If the season started today, does ZiPS say we’re better or worse? For comparison’s sake, we are going to look at the 2019 vs. 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections to line up the 2 teams in the following categories: Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching, Infield, Outfield, and Catcher.
If you’re not in the know, here’s the breakdown of how ZiPs was formed and the tools it uses to measure players:
ZiPS is a system of player projections developed by FanGraph’s Dan Szymborski when he was at Baseball Think Factory. According a Q&A on the Baseball Think Factory website, ZiPS uses growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends. It then factors those trends into the past performance of those players to come up with projections.
The system uses statistics from the previous four years for players from ages 24-38, and it weights more recent seasons heavier. For younger or older players, it uses weighted statistics from only the previous three years. The system also factors velocities, injury data and play-by-play data into its equations.
Like other projection systems, ZiPS uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. On FanGraphs, the projections are updated daily and predict each player’s numbers over the course of the remainder of the season.Fangraphs
Obviously, no one is claiming that every ZiPS prediction will come true, but it is widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry
2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, Starting Pitchers: 11.1 WAR vs. 14.8
This is a little misleading as they basically had Touki Toussaint being a 1.6 WAR 5th starter for 2019. For 2020, they list Sean Newcomb at 1.6, and Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson each at 0.4 seemingly for the fifth starter spot. With that said, 1-4 is projected much higher for 2020 than it was for 2019.
I’ve said many times that one should be considering who will be your “6th and 7th” starters — pitchers who will make 10-15 starts for you over the course of the year — so I like that the 2020 projections include that. I’m not sure, though, who would have been included for 2019 had they had them, but I don’t know if they would have been projected for positive value.
2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, Bullpen: 5.1 vs. 4.9
This conclusion is interesting as my eye balls tell me that Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Chris Martin, Darren O’Day, Grant Dayton, and Jacob Webb seem to be a better bet than the 2019 projected bullpen of Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, O’Day, Jonny Venters, Dan Winkler, Jesse Biddle, and Sam Freeman. But ZiPS says that the 2019 unit was projected to be higher than this year’s unit. Take that what you may.
2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, Outfield: 8.2 vs. 9.1
Ender Inciarte was projected higher last year (3.0) than he is this year (2.2). Somehow, Ronald Acuna Jr. is also projected for less (4.2 vs. 4.4 for last year). Marcell Ozuna is projected for a 2.8 WAR vs. Duvall at 0.8. For LF in 2020, Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall were originally penciled in at 1.1, so the Ozuna upgrade is pretty significant.
2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections, Infield: 15.8 vs. 14.1
First clear projection of regression, and there is no argument here. Josh Donaldson was projected for 4.8 WAR for 2019, and I see no reason for Austin Riley and Johan Camargo to have a higher projection.
2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, 2.0 vs. 2.1
Overall 2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, 41.9 vs. 44.9
In the aggregate, we appear to be an improved team. I’ll leave it to the others to break down the 2019 bench vs. the 2020 bench, and there may be some improvement there as well. But while there’s a step back in the infield, there’s improvement everywhere else, and ZiPS and I will have to agree to disagree on the bullpens.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this piece on Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections, you might enjoy Jonathan F’s 6 part piece on Playoffs are a Crapshoot. You can find them all linked here!