Monday, January 29, 2018

ZiPS Projections for a World Series Champion, 2013-2018

In case you hadn't heard, the Astros completed their metamorphosis in 2017, rising from the official Worst Team in Baseball (with a bottom farm system to boot) to the World Series Champions.  I have a cap and a tee shirt that displays that fact, so I get to be reminded of that on a near-daily basis.  I simply thought it would never happen, so the fact that it did happen so early in their window of contention makes us serious fans think that the future may continue to be very, very bright.

Every year since 2015, I have had a look at how the the Astros have been projected in pre-season assessments from 2013 onward.  This is mostly an exercise for entertainment purposes: for example, this is an exercise looking at pre-season projections, not at actual performance results, so it does have some significant limitations in assessing performance.  What these projections do note, however, is the incredible improvement in the Astros' ability to secure talented players - at least from their early 2010's tear-down onward.

The ZiPS projections were initially invented by Dan Szymborski, who used to write for the one the early sabermetric sites, the Baseball Think Factory.  ZiPS is one of two projection systems (the far more simple Steamer being the other) that the Fangraphs website uses.  Fangraphs does an amazing job of publishing high-quality and well authored articles on a near-daily basis.  Fangraphs also has a subscriptions section (Fangraphs Memberships) which is available for a yearly cost of $50, which is a great way of supporting a fascinating and high-quality site, if you want to encourage excellent contemporary baseball discourse.

Anyhow, below are the Astros projections from 2013-2018, with the earliest at the top.  The change is incredible - only one player has been consistent throughout the projections (José Altuve, of course), but the days of signing the Lucas Harrells and the Brett Wallaces have become the days of trading players better than Harrell and Wallace for potential high end starting pitching.

But without further ado...

Projections from 2013:

Projections from 2014:

Projections from 2015:

Projections from 2016:

Projections from 2017:

Projections from 2018:

Normally at this point, I include my comments and thoughts on how I perceive the changes in the Astros system throughout this article.  On this occasion, however, I wonder whether it is better to let it all sink in to the various readers, and let you guys make your comments on the rise of the Astros' system.  

I guess if I wanted to say something - and this is picking the lowest of the low-hanging fruit here - the development of José Altuve has been simply incredible.  His projected win totals from 2013 onward: 3, 2, 4, 4, 6, 6.  His actual win totals (fWAR) from 2013 onward has been more impressive: 1, 5, 5, 7, 8 (these totals are rounded for the sake of simplicity).  Altuve is also the rare combination of performance and being a joy and a marvel to watch, and the Astros need to extend him, like, yesterday.  The guy is incredible, and I haven't even commented on his outstanding physical attribute, or how well he handles himself off the field.  Altuve (moreso Altuve's incredible baseball development), more than anyone or anything else, defines the World Series winning Astros, in my opinion.

This concludes my "Love Letter to José Altuve" - apologies for the digression.

Getting back to the point, those of us that can remember the 2007-2014 Astros deserve  to bask in these projections for a while longer - like, the rest of the offseason.  

So comment away, and enjoy doing so.