Breaking down ZIPS projections

21 02 2008

The ZIPS projection system is perhaps the most widely used prognostication tool for baseball, and it just became available to the public the other day. I thought I would break down the projections a little bit.

Offense

C – Jason Kendall – .257/.332/.313, 2 HR, 47 RBI, 5 SB, 51 K
1B – Prince Fielder – .282/.380/.571, 44 HR, 106 RBI, 4 SB, 123 K
2B – Rickie Weeks – .254/.363/.422, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 23 SB, 117 K
SS – J.J. Hardy – .262/.318/.421, 15 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB, 55 K
3B – Bill Hall – .270/.336/.475, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 8 SB, 135 K
LF – Ryan Braun – .294/.332/.554, 33 HR, 93 RBI, 15 SB, 113 K
CF – Mike Cameron – .254/.341/.447, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 17 SB, 123 K
RF – Corey Hart – .289/.353/.518, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 22 SB, 112 K

Two things are obvious when analyzing these projections. The Brewers will hit a lot of home runs this season, and they will also strike out a lot. Stop me if you’ve heard these statements before concerning the Milwaukee Brewers. I thought so.

Jason Kendall may not hit a lot of home runs, or hardly any at all, but he will get on base for the Brewers. In fact, he is projected to have the same OBP as Ryan Braun! He is also projected to strikeout less than any Brewers’ starter. That is exactly what Milwaukee’s lineup needs. They need a battler, a scrappy hitter. Kendall is looking to be a much better acquisition than most people had originally thought. I am including myself in that category too.

On that same vein, Ryan Braun will have a better OBP than .332. I understand that he only had 29 walks last season, but that stems from two different factors. Ryan batted in front of Prince Fielder, meaning he saw plenty of good pitches to hit. Opposing pitchers were not about to walk Ryan Braun when they see Prince standing in the on-deck circle. Last year was also Ryan’s first year in the big leagues. It is easy to expect the world of Ryan because he had a rookie season for the ages. With some experience, his plate discipline should improve. He’s addressed the issue this off-season, and he said that he knows that he must become more patient at the plate. Expect Ryan’s batting average to drop this year a bit as pitchers have had an entire off-season to analyze his strengths and weaknesses, but expect that OBP to increase. Ryan is a beast and everyone in the MLB knows that.

The projections are generally pretty good otherwise. There are small quibbles that I have still, like Rickie Weeks‘ low batting average. If the experts are correct and last September is any indication of things to come, Rickie should have a breakout season this year. His OBP should stay high, but his batting average should climb as well. Yes, you can say that I am jumping on the Rickie Weeks bandwagon if you would like.

The last thing I would like to mention is the fact that ZIPS projects J.J. Hardy to have a rough year. Those 15 home runs sound about right for J.J., but I find this projection to be a bit low. J.J.’s power should decline, but he should start hitting more singles and doubles. J.J. is becoming more of a complete hitter every year. He showed last season that he is not afraid to go to the opposite field, which should help him immensely this season. I expect Hardy’s growth as a hitter to continue this year, even if his power numbers should drop.

The Brewers’ lineup is going to strike fear into pretty much any opposing pitcher this season. They have power coming from almost any position on the diamond, and the combination of Prince and Braun in the middle of the lineup should continue to be dominant. They will need to cut down on the strikeouts, so they do not go through sustained offensive droughts like they did last season. That said, however, the Baby Brewers are growing up. Expect the offense to thrive again this season.

Starting Pitching

RHP – Ben Sheets – 11-7 W-L, 3.72 ERA, 145 IP, 128 K
RHP – Yovani Gallardo – 14-10 W-L, 3.66 ERA, 192 IP, 169 K
RHP – Jeff Suppan – 10-12 W-L, 4.76 ERA, 187 IP, 111 K
RHP – Carlos Villanueva – 8-9 W-L, 4.46 ERA, 111 IP, 89 K
RHP – Dave Bush – 10-12 W-L, 4.64 ERA, 192 IP, 134 K
LHP – Chris Capuano – 12-12 W-L, 4.48 ERA, 195 IP, 154 K
RHP – Claudio Vargas – 8-11 W-L, 4.99 ERA, 146 IP, 113 K
LHP – Manny Parra – 7-6 W-L, 4.31 ERA, 119 IP, 84 K

If one went by these projections, the starting rotation SHOULD be Gallardo, Sheets, Parra, Villanueva, and Capuano. This, of course, would be ignoring the innings pitched category that is also very important.

I understand that these projections are largely average-based, so the low IP count for Villanueva and Parra make sense. One can expect either of those pitchers to throw for plenty more innings if they make the starting rotation.

Whether or not Gallardo is back in time for the season opener, Doug Melvin should seriously consider trading Claudio Vargas. With all the off-days and such during the first month of the season, one could get away with a four-man rotation until about mid-April. By then, Gallardo should be back and healthy. Tom Haudricourt has written that Yovani is targeting a April 22nd comeback. That would allow the Brewers to get a couple prospects for Vargas.

With this projection and the way Claudio pitched for the Crew last season, there is unfortunately no spot for him on the team. The only reason he had even a respectable win-loss record is the fact that he had the highest average run support of any Brewers pitcher throughout the season. His ERA is a much better indicator of his true ability, rather than his record.

People have argued that Claudio would make a fine long-man for Milwaukee this season. I would argue that Claudio was largely ineffective even from the pen. In 6 appearances from the bullpen last season, Claudio was 1-2 and gave up 9 runs in 11.2 innings of work. That is not the efficiency needed from the long-man position. He would be much better served to bring in a couple prospects for the farm system that has largely been depleted because of the high graduation rate of Brewers’ prospects to the big league squad.

Milwaukee could even make this trade and still move Manny Parra to Triple-A Nashville, if he does not make the starting rotation that is. Parra has been compared to Roy Oswalt because of his great command and large arsenal of pitches to work with. John Sickels even wrote that Parra is a darkhorse candidate for the Rookie of the Year in the NL. Milwaukee may be wise to start him in Triple-A, but Manny has proven that he belongs in the big leagues. If he pitches lights out in Spring Training, expect to see him in a Brewers uniform Opening Day.

Relief Pitching

RHP – Eric Gagne – 2-1 W-L, 3.60 ERA, 30 IP, 31 K
RHP – Derrick Turnbow – 5-5 W-L, 4.08 ERA, 64 IP, 71 K
RHP – David Riske – 3-2 W-L, 3.80 ERA, 64 IP, 54 K
RHP – Salomon Torres – 4-4 W-L, 3.94 ERA, 80 IP, 56 K
RHP – Guillermo Mota – 2-3 W-L, 5.06 ERA, 64 IP, 52 K
LHP – Brian Shouse – 2-1 W-L, 4.21 ERA, 47 IP, 31 K

All of these projections seem to suggest that the bullpen will fair pretty well this year for Milwaukee. That is, all except Guillermo Mota. ZIPS projects Guillermo to come in with a 5.06 ERA for the Crew this upcoming season. That would be a little difficult to take, and he would not be on the big league squad for long with those numbers. One can certainly see why these numbers are plausible for Mota. He is the weakest link in the Milwaukee bullpen, and I see Randy Choate, Mitch Stetter, or even Seth McClung giving Guillermo a run for his money this spring. The baseball gods have not shone brightly on Guillermo lately. Perhaps he still has some fuel left in the tank, though. Brewers fans certainly hope so.

Eric Gagne looks to pitch just fine this upcoming season. The ERA is a little too high for my liking, but only because Gagne is switching to the National League, which is notoriously more friendly to pitchers. His ERA should be a little lower just because of that fact alone. Being out of the bright lights of Boston should also help Eric regain the form he showed early in the season last year.

Overall

The Milwaukee Brewers still have an offense to be reckoned with. There is no question that the power stroke will be there for the Crew and that they will be near the league leaders in home runs again this season. The addition of Jason Kendall and Mike Cameron should help the OBP rise a little bit, as well, and Rickie Weeks could be a wild card that could push this team over the top. This offense should still scare every pitching staff in the NL Central, and it should be able to keep them in most games.

The starting rotation will be very solid for the Brewers this season, but it has the potential to be well above-average. The youngsters for the Crew (Gallardo, Villanueva, and Parra) could provide a big lift for the rotation, and the addition of pitcher-friendly Jason Kendall should even help the veterans improve. Assuming that Gallardo can come back without missing too much of the regular season, Milwaukee’s starting rotation has the chance to shut some teams down. Combine that with a powerful offense, and a playoff team is born.

The bullpen conservatively projects to simply be average, also with the potential to be very good if Gagne and Torres can bounce back nicely. The addition of Torres, Riske, and Mota should take some of the pressure and workload off Derrick Turnbow as well, which could (crossing my fingers here) help his consistency tremendously. Riske should also be a stabilizing force in the back half of the pen, as his signing was one of the most under-appreciated moves of the off-season.

The Milwaukee Brewers will be competitive this season if these projections prove true. Whether or not the Crew will be able to overtake the Cubs is yet to be seen, but the offense should keep them in position to challenge in the Wild Card race as well. I have never been so excited for a Brewers season to start, and their Spring Training debut is just around the corner. The Brewers will be fun to watch again this season with their offensive fireworks and the young arms that could prove to make a huge contribution and make this season one to remember.

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7 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News

[…] – BrewersNation breaks down the 2008 Brewers ZIPS projections. […]

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