There has been a lot of talk about projections in the sabermetric internet world recently. Russell Carlton of Baseball Prospectus wrote an excellent article about trusting projections, with links to the other recent articles that set up this discussion, if you want to read more about projections and what these discussions were all about.
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus, on a recent episode of their Effectively Wild podcast, held a rest-of-the-season projection contest, each taking over or under on the rest-of-season projections of this season’s top under-performers relative to their preseason projections and over-performers relative to their preseason projections. (Evan Gattis was one of the players they had to assess, by the way.)
Inspired by this contest, I decided to look at current performances of Braves players and their projected performances for the rest of the season, and write up whether I think they’ll over-perform or under-perform the projections. I’m using Steamer projections, found at Fangraphs. For hitters, I used Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), an all-encompassing offensive stat based on the run value of each type of offensive event. For pitchers, I used ERA. I know ERA is not the best, most telling stat but it’s simple and it does a fairly decent job of capturing overall pitcher performance.
Below are the players, in order of current wOBA (for hitters) and current inning pitched (for pitchers), followed by my assessments. These stats are through Thursday’s games. The projected wOBA and ERA are rest of the season Steamer projections. I listed hitters first, then pitchers. I left off most of the backup types, like Gerald Laird and Jordan Schafer. I listed Ryan Doumit because he’s the Braves top bench option. I also listed Dan Uggla because he’s Dan Uggla, so he’s interesting. If anyone wants to play along, feel free to comment. We’ll see if we can remember this in four months.
Evan Gattis (Current wOBA: .398, Projected wOBA: .343)
Gattis has been excellent and has carried the offense during the slumps of others, particularly when Freddie Freeman went into his recent slump. He’s probably played over his head. I’ll take slightly under .343 but he’ll still be a fine offensive catcher for the rest of the season.
Freddie Freeman (Current wOBA: .379, Projected wOBA: .372)
Freeman has had his struggles recently but he’s still put together a fine early season so far. His projection says he’ll produce at the same rate for the rest of the season. I think I have to take the under .372, not because I don’t think he’ll be great, but just because he’s been so great the last couple of seasons, it’s hard to imagine him doing any better.
Justin Upton (Current wOBA: .373, Projected wOBA: .359)
It doesn’t seem like Justin has been as good as he’s been. He’s the type player that has been good throughout his career but it’s a coin toss as to whether he’ll be good or great. A .359 wOBA is right at his career mark of .360. But he’s in his age 26 season and we all know what he’s capable of, so I’ll take the over.
Tommy La Stella (Current wOBA: .340, Projected wOBA: .325)
La Stella has been better than advertised. He makes consistent, solid contact and has a good approach so it’s hard to imagine him going into a prolonged slump. I don’t think he’ll be as good as he’s been but I also think he’ll out-produce the projection.
Jason Heyward (Current wOBA: .329, Projected wOBA: .357)
Heyward has seemed to under-perform since his 2010 rookie season, though he’s probably been a bit underrated since his down 2011 season. We are all waiting and expecting him to really break out, so I’ll take a bit over the .357 projection.
Chris Johnson (Current wOBA: .290, Projected wOBA: .315)
The projections have Johnson as slightly below a league-average offensive producer for the rest of the season, which seems about right. I’ll take slightly over, since that’s what he’s been for his career and he’s still in his prime.
Andrelton Simmons (Current wOBA: .290, Projected wOBA: .310)
Simmons is an interesting hitter. He has power and contact skills but he doesn’t walk much and he’s not a great pure hitter, in terms of hit tool. Of course his defense more than makes up for offensive deficiencies. The projection seems about right for him but I’ll take slightly under, since he’s been under that going back to the beginning of last season.
B.J. Upton (Current wOBA: .277, Projected wOBA: .298)
Players like B.J. are difficult to project. He was solid in Tampa but has been downright awful with the Braves. The projection has him somewhere in between, which makes sense. I’ll (perhaps foolishly) take the over, just because I can’t figure out why a player his age, with his skills and with his athleticism has been this bad. He was never a great player but he shouldn’t have been as bad as he has.
Ryan Doumit (Current wOBA: .250, Projected wOBA: .306)
Doumit is a good veteran bench player on the downside of his career. He’s a .330 wOBA guy for his career, the projection has him a bit under that, and he’s been quite a bit worse so far this season. I’ll take the under on the projection.
Dan Uggla (Current wOBA: .225, Projected wOBA: .304)
The projection for Uggla is essentially what he was last season. Believe it or not, he wasn’t absolutely dreadful. Fangraphs had him above replacement-level, which is better than no value at all. Still, I’ll take the under.
Julio Teheran (Current ERA: 2.31, Projected ERA: 3.76)
After a couple of down seasons in the minor, Teheran has really lived up to expectations since the beginning of last season. His career ERA is 3.07 and of course he’s been fairly dominant so far this season. I’ll take the under on his projected ERA.
Aaron Harang (Current ERA: 3.83, Projected ERA: 4.31)
Harang was a huge surprise early in the season but has struggled recently. Harang was known as a washed-up veteran when the Braves signed him but he actually hasn’t had many bad seasons in his career. Atlanta is a nice park for him, so I’ll take a little under on the projected ERA but not by too much. He’s a solid number five type starter for this team.
Ervin Santana (Current ERA: 4.12, Projected ERA: 3.95)
Santana has been a bit of a disappointment. His projection is a little lower than his career ERA of 4.19. I’ll take a little over the projection.
Alex Wood (Current ERA: 3.43, Projected ERA: 3.14)
Wood should be back in the rotation soon with the loss of Gavin Floyd. Wood’s projected ERA is a little lower than his career ERA of 3.26. He he was a bit higher than that through his first tenure with the big club this season. I’ll go slightly over the projection for Wood.
Mike Minor (Current ERA: 4.42, Projected ERA: 3.78)
Minor has had his struggles but got a late start to the season. His career ERA is 3.98 but he’s improved each full season in the majors. Still I’ll take a little over on a 3.78 ERA.
David Hale (Current ERA: 3.17, Projected ERA: 4.46)
Hale looks like he might be stuck in long-man duty unless there is an injury or unless he’s sent back down for the sake of starting in the future. Hale is probably a good number four or five starter. I’ll take the under on the projection.
Craig Kimbrel (Current ERA: 1.91, Projected ERA: 1.67)
As you know Kimbrel has been one of the most dominant per inning pitchers perhaps in the history of the game. He’s one of those players I have to take the under on just because it’s a good bet that he can’t remain as dominant. But you could certainly imagine it.
David Carpenter (Current ERA: 4.23, Projected ERA: 3.08)
Carpenter has given up a lot of hits and a lot of runs so far, and now he’s injured, but his BABIP on the season is a whopping .452. All his peripherals look as good or better than last season, which is why his rest-of-season projected ERA is solid. Still, 3.08 is quite a bit lower than his career ERA of 3.76. I’ll take the over on 3.08 but I think he’ll come back from injury strong.
Anthony Varvaro (Current ERA: 2.67, Projected ERA: 3.74)
Varvaro has been impressive on the season. His projected ERA is higher than his career ERA of 3.27. I’ll take the under.
Luis Avilan (Current ERA: 4.70, Projected ERA: 3.60)
Avilan has been a disappointment. His ERA in his young career is 2.23. I don’t think he’s that good but I will take under 3.60 for the rest of the season.
Jordan Walden (Current ERA: 3.63, Projected ERA: 2.77)
With Walden when healthy, he’s as good as any set-up man. Still 2.77 seems low for a guy with a 3.20 career ERA. I’ll take the over but he’s a key piece in the Braves’ bullpen and I think he’ll do a good enough job to keep them in games or to hold leads.