The ZiPS Rankings Projected by Lockout: National League Edition

© Albert Cesare / The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

As you may have noticed if you’ve been surfing FanGraphs while relaxing on the weekend – or recuperating after shoveling snow in the northeast – the ZiPS projections have now been populated in the projecting part of the construction site.

There will be several updates to these projections this spring because, well, there’s a whole heap left over from the offseason, way more than usual when ZiPS hits the database. While I’m more cautiously optimistic than most of my colleagues about the future of the 2022 season, the baseball landscape right now is less about fans huddled around an abstract burning stove and more about death by death. warmth of the universe. With no MLBPA members signed, traded, or even recognized on official MLB channels, baseball has almost entered a state of thermodynamic equilibrium.

While this is bad for the game and anyone who loves it, it does at least make depth charts less volatile and provide a good opportunity to run mid-lockout leaderboards. These are obviously a far cry from the final preseason projections, but they do give some insight into where baseball is right now. Which teams are fit and which still have work to do?
Let’s forget the eternal emptiness that beckons us and come to some projections!

The methodology I use here is not identical to the one we use in our projected ranking, so naturally there will be significant differences in the results. So how does ZiPS calculate the season? First to 99th percentile projections are stored in ZiPS for each player they project. I start by creating a generalized depth chart, using our depth charts as an initial starting point. Since these are my curated screenings, I then make changes based on my personal feelings on who will receive playing time, filtered by arbitrary fantasy my logic and reasoning. ZiPS then generates one million versions of each team in Monte Carlo fashion. Computational algorithms, that is – nobody dresses in a tuxedo and plays baccarat like James Bond.

Once done, ZiPS applies another set of algorithms with a generalized injury risk distribution, which changes the selected base AP/IP for each player. It should be noted that the upper percentile projections already have more playing time than the lower percentile projections before this step. ZiPS then automatically “fills in” the playing time of the next players on the list (proportionally) to get a full list of appearances and innings. For example, here are two simulations of Texas Rangers shortstop results:

ZiPS Simulated Results (Texas Rangers SS)

The result is a million different rosters for each team and an associated winning percentage for each of those million teams. After applying the new strength of schedule calculations based on the other 29 teams, I’m left with the standings for each of the millions of seasons. It’s actually a lot less complex than it looks.

We’ll consider the National League today, with the American League to follow tomorrow. First up: the NL East.

ZiPS Projections – National League East

Team O L GB % Div % BATHROOM% Playoffs% WS Win%
Atlanta Braves 90 72 55.6% 49.1% 21.2% 70.3% 7.7%
New York food 88 74 2 54.3% 34.3% 24.4% 58.7% 5.6%
Philadelphia Phillies 82 80 8 50.6% 9.5% 14.0% 23.5% 1.7%
Miami Marlins 80 82 ten 49.4% 5.7% 10.1% 15.8% 1.0%
Washington nationals 75 87 15 46.3% 1.3% 3.0% 4.3% 0.2%

As I expected when discussing Atlanta projections, the Braves show up in ZiPS as a slight favorite, even with the built-in assumption that Freddie Freeman will go to free agency. His still likely return would put a few more games between the Braves and the Mets, though that return isn’t certain until there’s a signed contract to that effect. The Mets, meanwhile, have some holes in them, but they probably underperformed their abilities as a group in 2021 and are close enough that hopefully – I know, that’s not a typical phenomenon. of the Mets – they can catch the Braves, especially in the Freeman- less scenario.

The Marlins and Phillies project the same way, even though they are teams going in opposite directions. Miami’s pitching staff, especially the rotation, is already playoff-worthy. The offense is… not. But the Marlins have a long-term advantage that I’m not sure is there for the Phillies, a team that’s been content to just keep a .500ish roster together. The Marlins are still probably about a year away from making the Braves or Mets nervous about a stumble, but a 6% split chance isn’t a 0% chance.

The Nationals basically project themselves as a terrible team that benefits from the services of Juan Soto, which can make almost any team watchable. And in this case, it puts Washington just on the edge of playoff relevance if all goes well, rather than being a near-lost cause.

ZiPS Projections – Central National League

Team O L GB % Div % BATHROOM% Playoffs% WS Win%
Cardinals of St. Louis 89 73 54.9% 49.0% 16.6% 65.5% 6.8%
Milwaukee Brewers 88 74 1 54.3% 39.3% 18.4% 57.7% 5.5%
Cincinnati Reds 80 82 9 49.4% 8.5% 8.8% 17.3% 1.2%
Chicago Cubs 76 86 13 46.9% 3.0% 3.8% 6.8% 0.4%
Pittsburgh Pirates 68 94 21 42.0% 0.1% 0.2% 0.3% 0.0%

I’m actually slightly surprised the Cubs didn’t fare better in ZiPS’ predicted standings. Part of that is ZiPS being stronger on the Brewers rotation than I initially expected and part is the lockdown preventing the Reds from blowing their rotation. The Cardinals once again project themselves into that magical 88-92 winning zone they always seem to occupy, but the Brewers could have more of an advantage due to the presence of three starting pitchers who could be in the conversation of Cy Young. It also makes Milwaukee a dangerous October foe. ZiPS really like Aaron Ashby and if the Brewers commit to using him in the rotation (I don’t expect them to), they could catch St. Louis in the forecast.

St. Louis’s throwing isn’t quite as impressive, but ZiPS likes offense and defense enough to get the Cardinals the No. 1 spot. The Cubs still have holes, some of which likely won’t be addressed when the offseason resumes. Pirates don’t have much going for them in 2022 after Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayesbut they at least avoid the ignominy of a playoff probability that rounds to zero.

ZiPS Projections – National League West

Team O L GB % Div % BATHROOM% Playoffs% WS Win%
Los Angeles Dodgers 94 68 58.0% 63.7% 24.2% 87.9% 12.2%
San Diego Padres 90 72 4 55.6% 31.9% 38.5% 70.4% 6.9%
San Francisco Giants 81 81 13 50.0% 4.2% 15.5% 19.7% 1.2%
Arizona Diamonds 72 90 22 44.4% 0.2% 1.3% 1.5% 0.1%
Colorado Rockies 66 96 28 40.7% 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%

What particularly interests me is the relative weakness of the Dodgers and Padres compared to last year’s projections. Yes, both plan to remain great teams, but both have roster questions that have yet to be resolved this offseason. Los Angeles’ rotation looks more shaky than it has in years and unlike seasons past, there are plenty of scenarios projected in which it becomes an unimpressive group, at least enough to bring down the Dodgers in the peloton and sometimes even out of the playoffs. ZiPS remains bullish on San Diego’s pitching, but the team has real needs at first base, left field, right field and, assuming the next CBA works out as we expect, designated hitter. The team can still approach these positions, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Some may complain about Giants projection, but losing Buster Posey cuts some wins on the team’s prospects, just like Kevin Gausmandeparture to the vast cornfields of Canada. Alex Cobb was pretty solid for the Angels in 2021, but his health history is troubling. Like the Red Sox’s projection for the 2021 season, ZiPS sees a lot of variability in rotation based on health, enough to make the team more volatile overall than it otherwise would be.

The Diamondbacks plan to have a better season than 2021 is just regression to the mean. The good news for the Rockies is that they have almost no star players left to alienate, then trade or simply let walk with little or no compensation. I let you imagine what the bad news is.

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