The 2015 ZiPS projections for the Indians were published today at FanGraphs. There's a wealth of information in the post there, well worth your time. The projection system was created and is operated by Dan Szymborski. The post accompanying the projections was written by Carson Cistulli (best known around these parts for his role in founding the Corey Kluber Society). Fine fellows, the both of them.
The short version of ZiPS' take on the Tribe: Not especially good. That's somewhat disappointing, given that I (and likely most of you) view them as legitimate contenders this year. Of course that isn't to say these projections will come true, but it's worth remembering that systems like this are built on a lot of data, and so more often than not they've "thought" things through more fully than the average fan is likely to.
One nice feature of each team's post is a nice-looking layout of the expected starters at each position with their projected WAR figures. Here is that layout for the Indians:
My first reaction to it: What happened to the starting rotation?! You may remember that no rotation in baseball was better than the Tribe's last August and September. In that light, the numbers listed for the starters above are somewhat alarming. Kluber being at 5 WAR is fine, because it's rare that a pitcher will be projected for much more than that. Salazar being the only other guy with what is usually considered "average" WAR though, what's the deal?
Some of it is projected playing time. Of those five starters, Kluber is the only one projected to throw 200+ innings. If you were to prorate each of the other guys' WAR for 200 innings, Salazar and Carrasco would each climb to 2.4, Bauer's rises to 1.2, and Floyd's rises to 0.7. Those aren't massive changes, but they do work out to an extra couple wins.
Notably, Zach McAllister has a higher WAR projection (per 200 innings) than Bauer or Floyd (he's at 1.3), while T.J. House and Josh Tomlin are both projected at slightly below replacement level.
The position players are a mixed bag:
- Some downward regression for Brantley should be expected, but going from a .389 wOBA in 2014 to a projected .346 is a very steep drop.
- Santana and Gomes on the other hand are both projected to come pretty close to the same numbers they posted last year.
- Moss is projected to have the best power numbers on the team.
- Kipnis is projected to rebound quite a bit from his poor 2014, but not to anywhere near the heights he reached in 2013. Is "solidly above average, but not an All-Star" a level you'd be happy with from him?
- Bourn is projected to put up similar offensive numbers to what he did in each of the last two years. That bat is okay, but the continued lack of stolen bases is frustrating (though not at all surprising).
- Swisher is projected to get back to being a league-average hitter (with negative value beyond that, but still).
- Chisenhall is projected to be an above average hitter again, not as good as his hot start to 2014, and not as bad as his cool finish to the year.
What jumps out at you from the projections?