, but he did play last year with torn ligaments in his thumbs and had his stats hurt as a result. He hit .256/.330/.370 for Boston in 2007-2008, and I see him outperforming this projection.
Carlos Beltran: .294/.381/.514, 137 OPS+
Jose Reyes: .294/.363/.455, 117 OPS+
Beltran and Reyes are absolute studs - potential future Hall of Famers who you build a team around. If they are healthy, they'll meet these. In fact, Reyes might do better than projected to - he was showing great discipline at the plate last year before he was hurt and is entering his prime, age 27 season.
Angel Pagan: .285/.335/.446, 107 OPS+
Angel had a great year last year, hitting .306/.350/.487. I love the guy, but he played over his head (probably). His career line is .281/.331/.443, so this projection has him hitting that almost exactly. I think he'll be a little better, but even if he does hit to a 107 OPS+, he'll be a fantastic player when you factor in his speed and defense.
Josh Thole: .273/.335/.360, 87 OPS+
Omir Santos: .247/.289/.342, 69 OPS+
Well... this has also been discussed at length on this blog. On November 3rd, I wrote "being conservative, I'd forecast [Thole] somewhere around .290/.320/.360." Santos, of course, can't hit a lick. With the addition of Blanco, this does not mean that Thole MUST start the year in the majors -- but it certainly is a compelling data point.
Jeff Francoeur: .269/.310/.425, 94 OPS+
Yeah. This looks basically like what Francoeur is and is going to be. As one of the commenters at BaseballThinkFactory pointed out, "He is 26 years old, coming of a 93 OPS+ season, and has a career OPS+ of 92. A projection of 94 is reasonable."
The Mets offense looks pretty good according to ZiPS, as it always does. Despite conventional wisdom, the Mets offense has been pretty good for each of the last few seasons (the last one, with the injuries, being the exception). If the Mets can remain reasonably healthy next year, they can put a good offense out there even without the addition of Matt Holliday or another frontline stud.
The OPS+ figure next to each player's name indicates their OPS relative to league average. A player with a 100 OPS+ is average. An OPS+ of 110 or 120 would be above average. For a position where hitters are typically poor, like second base for instance, an OPS+ of 90 might be perfectly acceptable.
The best possible Mets lineup, according to the forecast, and with the players we have right now, might look something like this:
1. Reyes, SS 117 OPS+
2. Castillo, 2B 94 OPS+
3. Beltran, CF 137 OPS+
4. Wright, 3B 140 OPS+
5. Pagan, LF 107 OPS+
6. Murphy, 1B 95 OPS+
7. Thole, C 87 OPS+
8. Francoeur, RF 94 OPS+
This team would be alright on offense. A short term solution like Delgado at first base, or perhaps a good platoon situation with Francoeur (who for his career has hit .298 against lefties) would help immensely.
Overall, and as will be obvious after Part 2 of this review, the money would be MUCH better spent on pitching.