Saturday, January 31, 2015

How Many Runs Will The Tigers Allow in 2015?


The Tigers are counting on recently acquired Alfredo Simon to replace Rick Porcello in 2015.
(Photo credit: Charles LeClaire, USA Today Sports) 

Now that I have projected the Tigers runs scored total for 2015, the next step is to estimate how many runs they will give up.  Run prevention is more difficult to predict because pitcher's arms are so fragile and their performance so volatile, but I'll do my best.

The Tigers allowed 705 runs in 2014 which was lower than only five other American League teams. That was 81 runs more than the 624 they allowed in 2013 when they had one of the best rotations in recent history.  While their starters remained relatively strong last year, they were bogged down by a leaky defense and equally inept bullpen.   

The return of shortstop Jose Iglesias and additions of outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Gose should give them a much improved defense.  This might help Justin Verlander, who may have had some bad luck on batted balls (.317 Batting Average on Balls In Play) last year.  On the other hand, off-season acquisition Alfredo Simon will be leaving the Reds who led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved.  

For the projection, I first estimate the innings pitched in 2015 for their five current starters and key bullpen pieces (Table 1).  In order to forecast runs allowed, I used three-year averages on three measures from 2012-2014 all adjusted for projected innings this year:
  • Runs Allowed.
  • Base Runs - estimate of what runs allowed should have been based on base runners, total bases and home runs.
For example, Justin Verlander allowed an average of 92 runs per 210 innings (his projected 2015 total) from 2012-2014.  He also had 89 Base Runs and 76 FIP Runs.  The average of the three numbers above (92, 89, 76) is 86.  Since I expect Verlander to be similar to his three-year average next year, I'm estimating 86 runs allowed.

I project the rest of the pitchers similarly moving them up or down from their three-year averages if I think they are going to get better or worse this year.  In particular, I'm guessing that three starters will be somewhat worse than their averages: (1) Right-hander Anibal Sanchez will regress a little due to his age (31) and injury history.  (2) Newcomer Shane Greene likely pitched over his head for the Yankees last year, but I think he'll do better than PECOTA suggests (5.60 ERA!). (3) Simon will not have the benefit of the best defense in the majors this year.

My estimates of 770 runs scored and 674 allowed yields a differential of 96 or 9 to 10 wins above .500.  Thus, my early call for the season is a 90-72, which would match last year's record.  I'll check back again after things get sorted out more in spring training.  

Table 1: Projected Runs Allowed for Tigers Pitching Staff in 2015


Averages for 2012-2014*


Player
Proj IP
RA
BSR
FIP Runs
Comb
Proj R
Proj ERA
Price
220
82
79
75
79
80
3.01
Verlander
210
92
89
76
86
86
3.39
Sanchez
170
70
65
54
63
75
3.65
Greene
155
75
74
62
70
80
4.27
Simon
170
69
71
81
74
85
4.14
Soria
60
26
21
17
21
21
2.90
Nathan
50
17
17
16
17
25
4.14
Alburquerque
55
19
21
21
20
20
3.01
Rondon
45
18
22
15
18
18
3.31
Krol
35
21
24
19
21
21
4.97
Hanrahan
35
14
18
20
17
17
4.02
Gorzellany
35
14
18
15
16
16
3.79
Other
215



130
130
5.01
Totals
1,455



632
674
3.84
*Average adjusted for projected innings in 2015.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How Many Runs Will The Tigers Score in 2015?

How many runs will newcomer Yoenis Cespedes add to the Tigers offense in 2015?
(Photo credit: blog.sfgate.com)

Every year at about this time, I try to predict how many runs the Tigers will score in the upcoming season.  I'm not an expert in projections, and I have been off on some of the individual estimates, but I've been pretty good at projecting the Tigers team run totals the last two years:
  • In 2013, I guessed that they would score 800 runs and they ended up scoring 796, so I was off by just four runs.  
  • In 2014, I surmised that they would score 760 runs and they actually scored 757, so I was off by three runs!
Let's see if I can be so lucky again this year.   

The Weighted Runs Created (wRC) statistic at FanGraphs is useful for this kind of exercise because a team's wRC total usually falls fairly close to its run scored total.  The Tigers combined for 768 wRC in 2014 which was just 11 more (or within 2%) of their actual runs scored.  So, runs created was a good approximation for them. 

Because wRC correlates closely with runs scored, it is also helpful in projecting future offensive production.  Table 1 below lists the Tigers most likely players in 2014 and their estimated plate appearances (PA).  In the next column  is the three-year average of wRC adjusted for expected PA.  For example, first baseman Miguel Cabrera had 393 wRC in 2,034 PA over 2012-2014 which comes out to .193 Runs Created Per PA.  Multiplying .193 times 660 PA (his projected PA for 2015) yields his three-year average of 128 wRC.

The final column of the table is my forecast for wRC in 2015.  In all cases, it is fairly close to the three-year average, but I make adjustments if I think a player will improve or regress this year. 

On the positive side, I expect 23-year old third baseman Nick Castellanos to do significantly better than his 2014 rookie season.  While I don't expect out fielder JD Martinez to do quite as well as his 2014 season, I do think some of his improvement last year was real and that he'll do better than his three-year average.  Thus, I give both players a boost in their final projected totals.

On the other hand, I'm guessing that three others will regress due to age and/or health.  While Cabrera may perform better than he did last year, I do not think that at age 32 coming off major surgery he will reach his fantastic three-year average.  I also believe that second baseman Ian Kinsler and designated hitter Victor Martinez will naturally drop off a bit due to age.  Martinez, in particular, can't be expected to match his 2014 career year.   

For players with limited track records such as catcher James McCann, infielder Hernan Perez and outfielder Tyler Collins, I am relying on projection systems such as ZIPS.

Aggregating all the wRC yields 770 for the team. The last parts of the equation are base running and double plays.  The Tigers were were a neutral base running team last year, but also finished third in the American League hitting into 137 double plays.  So, that's a net negative.  The additions of outfielders Anthony Gose and Yoenis Cespedes should help them make up some ground, but not a lot when you consider that they have lost Austin Jackson and Ezequiel Carrera and also Andrew Romine won't play as much.  Thus, I'll say that they will be neutral in baserunning/double plays.    

So, based on the above, I'll predict 770 runs in 2015 assuming no major changes or injuries before opening day.  That wouldn't be much different than the 657 runs they scored last year, but this should not be surprising since they didn't make a lot of moves to upgrade offensively.  Most of the improvement from position players should come defensively.  The bigger questions surround their pitching staff, but that is a subect for another day.  
    
Table 1: Tigers Projected Runs in 2015
Player
PA
Runs Created
3-Yr Avg*
2015
Proj
Avila
425
48
50
Cabrera
660
128
120
Kinsler
700
85
80
Iglesias
500
51
50
Castellanos
550
58
65
Cespedes
625
80
80
Gose
375
33
35
J. Martinez
600
76
85
V. Martinez
625
98
90
Davis
375
40
40
McCann
200
          --
20
Perez
175
          --
15
Collins
175
          --
20
Others
240
          --
20
Base Running/DP

0
Totals
6,200

770
*Adjusted for Expected PA in 2015

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