By: Brian Mangan
Last week I took at look at the Marlins projected WAR totals compared to the Nationals in an attempt to explain that the Marlins don’t project to be as serious of a contender as many are making them out to be in 2015. (The Read Zone, January 22). At this time, it looks like the Nationals are about 12-14 games better than the Marlins.
So where do the Mets rank relative to their two primary contenders? It looks like they are somewhere in between. Anything can happen in a long season, but right now I’ve got the Nationals around 97 wins, the Mets around 86 wins, and the Marlins around 84 wins.
Just as we discussed last time, these numbers are just a loose framework for the discussion as, for instance, the figures we will discuss below have been rounded to the nearest number. What’s more, some of them provide an inaccurate picture of what will actually happen on the field. This is especially true in the case of a platoon, such as the Mets’ proposed Cuddyer-Duda platoon.
Finally, WAR projections cannot (or should not) be used in order to try and project a team’s overall record. However, as a framework for comparing one team to another — I am a big fan.
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According to ZiPS, a projection system posted year on Fangraphs, the Nationals can look to their starting eight to provide somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 WAR (wins above replacement) while the Marlins can count on somewhere around 17. The Mets project to around 20-21 WAR from their lineup:
We also have to adjust these numbers somewhat to reflect the actual rosters, since the Marlins added Michael Morse, Martin Prado, and Dee Gordon subsequent to their ZiPS projection being released. If Morse, Prado, and Gordon can combine for 6 WAR (a friendly projection, considering Morse and Prado are north of 30 and did not combine for 4 WAR last season), and if Giancarlo Stanton returns from injury without any issues, the Marlins will exceed that projection. The Nationals are also likely to be better than their ZiPS projection offensively, given that Yunel Escobar has replaced Danny Espinosa, and Rendon is a near certainty to provide more than 4 WAR (he posted 6.6 WAR last year).
As for the Mets, they will likely be able to pry more than 1 WAR from the right field platoon of Cuddyer/Mayberry/Den Dekker. It is also reasonable to expect David Wright and Juan Lagares to provide more than 7 WAR between them. In any event, the Mets appear to trail the Nationals, but compare favorably to the Marlins, offensively and defensively.
Nationals: ~24 WAR
Mets: ~22 WAR
Marlins: ~20 WAR
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On the mound, the Mets again seem to split the difference between the Nationals and Marlins. As good as the Nationals rotation is, the Marlins rotation appears equally bad:
Both the Marlins and Nationals have made one significant addition since their ZiPS, with the Marlins adding Mat Latos and the Nationals adding Max Scherzer. In total, the Nationals rotation projects to put up — and this is not a typo — around 22 WAR between them. The Marlins starting five looks to produce somewhere around 10 WAR, after adding Latos and subtracting Eovaldi.
As for the Mets, the projections look somewhat conservative but still total 11 WAR, with a ceiling for much more. Indeed, both Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard are projected to put up 1.8 WAR should they be given 130+ innings, which is a possibility if one of their other starters struggles early (for instance, if Colon is on page to be merely league average). The rotation has plenty of reasons for optimism, even before considering Matt Harvey, who put up 6(!) WAR in 178 innings in his last major league season.
Nationals: 22 WAR (5+5+5+4+3)
Mets: 12 WAR (4+3+2+2+1+ Thor/Matz/Montero)
Marlins: 11 WAR (3+2+2+2+1+ return of Fernandez)
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Again, projections shouldn’t be used as gospel or to project overall team wins. However, I do find projections useful to make ballpark estimates about teams in comparison to one another.
As of now, the Nationals starting eight and rotation project to earn ~46 WAR and the Marlins project to earn somewhere around ~31 WAR. As for the Mets, their median projection is somewhere around ~33 WAR from their starters, with far more opportunities for upside (Harvey, Syndergaard, Lagares, Wright, Cuddyer) than the Marlins. Adding in bullpens, bench players, and luck, and you get to the figures stated above in the intro: the Nationals 97, the Mets 86, and the Marlins 84.
With neutral luck, the Nationals should finish about 10 games ahead of the Mets, and the Mets should finish 2 or 3 games ahead of the Marlins. These relative standings are similar to those released by Baseball Prospectus last week, whose PECOTA system projected as follows:
You don’t have to take my word for it — even without Harvey bouncing back to 6 WAR, or Wright bouncing back to 6 WAR, or Lagares continuing to set records with his glove, or a step forward from Wheeler or deGrom, the Mets already project to be the second-best team in the division, according to ZiPS and PECOTA. If you asked my opinion, I’d tell you the same. (The only system that disagrees is Fangraphs’s Steamer system, about which you can read an excellent critique here).
For the first time in a long time, the Mets are in realistic striking distance of a playoff berth.
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