On the weekend I decided to take my lovely wife out for a special Valentines Day dinner and a movie. Given that it took us until the last minute to find a sitter for our two children it didn't leave me any time to make dinner reservations...big mistake. We got to the restaurant strategically located close to the theatre and unfortunately the wait time for a table was much too long if we wanted to make it to the movie in time, so we decided to go elsewhere. Of course being the Saturday before Valentines Day everywhere we went there were no tables available. After finally ending up eating at a quicky soup and sandwich place, because there was just no time at left for anything else, we gobbled down our mediocre sandwiches and rushed back to the movie theater. The movie we settled on, being Valentine's Day weekend and all, was The Vow, which I figured would be pretty much like every other movie of that genre and just entertaining enough that I wouldn't fall asleep. Sometime though, very rarely of course, these types of movies can be surprisingly outstanding. Of course I never got a chance to find out as the movie was sold out and the entire night was a disaster.

As I can relate anything back to baseball this night got me thinking that the 2012 Blue Jays are kind of like the movie The Vow, in that I have very little expectations for this team heading into the season. Most likely this team is going to be middle of the road and just entertaining enough to keep my interest. However, every once in a while a team comes out of nowhere and surprises you in being much better than anyone ever expected. So could the 2012 Blue Jays be one of those teams that surprises everyone, and really what should we be expecting for this season?

Going into the 2012 season the general consensus seems to be that the Toronto Blue Jays likeliest outcome is another 4th place finish behind the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox. In fact, I've been pretty vocal that 2012 should be viewed as a season to figure out what this team really has, and used to determine their biggest needs. It feels like almost everyone on this team outside of Jose Bautista and Ricky Romero could be great, or horrible, making it really difficult to determine what positions are in the greatest need of an upgrade. But what do the numbers say, how many wins should we really be expecting from this team?

Last year I sat down and did this very exercise that I'm about to do today and I used projected Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to forecast the number of wins we should expect from the Blue Jays. I came up with with my own projections bases on my expectations, trending and past results to forecast players WAR values and in the end I came up with the projection that the Blue Jays would win 84 games in 2011. As it turns out if it weren't for a late season stumble I may have been bang on and as it was I wasn't far off as the Blue Jays won 81 games. This season, I'm going to do things a little differently which we will get into a little later, but first I want to look back on 2011 and using players WAR values see how many games the Blue Jays should have won this past season.

**Looking Back on 2011**

The principle theory behind the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic is that it assigns a specific number of wins (positive or negative) to a player in relation to replacement level talent. Replacement level talent is defined as a combined set of players that would make up a team with a .320 winning percentage, which is equivalent to 52 wins over a 162 game schedule.

Below you will find a list of each 2011 Blue Jays players final season WAR values broken out by position player (table 1) and pitcher (table 2).

**Table 1 - Total WAR by Batter for the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays**

Player | WAR |

Jose Bautista | 8.5 |

Yunel Escobar | 4.3 |

Brett Lawrie | 2.8 |

Jose Molina | 1 |

Edwin Encarnacion | 1 |

J.P. Arencibia | 0.9 |

Kelly Johnson* | 0.9 |

Corey Patterson* | 0.9 |

John McDonald | 0.9 |

Eric Thames* | 0.8 |

Adam Lind* | 0.7 |

Mike McCoy | 0.5 |

Mark Teahen* | 0.1 |

David Cooper* | 0 |

Jayson Nix | 0 |

Darin Mastroianni | 0 |

Adam Loewen* | -0.1 |

Chris Woodward | -0.2 |

Aaron Hill | -0.4 |

Dewayne Wise* | -0.4 |

Travis Snider* | -0.8 |

Colby Rasmus* | -0.9 |

Rajai Davis | -0.9 |

Juan Rivera | -1.2 |

Total Offense | 18.4 |

**Table 2 - Total WAR by Pitcher for the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays**

Pitcher | WAR |

Ricky Romero* | 5.9 |

Carlos Villanueva | 1.9 |

Casey Janssen | 1.7 |

Brandon Morrow | 1.4 |

Henderson Alvarez | 1.3 |

Brett Cecil* | 1.2 |

Frank Francisco | 1.1 |

Jason Frasor | 1 |

Jesse Litsch | 0.7 |

Marc Rzepczynski* | 0.7 |

Joel Carreno | 0.5 |

Octavio Dotel | 0.4 |

Zach Stewart | 0.2 |

Shawn Camp | 0.2 |

Jon Rauch | 0.2 |

Chad Beck | 0.1 |

Trever Miller* | 0 |

Mike McCoy | 0 |

P.J. Walters | 0 |

Scott Richmond | 0 |

Dustin McGowan | -0.1 |

Luis Perez* | -0.1 |

David Purcey* | -0.1 |

Danny Farquhar | -0.1 |

Kyle Drabek | -0.3 |

Rommie Lewis* | -0.3 |

Wil Ledezma* | -0.4 |

Jo-Jo Reyes* | -0.6 |

Brian Tallet* | -0.6 |

Brad Mills* | -0.7 |

Total Pitchers | 15.2 |

From the tables above we see that the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays offense (and defense) represented a total of 18.4 wins above replacement level and the pitchers represented 15.2 wins for a combined 33.6 wins above replacement. Add this to the number of wins a replacement level team should win (52 or 51.84 to be exact), and this would suggest that the Blue Jays should have won approximately 85.44 games in 2011. Not that far off from the actual 81 games the team won, however from my limited experience doing these types of exercises I have found that when you add up a teams total player WAR value, it often does result in 3 or 4 more wins than the actual amount.

**2012 Projection**

This year when projecting each Blue Jays player WAR values, rather than make my own, probably biased, educated guess for each player, I decided to turn to the fine folks of Fangraph who polled the general public of their expectations for the majority of players in baseball. To see the results for the Toronto Blue Jays player projections go to Fangraphs here, or refer to the tables below for the projected WAR values by batter (Table 3) and by pitcher (Table 4).

**Note:**for any player who didn't have WAR projections for the 2012 season, I projected a repeat of their 2011 WAR value.

**Table 3 - Projected WAR Values for Blue Jays 2012 Batters**

Hitters | WAR |

Jose Bautista | 7.1 |

Brett Lawrie | 6.1 |

Yunel Escobar | 4.8 |

Kelly Johnson* | 3.8 |

Colby Rasmus* | 3.4 |

J.P. Arencibia | 2.8 |

Travis Snider* | 1.9 |

Adam Lind* | 1.6 |

Edwin Encarnacion | 1.6 |

Eric Thames* | 1.5 |

Jeff Mathis | 0.2 |

Rajai Davis | 0.1 |

Ben Francisco | -0.1 |

Omar Vizquel | -0.5 |

Total Offense | 34.3 |

**Table 4 -**

**Projected WAR Values for Blue Jays 2012 Pitchers**

Hitters | WAR |

Brandon Morrow | 3.5 |

Ricky Romero* | 3.3 |

Henderson Alvarez | 2.7 |

Darren Oliver | 1.3 |

Brett Cecil* | 1.2 |

Sergio Santos | 1 |

Carlos Villanueva | 1 |

Dustin McGowan | 0.9 |

Casey Janssen | 0.7 |

Jesse Litsch | 0.6 |

Jason Frasor | 0.3 |

Francisco Cordero | 0.2 |

Total Pitching | 16.7 |

From the tables above we see that the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays projected offense (and defense) represent a total of 34.3 wins above replacement level and the pitchers represent 16.7 wins for a combined 51 wins above replacement. Add this to the number of wins a replacement level team should win (52), and this would suggest that the Blue Jays will win 103 games in 2012.

WTF??

The Blue Jays will win 103 games in 2012!

Something has got to be wrong here. Could someone please look over my numbers as I must have made a mistake, my calculations state that the Blue Jays will win 103 games this year. That this years team is actually the greatest Blue Jays team ever assembled. Next thing you will tell me is that The Vow will be the surprise Oscar winner for best movie.

I've done the same calculations and got the same numbers, the real problem with your numbers though is you have to use them in perspective because people are generally overly optimistic. I suggest you add the WARs of the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays to see how good their win total would be and then you know how much better the Jays are or worse than those teams based on the projection system you are using. You won't be able to pinpoint a win total with that method but you do know how much better the projection system thinks one team is than the other team and therefore you gain some perspective.

ReplyDeleteI will say that the overall pitching projection seems right: does anyone expect the pitching to be worse this year? One could quibble here and there (Darren Oliver for 1.3 WAR?) but everything looks plausible, and more importantly, the overall number seems right.

ReplyDeleteThe real problem is the hitting numbers, and here I'm not sure I have much to suggest. I think the system encourages the overestimation of playing time (one estimates the most likely playing time, not the mean playing time expected) but I doubt that inflates value by beyond 5-10%. There's probably also a general optimism, but it's odd we don't really see that among our pitchers.

One would be well served by seeing what the overall estimates for every team would be, then scaling the results to 81 wins. I'll take a quick look at the Yankees and post back here, so we can get a relative sense of what the fan projections mean.

So, the Fans are projecting the Yankees at 39.4 WAR for the batters, 22.8 WAR for the pitchers, a total of 62.4 WAR, or 11 wins above the Blue Jays. That actually seems about right. I took a look at the Red Sox, and they're projected for 62.9 WAR. I really doubt the Red Sox and the Yankees are going to win 114 games each, so it would appear that the relative values are fairly decent, but the absolute numbers are inflated.

ReplyDeleteMatt/Gabriel,

ReplyDeleteI agree with everything you have both stated, a comparison against the Yankees, Red Sox and Tampa Bay would be a good measuring stick and as you have pointed out the Jays may still project to be the 4th best team in the division, there is an overstatement of playing time and can we really expect the Jays offense to go from an 18.4 WAR in 2011 to an 34.3 WAR in 2012?

Personally, I think projections are a bit high for a few of the hitters, for example I would be ecstatic if Brett Lawrie put up a 6.1 WAR, however when I look at each individual players projection they don't seem to be that far off, so who knows?

Will they win 103 games, I don't really think there is much chance of this happening, however I guess the most important thing for me is that after running these number I'm a little more optimistic than I was before.

90 wins this year. And the Red Sox are overrated, they're a couple injuries away from 4th/5th place. No depth.

ReplyDeleteCall me a fanatic, but 103 wins less a few sounds GREAT. I'm glad the Blue Jays compare in projection more equally to the Yankees and the Red Sox.

ReplyDeleteWhat stands out to me is the lenth of Table 2 and Table 4. Then I look at the numbers above 0, and all signs point in the right direction.

John Farrell changed his rotation, I'll say, too many times. But if a manager is just trying to figure out the way his team plays, perhaps this is the way to do it.

I'm a big fan of Brett Lawrie. But Evan Longoria's 4-year average is 6.8 fWAR. While I guess a 6.1 is in the realm of possibility - I don't think it's fair to project/expect that from Lawrie in his first full season.

ReplyDeleteI agree with the other commenters - it's pretty clear that these numbers are inflated/way too optimistic. But I think you probably already knew that..