The 2014 ZiPS projections for the Pirates are out and not depressing

For years and years, one of my most depressing mid-winter rituals was to get really excited on the day that Dan Szymborski would release the Pirates' ZiPS projections, click the link, and then get really, really sad about the Pirates' prospects for the upcoming season. Today, FanGraphs has this year's ZiPS projections for the Pirates this morning, and they're actually pretty fun to look at it.

As usual, there are all kinds of interesting things to look at. Andrew McCutchen's now projected for a six-win season with a .288/.375/.484 line and a .367 wOBA. It's fun to watch how his great years in 2012 and 2013 have changed his projections; in 2012 ZiPS projected him for a pretty good, All-Star caliber season. That climbed a bit last year and it's climbed a bit more this year (his offensive projections are almost identical to last year's, but I'm guessing the jump in wOBA and OPS+ and WAR comes from PNC Park getting more of an adjustment towards a pitcher's park, which we can talk more about in a second), to the point where ZiPS is basically saying that his 50th percentile performance projection is a borderline MVP season. It's just awesome that he's a Pirate, is what I'm saying. 

Starling Marte, Russell Martin, Gregory Polanco, and Pedro Alvarez are all projected for 3+ win seasons, and Neil Walker is just behind them with a 2.9 WAR projection. Marte, Martin, and Polanco all hit that projection largely because of their defense, though Marte is projected for a relatively strong offensive season, too (and depending on his ability to continue getting hit by pitches all the time without taking a really serious injury, he might out-pace his projection by a decent amount). Polanco's projection is pretty similar to Marte's from 2012, in that it's driven by defense but is an intriguing offensive projection for such a young player. You will note that his strikeout rate and walk rate are already both projected to be better than Marte's, which is awfully exciting given Polanco's age and their otherwise comparable skillsets and stat lines through their Triple-A debuts. Martin, Alvarez, and Walker and basically projected to keep on being Martin, Alvarez, and Walker, which is just fine for the Pirates' purposes in 2014 and honestly, probably the most we can hope for out of that trio. 

You will undoubtedly notice that the projections for the Pirates' hitters are much better than the projections for their pitchers, and there's a decent chance that will strike you as weird given the perception of the Pirates as a team driven by their pitching staff with a borderline adequate offense. In reality, though, the Pirates' position players had a much higher WAR than their pitchers last year (29 to 13 at Baseball Reference and 23 to 16 at FanGraphs). I think there are two reasons for that; the first is that the defense helped the pitching staff out a ton, and the credit for that in terms of WAR goes to the position players, and the second is that PNC Park has been slowly shifting towards a real pitcher's park over the last few years, which means that in terms of calculating WAR, the Pirates' offensive players are better than their numbers and their pitchers are worse. 

Finally, Jose Tabata's #1 comparable player is Matt Stairs, which is indescribably hilarious to me and probably my favorite part of this entire list. I will again encourage you to click on over and look through the whole thing yourself

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.