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2022 Projection Accuracy: Hitter Playing Time

What started as a checkup on how projections turned into a fairly important find when using projections. On the projection front, aggregators, especially when done smartly, continue to crush the competition. The big illumination is ZiPS being near the top since it uses zero human input.

First off, here are last season’s results with my conclusion.

Hitter Playing Time
For playing time, three of the aggregators, Average, ZEILE, and ATC shoved in this category (Depth Charts takes a hit because it only uses one playing time input). It’s an easy win for the Wisdom of the Crowds.

To find this year’s player set to test, I used all the hitters drafted in at least 42 of the 47 NFBC Main Events. From this list, I excluded Seiya Suzuki because several systems didn’t include him. Also, I excluded Nelson Cruz, Luis Garcia, Manuel Margot, Jake Fraley, Seth Brown, Garrett Cooper, and Darin Ruf 러프. One or multiple systems didn’t have a projection for them. In all, I would have removed four projections, but decided it was better to have more projections and a few players missing. In all, this process was run on 223 hitters.

With the same dataset, I removed the hitters who missed a significant part of the season due to injury. The players left out were Adalberto Mondesi, Miguel Sano, Alex Kirilloff, Kris Bryant, Austin Meadows, Anthony Rendon, Ozzie Albies, Jazz Chisholm Jr., and David Fletcher.

To determine accuracy, I calculated the Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) for four different sets of values. RMSE is a “measure of how far from the regression line data points are” and the smaller the value, the better.

I collected the projections on April 6th from a mix of 23 different sets. Some were free while others were behind a paywall. Those behind a paywall will be labeled as Paywall with a number (e.g. Paywall #1). Additionally, some of the projections were aggregates of other projections. All but one of the aggregators were publicly available. The one that wasn’t is called Aggregator #1. ATC, Depth Charts, and ZEILE are the projections that aggregate their competitors.  Also, Steamer, ZiPS DC, and Depthcharts use the same playing time projections. THE BAT and THE BAT X use the playing time from ATC.

Finally, I looked into several ways to aggregate the projections to see if there was a preferred method and they were:

  • Average of all
  • Median of all
  • Preseason smart average: For this one, I had Rob Silver look at last season’s results, pick three sources to average, and they were used. He chose THE BAT X, Razzball, and Paywall #6.
  • Post-season best average: This started with an average of nine of the projections that I know get regular updates during the preseason. Next, I removed the worst remaining system using this year’s results. The value needed to get under 130.9, the top value for a standalone system.

Here are the results.

RMSE Value as Worse Systems Are Removed
Systems RMSE
9 134.0
8 133.4
7 132.9
6 131.8
5 130.7
4 129.4
3 128.8
2 131.9
1 130.9

The three systems that had the best results are publicly available, Razzball, ZiPS, and Davenport.

With all that out of the way, here are the rankings using the full 223 hitters.

RMSE Values: All Players
System RMSE
Post-Season Best 128.8
Aggregator #1 130.8
Davenport 130.9
ZiPS 132.4
BatX 133.5
Bat 133.6
ATC 134.3
Preseason Guess 135.1
Mr.Cheatsheet 135.3
Median 136.0
Razzball 136.2
CBS 137.8
ZEILE 137.8
Paywall #2 138.6
Average 139.3
Paywall #5 140.0
DraftBuddy 140.1
FreezeStats 142.6
Paywall #3 142.7
Steamer 142.8
Paywall #4 143.1
DepthCharts 143.9
Paywall #6 143.9
Paywall #1 144.8
ZiPS DC 145.1
Rotoholic 169.4
Mays Copeland 173.4

Before drawing any conclusions, here are the results without the hurt players.

RMSE Values: Hurt Players Removed
System RMSE
Post-Season Best 112.1
Davenport 113.6
Aggregator #1 115.2
THE BAT X 115.5
THE BAT 115.6
ATC 116.1
Mr. Cheatsheet 116.9
ZiPS 117.4
Median 117.5
Preseason Guess 117.6
Average 118.5
CBS 119.3
ZEILE 119.3
Razzball 119.8
Draft Buddy 120.9
Paywall #5 121.9
Paywall #3 123.1
Paywall #2 123.6
FreezeStats 124.1
Steamer 124.3
DepthCharts 124.8
Paywall #4 125.4
ZiPS DC 126.0
Paywall #1 126.3
Paywall #6 127.2
Rotoholic 150.3
Mays Copeland 157.8

Like last season, the aggregated systems (e.g. ATC, THE BATs, Median, ZEILE) are near the top. The two projections that stand-alone are Davenport and ZiPS. Last season, they didn’t perform horribly but not good enough to stand out . Here are those rankings.

Note: I might be talking about Mr. Cheatsheet next year as a projection to target.

Both of them had a bad finish but they both were near the top at other times. For standalone playing time projections, they should be given consideration along with the aggregators and Razzball.

Since the playing time from ZiPS is separate from the other playing time projections here at FanGraphs, I asked Dan Szymborski, how he sets the playing for ZiPS.

So setting playing time by just knowing player traits is at least average and outperforms most projection systems.

I was not surprised to find that some of the factors helped predict playing time. While the short 2020 season has caused some hiccups, I found playing time projections could be improved by knowing a hitter’s previous playing (injuries), player talent (good players play more than crappy players), and age. My formula was just a 10% improvement, but still helpful.

What ZiPS is doing is pointing out factors analysts might be missing. For example, why does ZiPS have Gunnar Henderson at 557 AB and Steamer down at 531 AB? A system must be even lower on Henderson’s playing time and is dragging ATC down to 510 AB.

One issue with ZiPS is that it doesn’t robotically zero out playing time. There will be more plate appearances than available in a season. It’s not close to a perfect projection system, but it is definitely catching some factors other projections aren’t.

Here are a couple of issues I could see chopping into ZiPS’s high rank going forward.

  1. It could just be a recent blip where analysts are still having problems evaluating playing time so near to the shortened 2020 season and the 2021 late start. Once baseball gets back to normal, analysts might perform better.
  2. The other projection creators could start spotting their biases and make adjustments to correct them. I’m not sure about this change happening. I discussed ZiPS’s performance with two people behind the better projections and they blew off the ZiPS results.

It’s always I ton of work to set up these projection comparisons. As expected, the aggregators dominated again with a couple of single systems (ZiPS and Davenport) taking a step up this past season. It’s interesting that ZiPS performed as well as it did considering it has no human input.


Mining the News (2/2/23)

American League

Astros

Michael Brantley might not be ready for Opening Day.

Astros outfielder Michael Brantley remains hopeful he’ll be ready to be in the Opening Day lineup following shoulder surgery performed in August. Brantley said Monday he will clear another hurdle next week when he begins taking batting practice, a major step with Spring Training less than three weeks away.

“I’m doing great,” Brantley said. “Just following the process, following the schedule we have planned out. All is going well. I’m excited where I’m at. I’ve been hitting, running and throwing and I’m very excited where I’m at in the process.”

Brantley said he might be limited when camp starts in West Palm Beach on Feb. 15, when pitchers and catchers report, but he should be able to participate in most workouts.

With Brantley slotted in as the primary DH, it’s tough to know who will take his at-bats if he starts on the IL.

Athletics

• The team will NOT utilize a six-man rotation but will have to be “flexible” with Shintaro Fujinami used to a six-day rotation.

Forst said during the Fujinami press conference that the A’s would not be going with a six-man rotation, but he did acknowledge on Friday that he’s expecting a lot of movement in and out of the rotation and that the A’s are going to have to be flexible with Fujinami, in particular, given his history in a six-man rotation.

A.J. Puk will be shifted to the rotation.

All of the A’s key relievers from last season are returning, but the team plans to shift Puk into the rotation. Assuming that conversion sticks, this will be a significant hole for the team to fill, as Puk finished second in relief innings (66 1/3) last season and first in strikeouts.

Dany Jiménez is the favorite to win the closer’s role.

Jiménez did a solid job in that role last season and is probably the favorite to get save opportunities early in the season, but his fastball velocity is only average and he walks more batters than one would like to see from a closer. That said, Jiménez showed a closer’s steely resolve, wiggling out of several tough situations, and he seems to have an uncanny ability to miss the barrel and induce soft contact. His xERA (2.81) was actually significantly lower than his actual ERA (3.41). It’s probably his job to lose, but Jackson, May and even Smith could be in the ninth-inning mix, as well.

Jesús Aguilar is working on his swing to hit high fastballs.

For Aguilar’s part, he’s already been hard at work making adjustments of his own. Setting up his offseason training in Florida, Aguilar has essentially rebuilt his entire batting stance to combat the increased frequency of pitchers throwing fastballs up in the zone. During his load at the plate, Aguilar said he’s worked on getting more on top of the ball by putting his hands lower in the zone and going straight to the ball.

“I was doing something different when I load,” Aguilar said. “I just tried to put my hands a little more down and go straight to the ball. I think that was the difference between last year and the year before, when I had good years. I just tried to come back to that setup and go from there.”

He has a career 7% SwStr% against four-seamers and a 8% SwStr% last season. Not great but not horrible.

Mariners

Dylan Moore is still recovering from off-season core surgery and already experienced a setback.

Moore is recovering from offseason surgery on his core that had been nagging him since late August, when he went on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain. He recently experienced a minor setback, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said during Seattle’s Spring Training preview, but he should be ready for Opening Day.

George Kirby and Logan Gilbert will have their innings limited in Spring Training and to start the season.

“When everyone else is ramping up to their two- and three-inning outings, we are going to have Logan and George moving a little slow, and hold the innings back in spring to preserve them on the back end,” Dipoto said Wednesday at the team’s spring training luncheon.

“We’re going to be cautious, but not restrictive.”

“The goal is to make sure that their five-inning outing (in spring) happens just before the season gets ready to start,” Dipoto said. “We’re not going to manage their innings in the same way we did manage George’s innings last year or Logan’s innings the year before.

Jarred Kelenic is in the base shape of his life.

The Mariners are hopeful the 2023 version of Kelenic will far exceed what he has done thus far at the big-league level, and what the team is hearing about Kelenic this offseason has been positive.

“The reports have been over-the-top awesome … both physically and mentally,” said Mariners general manager Justin Hollander on Wednesday. “Jarret DeHart, our hitting coach, was just down with him in Arizona. They did some motion-capture stuff on where he’s at mechanically — he tested through the roof.”

Cal Raleigh (thumb) and Tom Murphy (shoulder) both had surgery this offseason.

There was plenty of good news Wednesday in terms of player health, including in regards to catcher Cal Raleigh, who had surgery on his left thumb after the season.

“I don’t know how he played down the stretch,” said Servais.

Catchers Raleigh and Tom Murphy (shoulder surgery), outfielder Sam Haggerty (left groin), and relievers Andrés Muñoz (right foot surgery) and Paul Sewald (heel and elbow clean-up) will be ready to go at the outset of camp.

Orioles

• According to the GM, Grayson Rodriguez is expected to make the Opening Day rotation.

Rangers

• The GM said José Leclerc, Ian Kennedy, Jonathan Hernández, Danny Duffy, and/or Brett Martin could close with Leclerc being the front-runner.

Chris Young indicated Saturday this year’s closer might already be in camp.

“(José Leclerc) could easily be the closer. I think Jonathan (Hernández) could be a closer. Ian Kennedy has experience as a closer. I think Danny Duffy has saves in his career. (fact check: he has one save). Brett Martin had saves last year; I know he’s not an option now. There’s just a number of guys that have experience in those leverage roles. Ultimately, what I’m excited about is we should be in a position where we are needing a closer more than we have the last few years.”

As Young mentioned, Leclerc would appear to be the obvious front-runner. He has had stretches in his career when his pitches look like guided missiles, un-hittable and barely visible.

Brock Burke could throw over 100 IP out of the bullpen.

“Potentially,” Young acknowledged. “I talked to Mike (Maddux, pitching coach) a little bit about that yesterday. It’s open. As dominant as (Burke) was last year … (but) does that reduce his workload and his innings, and is that the best way to allocate the innings that he can contribute? I think Brock is very capable of 100-plus earnings this year. I’m not sure he gets that in a closer’s role. Or maybe it’s a different type of closer’s role; maybe it’s not as conventional. I don’t want to get too far ahead because we’re not committing to that. It could be a traditional type of closer, but certainly we view Brock as a valuable member of our bullpen and he can pitch a number of different roles that could help us win games.”

“I had concerns or wants at the end of the year to want to be a starter again,” Burke admitted over the weekend. “I felt like I could help the team, (that) it would benefit the team, but after a month of the offseason went by, it was like ‘wellllll, you know, maybe we got enough guys to start now this year.’ (So) I feel like my role in the bullpen, with the starters we have this year, is going to be very helpful. … I’m good with whatever they’ve got. If it’s one inning, two innings, break-up innings. Last year, I definitely would have said more innings the better, at one (point) but after getting used to going out there for one inning, I was more comfortable, so I hope that this year, whatever role the team needs me for.”

Twins

Kenta Maeda is 100% healthy.

Maeda delivered a strong message during his media session Saturday.

“No restrictions,” Maeda said. “A normal spring training is expected.”

Maeda had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 1, 2021. While he spent last season rehabbing and may have pitched out of the bullpen had the Twins reached the playoffs, Maeda never appeared in anything other than live batting practice. The right-hander is excited about where he is physically and mentally, noting he’s seen good radar gun readings and likes the shape of his pitches.

Jorge Polanco is “ready to go“.

Jorge Polanco declared himself ready to go after rehabbing a right knee that frustrated him down the stretch in 2022.

Alex Kirilloff still has a sore wrist.

After swinging the bat for most of January, Alex Kirilloff can still feel wrist soreness, but said his pain level has decreased after undergoing surgery for a second straight season. That should be a good sign after a drastic surgery in which doctors intentionally broke Kirilloff’s right wrist in order to shave down the bone to prevent it from rubbing against other bones.

“(Soreness is) definitely there,” Kirilloff said. “They cut my bone so there’s definitely some aches and stuff to go along with that, but from a pain standpoint it feels good. … I think they’re expected to go away. I think anytime you break your bone it can take a lot longer than expected to heal. From my understanding, it gets to that certain point where it’s healed enough to do whatever you need to do and then it keeps healing for a while after that.”

White Sox

• If needed, Oscar Colás can play center field.

Oscar Colás is largely tasked with carrying the White Sox right field position into an above-average place going forward. While he didn’t crack Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list, Colás got an endorsement from Getz in being able to handle center field on occasion in Chicago after all his experience there in the minors last year and he is expected to be a reliable defender in right field.

Sean Burke is likely the next starter to be promoted when the team needs one.

As he’s said previously this offseason, Getz identified prospect Sean Burke as expected to be the next in line.

“I like his delivery. He’s put together. He repeats the delivery very well. He’s got a power fastball. He can land an above-average breaking ball. His slider continues to get better. I know he’s a guy that’s been working hard with his changeup as well,” Getz said of Burke. “He’s a guy that’s going to be able to add innings. Last year he had a very productive year. Certainly one of our better starters in the minor leagues and worked his way up to Triple A. He’s a guy that we view as a rotation piece fairly soon, and can be for the foreseeable future.”

Former 2019 second-round pick Matthew Thompson is the next prospect Getz tabbed as a major-league option at some point in 2023, thanks to “an excellent offseason,” but mentioned non-roster invites Nate Fisher, Jesse Scholtens and recent waiver claim A.J. Alexy as experienced starter options as well.

Yankees

Aaron Hicks is tired of being athletic and wants to bulk up.

His power was diminished but he still got on base and was able to contribute in other ways. Hicks told Dan Martin of The New York Post in September that he tried to come back from wrist surgery lean and athletic to stay healthy but that it backfired by sapping his power. “I wanted to get faster and healthy, but me playing at 200 pounds isn’t it,’’ Hicks said. “I haven’t been impacting the ball like I wanted to. It’s really showed, with my power down. I wanted to be quicker and it didn’t work out that way.” He told Martin that he was looking forward to adding more strength in the offseason and coming into 2023 with the power restored.

National League

Braves

Ronald Acuña Jr. thinks he’s back to normal.

“I think I can say that I’m normal,” Acuña said. “I’m 100 percent healthy. I really think that I can be a normal player and not play DH that much anymore.”

Cardinals

• The team will go with a second baseman by committee including Brendan Donovan, Nolan Gorman, and Paul DeJong.

The Cardinals likely won’t employ a designated starting second baseman, though. Instead, they’d rather play it by committee, similar to how they filled the position last year. If DeJong can find some sort of offensive rhythm and Gorman can improve on his overall consistency, the Cardinals will have three viable middle infield solutions (including Brendan Donovan) to partner with Edman.

Giants

The team plans on utilizing some combination of five-man and six-man rotations and tandem starters.

“I think it’s really going to be a mix,” Zaidi said in December. “There may be some situations in which we go to a six-man rotation for a period of time. The drawback of that is you’re down to a seven-man ‘pen, but if you have rested starters who are going deep into games and you have guys in the bullpen that can throw multiple innings, that can help mitigate that. I think there will be times we do that.

“There will be times when we tandem guys and try to use two of our starters to get through an entire game and give the rest of the ‘pen a day off. That’s something we’ve heard a lot from our relievers over the last couple years.


Fernando Tatis Jr. & Shoulder Surgeries

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

I tweeted out wanting to know who had shoulder surgeries similar to Fernando Tatis Jr. and it garnered many examples and opinions on the subject.

All I wanted was the names of those who had the same or similar operations but got a lot more. With those comps, I hoped to get a range of potential outcomes. Well, I got them and whole lot more.

I know most people will already be anchored to an opinion that is probably based on already drafting or passing on Tatis in drafts or rostering him or not in a keeper league. For those with an open mind, here is what I think is the best information people gave me. Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (1/30/23)

American League

Athletics

Paul Blackburn and James Kaprielian should be ready for the start of Spring Training.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (1/27/23)

American League

Athletics

• The A’s are loaded at first base with the addition of Jesús Aguilar

For a rebuilding A’s club, Aguilar could, at the very least, provide value as a reliable stopgap at first base until No. 1 prospect Tyler Soderstrom, whose quick ascension through the system saw him finish last season with Triple-A Las Vegas, receives his promotion to Oakland, which could come as early as this season. Seth Brown, Dermis Garcia and Ryan Noda are others expected to be in the mix at first base for the A’s.

Seth Brown was already in danger of losing playing time because of his splits (career .791 OPS vs RHP, .527 OPS vs LHP) but this might cement Brown around 450 PA. Read the rest of this entry »


Stolen Base Rate Depending on Lineup Position

 

I started out wanting to see if a player stole more bases from one lineup slot compared to another one. Discussions around Trea Turner’s spot with the Phillies led me down this path. Last season, Turner had 603 PA from the 2nd and 3rd spot in the batting order and just 105 PA while leading off. He was on a 29 SB/600 PA pace from the leadoff spot and a pace of just 22 SB/600 PA from the other two. I wanted to see if the bump was normal and if not, what should I expect? What I found was a mess and don’t plan on regurgitating here. I put the “F- Around, Find Out” philosophy to work with over a day wasted to end up with three graphs and four actionable conclusions.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (1/23/23)

American League

Angels

• There is a chance that Logan O’Hoppe might start in the minors.

The real competition appears to be between Thaiss and O’Hoppe. And the Angels have to be careful about rushing a young catcher like O’Hoppe with a very bright future.

A lineup guess of Anthony Rendon, Luis Rengifo, and Brandon Drury being full-time bats with Gio Urshela and Jared Walsh in a platoon.

The Angels have a lot of guys that can play first, second and third. Not a lot of true shortstops. And the offseason acquisitions have most likely forced defensive whiz Andrew Velazquez off the active roster. The Angels will rotate their infield quite a bit depending on matchups. The best guess for a starting infield against a righty pitcher: Rendon (3B), Renfigo (SS), Drury (2B), Walsh (1B). And against a lefty pitcher: Rendon (3B), Rengifo (SS), Urshela (2B), Drury (1B).

It’s also possible that Angels manager Phil Nevin would value Fletcher’s defense and find a way to get him a consistent starting role, especially if his bat proves to be valuable.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (1/20/23)

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

American League

Tigers

Matt Vierling and Nick Maton will play all over the field according to manager A.J. Hinch.

Hinch on Thursday said new additions Matt Vierling and Nick Maton — part of the trade involving Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens going to the Phillies — will be the Tigers’ two “most active” players in spring training. That’s because both players are capable of playing both infield and outfield. Hinch will want to see both players at a variety of positions when camp begins next month.

“We’re gonna let it play out and see where the at-bats take them,” Hinch said. “I can see Vierling fitting in at a variety of positions. Maton, I’m gonna move him around, second, short, third, maybe even a little bit of outfield in the spring.”

Perhaps related: The Tigers do not currently have any player who profiles as an everyday third baseman. Maton could be the early favorite to win the job.

Read the rest of this entry »


Deep League Starting Pitchers (Miller, Lorenzen, Brash, Gibson, & Harrison)


How to Navigate the Third Base Market

The third base market is going to be interesting to navigate this season. It’s top-heavy with six guys going in the top-40 picks, a couple of stragglers, and then a massive cliff. Depending on where a person drafts, there might not be a way to avoid the cliff. I’m going to dive into this market and point some possible alternative ways to navigate for an acceptable solution.

Here are the third basemen (20 games min) who are in the player pool with their NFBC and FanTrax ADP. The NFBC will be based on rostering players in 5×5 Roto leagues (AVG) while most of the leagues at FanTrax are points bases (best balls). Additionally, I included an ADP-based auction value for 12-team leagues. The last column is the dollar value from our auction calculator. Read the rest of this entry »