FanGraphs’ 2021 playoff odds are out. If you’re into forecasting, it’s fun to look at something like this. At this moment in time, FanGraphs projects the Yankees, Twins, Astros, Mets, Cardinals, and Dodgers as the six division winners. Their projections have the White Sox, Blue Jays, Padres, and Braves as the wild card teams.
For FanGraphs’ playoff odds to have any meaning, you have to consider the many underlying assumptions. FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens explains how it’s done here. Most importantly, team projections require forecasts for both performance and playing time. I’m going to assume that the site’s Depth Charts player projections, described as ” a combination of ZiPS and Steamer projections with playing time allocated by our staff,” are similar to what fuels their playoff odds.
One thing that’s easy to forget when talking about which teams have improved the most over the offseason is that we cannot assume the performance of holdover players will be constant. Take AL MVP Jose Abreu, for example. Abreu was worth 2.6 WAR in last year’s 60-game season, so with a simple multiplier of 2.7, that extrapolates to about 7 WAR over a full season. In other words, for 60 games, Abreu played like a 7-WAR player.
FanGraphs’ blended ZiPS/Steamer projections do not predict anything close to a 7 WAR season for Abreu in 2021. Instead, they predict a 1.8 WAR campaign, the same as Abreu produced in 2019. A 1.8 WAR Abreu is basically what’s baked into FanGraphs’ projection of 88.2 wins for the 2021 White Sox. Their projection is that Abreu will be the 11th best player on the 2021 White Sox.
Here’s a look at the position players FanGraphs expects to lose the most WAR in 2021, compared to the player’s extrapolated full season 2020 production (link for app users):
On the flip side, many who struggled in 2020 are expected to bounce back. I’ve replaced negative 2020 WARs with zero for the table below, as I don’t think it makes sense to extrapolate J.D. Martinez’s -1.0 WAR to -2.7. With that in mind, here are the biggest projected gainers for position players (link for app users):
On to the starting pitchers. Here are the biggest projected dropoffs (link for app users):
And here are the biggest projected gains for starting pitchers. As you’d expect, the biggest gains are projected for pitchers who missed all of 2020 due to injury or opting out (link for app users):
What do you think? Which players will experience the biggest change from their 2020 performance?
no pirates on list nutting ball must be working pretty good
Bochys Retirement Fund
They have a $40M payroll after trading all their players. No kidding they wouldn’t be on here.
This whole “wTf ArE tHe PiRaTeZ dOiNg?!” stuff is so dumb. They’re clearly rebuilding. Cherington took a tanked Boston team and help win a WS in ’13.
Don’t get me wrong about Nutting, who I see as one of the worst owners in the MLB. But the Pirates, unlike other bad teams, actually established a course of what they’re planning to do.
Completely agree. There are few who actually establish a plan and see it through completely. It was the perfect time for them to rebuild with Huntington/Hurdle out, their 2011-15 core ending, and the spending/success of the other four in the division
Cherington hit on practically every trade and signing for that 2013 season and then finished in last the other years he was at the helm in Beantown. His time in Boston was very weird and, considering their payroll was around $157 million that year, is in no way an indicator of the job he’ll do in Pittsburgh. In fact, without that title, he probably wouldn’t even have gotten a second GM job.
Instead, point to the table he set for the eventual 2018 championship as an indicator to what he can do with rebuilding a system.
Actually, more went unexpectedly wrong than unexpectedly right with that 2013 Red Sox championship. I never understood where the “everything went right for them” narrative for that season came from, because it’s very, very not true.
But it is true that Cherington had had to fill a number of holes with short-term pieces and then engaged in something of a non-rebuild rebuild, and ownership lost patience with him on that just as the team was emerging. Keep in mind that the second “last place team” after 2013 was actually a 78 win squad with an 81-win Pythagorean record, so the “last place” label while true is about as misleading as it can get. Meanwhile, the followup 2016 division winner was still pre-Dombrowski and other than the David Price signing was basically Cherington’s roster.
and other than the David Price signing was basically Cherington’s roster.
One could argue that it was Theo’s roster with Betts, JBJ, Bogaerts, some RPs, and some players acquired using prospects that Theo had drafted.
He overpaid Stephen Drew and somehow Drew had one of his best seasons (one of). Then Mike Carp had a career year after an abysmal 2012. Spent a little more than expected for Victorino who had a good 2013. Squeezed a good year out of Napoli and Gomes.
Everything went right in 2013 for the Red Sox. That is why 2014 was a come down. A big comedown.
Bochys Retirement Fund Plus that’s really the obvious direction for Cherington to take the Pirates. With little to no money to spend going for a full rebuild and multi year tanking strategy like Houston did is their best option.
They need a solid young core to compete again then try to become the next Rays. Smart trades and bargain FA signings, then trade some of those core players at the right time to reload the farm with new cheap young talent
Bochys Retirement Fund
Rocket32, I agree. I’ll also add that Pittsburg has shown to spend a little bit, in that $100M range. High? Not at all, but when you’re at $30+M there’s a bit of room to work with if you have young developed talent that are being paid league minimum to add higher end pieces.
Boston is very strange in that they just always spend a ton. Even when they weren’t making the playoffs. They had the 3rd highest payroll in 2012 and finished 69-93. So it’s a different environment than Pittsburg.
He’s a younger guy who’s worked under established names. If people wanna complain about these types of teardowns than maybe baseball isn’t a game for you, because this isn’t the NBA. You can’t draft a big name, trade for two players, and immediately become a contender. There’s so many pieces and nuances involved.
FredMcGriff for the HOF
I guess we’ll see come September how right these projections are. Until then I will take them for exactly that.
Put me down for Bryant going up and Matt Chapman going down Talking about hitting only and not defense.
I never care for the playoff ones. Interesting but never care bout them
Baez, Yelich, Beni, and Kingery
How tf is Yelich not on this list?
He is on the list.
Easiest to succeed is Marcus Stroman. Having a positive WAR year is automatically an improvement over 0.
i see your Stroman and raise you a Taillon.
I see your Taillon and raise you a 2021 Chris Davis, because why the heck not.
I can think of about 17 million reasons why not.
I see your Taillon and raise you a Marco Gonzales.
I’d love to see a link to an article or graph with actual season totals compared to beginning of the season projections.
Stroman will be better than taillon lol
I’m not so sure about that, Taillon will likely be better this year and for a lot cheaper too.
Not at all. Y’all overplayed for a scrub.
Sounds like it’s gonna be a rough year for starters named Zach/k
Joey Gallo will boom in 2021 imo. Out of the players on the lists that I think will do well is Kluber, Pederson, Albies, and Madrigal.
No bias here whatsoever
Oh, it’s bias. It is 100% bias, but I still believe it. The field’s size got in his head last season, and once the playoffs came around that thought was pretty much diminished. I expect the new lineup protection, plus him settling into the stadium will contribute to him having a good season in 21′.
Lineup protection is a myth.
You echo that, but I don’t necessarily mean it in the same nature that others do. Gallo – in a sense – feels alone on the team. He, and only he, can contribute to that putrid team winning games. He has to put the team on his back and carry them through on his own because nobody else did. He crumbled. The pressure got to him, and he crumbled. Getting Khris Davis, Nate Lowe, David Dahl, and a healthy Willie Calhoun around him will greatly impact his results on the field, and I without a doubt expect an increase in production come 2021.
MVP Freddie Freeman has entered the chat.
With Davis behind him and Lowe or Dahl in front of him, I think Gallo will hit around .260/45 HR/ 100 RBIs/ OBP .325 and win 2nd gold glove in LF. Since Rangers have no one to replace him anywhere in the system also see him sign an extension in the area of 4/64.
If Gallo did that then he would get an over 23 mil AAV extension. Not 17 AAV.
Sounds like your Gallo projection is a bit of a hopecast.
So? Pretty much every fan thinks someone on their team is going to breakout every year. As a White Sox fan, I’m thinking/hoping Robert is going to become an All-Star this year. Let the man hope.
I don’t know if every fan thinks that, but Roberts had a 1.8 WAR (bRef) last year, which is a 4+ WAR over a full year, so his base is pretty darn high. He would have to be Mike Trout to be on the biggest gainer list.
As far as biggest gainer, if you are limiting it to regulars last year, Yelich, Vlad Jr and Ohtani are great choices for biggest increase. All are capable of 7+ WARs and their starting base is low. In Ohtani’s case, it’s more than -1.
That’s why I pick Ohtani. But there are other good choices as well.
So… who is capable of a 7 plus WAR, who had a sub 1 WAR last year?
I never said Robert would be the biggest gainer, just that he’d break out. Even that wasn’t my point; I’m just saying we all believe someone on our favorite team will break out. I already responded to your post below with my biggest gainer: Vlad, Jr.
Yelich is a good choice based on past production. Ohtani is just entering his prime and (you’d like to think) can only go up from last year. It’s a good pick.
Roberts is really really good. I think he’s already broken out.
Statistically it may not look like it, but that kid can play.
up or down for Madrigal?
I say up. I don’t expect a world of improvement with the bat, but I do expect his lauded baseball IQ to take over and help him cut down on the defensive and baserunning gaffes. That alone will increase his value.
My (longshot) hope is that he’s spent the offseason adding about 10lbs of muscle. He’ll never be a HR hitter, but getting an extra few mph in exit velocity will help that many more grounders find their way through the infield and that many more liners find a gap. Sure, it may mean a couple more DP’s or lineouts that hang long enough to get to an OF’s glove, but more power should still average out to more hits and xBH.
I’d probably just bet on those players with proven track records and against those without them to keep it simple lol
Kole Calhoun has a legitimate chance to sustain his success. I wrote about him as per of my breakout candidates series that also looks at those with potential for big gains in 2021.
Joc Pederson was also listed as a “gainer” in the MLBTR list, and an honorable mention breakout candidate on my list.
With the new dead ball, its going to be interesting.
From what I’ve heard of the dead ball, it’s supposed to drop hard-hit fly balls 1-2 feet, though another analyst said it’d be like adding 5 ft to the OF walls. Should be a bet of a difference, but even if the analyst is closer to accurate, it’s not near enough to call it a “dead ball.”
I read in Hardball Times a couple years ago about the ball being adjusted to help the hitters and if I recall correctly a few feet is a very big difference. It was an interesting article
I could understand an argument that the Yankees are better than the White Sox if they can finally manage to stay healthy and Kluber and Taillon give productive innings. I can even get an argument that the Twins are slightly better if JD comes back strong. But how are the Astros projected to have not just a better record, but a better shot at winning the WS? Also, not buying that the winner of the NL Central, weak though it is, will only manage 82 wins or that the Yankees have the best WS chances of any team.
Agreed. I don’t really understand why the Yankees are getting a lot of love this year. Like, I understand that they have loads of talented players, but they have massive health concerns this year.
I think the projections are high for AL West teams because that division is pretty bad. The Astros could easily rack up wins against the Rangers, Mariners, A’s, and Angels.
I also don’t understand why the Central winner won’t have more than 82 wins. I think it would be pretty easy to get wins against that weak division.
It’s very likely that whichever team wins the NLC will do so by outperforming their projection. These things are conservative by nature. If Team A has a 90 win ceiling and a 74 win floor, it stands to reason they’d be projected at 82 wins.
@burnt_reynolds First off, nice name. Second, fair point, but it doesn’t seem to be observed here with some teams (*cough*Yankees*cough*). I mean, there’s a distinctly non-zero chance that Kluber and/or Taillon are terrible or get re-injured, same with Severino when he comes back. Stanton has a long injury history, too. Their ceiling may be that of a 100-win team, even in a tough division, but their floor is significantly lower than averaging out to 96 would lead one to believe.
The Astros have the highest likelihood of winning their division. They are the most likely AL team to make the playoffs. That has to account for something.
No, Yankees do at over 90%. But your point is taken. They don’t have a team with whom they’re vying for the division, so they don’t have to worry about a play-in game as a WC team. Still, just seems a bit off to think they’re better than the Sox or Twins after losing Springer to FA and Verlander to injury.
Houston taking a step back and us not taking a major step forward is frustrating. If ever there was a time to go a little beyond Arte’s comfort zone, it was this off season.
Even Tanaka or Odorizzi to go along with Quintana would’ve been a nice move.
Tanaka would have made sense for several teams looking for mid-rotation help. I was hoping the White Sox would make a move to snag him as their #4. It wouldn’t have blocked the youngsters for too long with Lynn leaving next year and Keuchel the year after that (and probably Tanaka, too).
But yeah, I was surprised the Angels weren’t much more aggressive in addressing their pitching situation. And the Cobb trade made no sense.
I guess the logic behind Dom Smith losing so much value is because they expect him to play the outfield poorly? He proved enough with the bat over the last two seasons to show he’s no fluke IMO.
I was thinking they’re screwing over most of the guys on the list of over-achievers. I wouldn’t trust Dom’s defense, but that bat is solid.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis For MVP
Based on my reading of the projections on Dom, I would say it’s a combination of the fielding and the assumption that he probably won’t put up a 164 WRC+ over a full season.
Personally, I think the projections are a bit bearish on Dom’s bat, but I think a bit of regression is reasonable to expect.
Ok, but Eloy Jimenez had a 140 WRC+, played poor defense, and was worth 1.4 WAR. Extrapolate that out over 162 games and it’s about 4.1 WAR. So he could still have significant regression and be better than 1.2.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis For MVP
Yeah, I agree with that. I was really just trying to speculate on why such a big drop-off was forecasted. Like I said, I think the projections are a bit harsh on Dom – I would be surprised if he doesn’t put up at least a 120 WRC+ and 2 WAR
I think Buehler exceeds his 2021 WAR prognostications. 3.8 seems a little low for him.
Also, Abreu’s getting hosed. I expect some regression, but he became a league-average defender at 1B last year and provides a solid, steady bat (career 136 OPS+) every year. That’s worth more than 1.8 WAR.
Abreu a ‘league average defender’, ha ha ha. Maybe when he’s at DH.
He’s a butcher at 1st and had less than 2 war seasons in 2018 and 2019. He may produce better than 1.8 WAR but it certainly won’t be because of his defense.
His defense has historically dragged down his WAR numbers, no argument there. -1.1 in 2018, -1.6 in 2019, those aren’t good. In 2020, it was +0.2. I’m not arguing that makes him some gold-glover or anything close to it. I am saying that if he can keep that up, his glove won’t be dragging his numbers down like it used to.
My prediction for biggest WAR gainer from 2020 to 2021.
I could buy that, but my pick is Vlad, Jr. He hasn’t been bad in his first two years, but he hasn’t broken out yet. From what I hear, he’s worked his butt off (literally and figuratively), losing 20 lbs and becoming more agile. I think it’s only a matter of time before he taps into his raw power (and it can only help to beat out a few more grounders).
Vlad, Bo and to lesser extent Biggio (as he more or less already broke out) are all primed to really take off. Vlad now has protection in the lineup and won’t have nearly as much pressure on him. Bo is the biggest wild card, if he is healthy he’s gonna be a beast especially in terms of war. Last year his defence fell of but he also had wonky knees all year if hes healthy that means his defence should be leaps and bounds better
I was going to comment the same thing. I agree with ohtani
I hope you are right.
I highly doubt yaz will drop that much, he has been pretty consistent since he was called up and the expectation that he will play at less than 1/3 his value last year just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, especially since is 2019 he had a 2.8 WAR in 411 PA as he was called up midseason which means if you are looking at historical data 2.2 would project him somehow consistent with less than half of that.. I mean I have no idea where that number is pulled from
He may not play at a near MVP level, but I think he’ll still be an above average contributor
Yaz is a great ballplayer to watch, but he still has some proving to do. He was a minor leaguer until he was nearly 30, and is not a true CF. He could well be another Matt Duffy or Joe Panik, who were ROY/gold glove candidates, but who flamed out in a couple of years in spite of the love that Giants fans lavished on them.
Is it just a coincidence that so many astros hitters under performed last year or is it because they haven’t figured out a new way to steal signs yet?
well you can look at it 2 ways, 1 – they benefited from stealing signs or 2. there was pressure from the scandal that led to under performance, either could be true
Cody Bellinger is gonna go off.
I am still disgusted that Abreu got the MVP over LeMahieu.
I still can’t believe Ramirez didn’t beat both of them!
Freddie freemen has been such a consistent hitter his whole career now they expect a drop off after an mvp????
Free fall. But still, Braves an underdog to Mets to win the East??! Neva !
They are projecting he regresses back to his career norms. A 4.4 WAR season is still phenomenal.
Can you do a complete projection for every team? IT would be interesting to see team by teams projections.
Interesting stuff with playoff predictions….
Angels predicted to finish 7th in AL yet still in front of TB, Oakland, and Cleveland
Mets favored to win the NL East is pretty shocking
if you are a betting man and can find 3/1 odds of StL making the playoffs- that’s as solid as a preseason gamble one can make
Cap & Crunch
Their new projection system is a sewer, Vegas would never immaculate those odds –
Theres more holes in Dans system than swiss cheese
The biggest jump will be made by Shohei Ohtani with Jo Adell a close second.
Adell probably won’t be up until August.
Adell will be up as soon as they realize Fowler is horrible. Which won’t drag too far into the season.
Adell OR Marsh will be up. Brandon was crushing it at the extended facility last summer and likely would have been in AAA for the last half of a normal year.
One of them likely comes up in May.
Ohtani I’d believe, not sold on Adell. I think he’ll be a good player eventually, but I don’t know that in his first full season he performs well enough to be the second biggest gainer in WAR in the whole sport.
Per Fangraphs he was -1.3 last year, which equates to -4.6 over a full season.
Even if he comes back in June and puts up 1.5 WAR this year, he’d be on the list for a 6.1 WAR swing.
It isn’t about Adell turning into a superstar over night, its that his starting point is so freaking low. That said, I think Adell gets lots of AAA time this year and Marsh beats him up to the big leagues.
Geez, I knew he was bad, but I didn’t know he was that awful.
I’d be willing to take Trea Turner off of the Nats hands.
What a strange coincidence that 4 Astros had down years after the cheating scandal was discovered.
Rick Porcello is the biggest flaw in WAR, how did he have a positive WAR last year much less one that would equate to 4WAR in a full season.
fWAR doesn’t count singles, doubles and triples against. If only the umpires didn’t count them either, the Mets might have been in the playoffs!
FanGraphs uses a FIP-based WAR system for pitchers, whereas Baseball Reference uses ERA. Porcello had a low FIP last year, so his FanGraphs WAR is very good.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis For MVP
When a pitcher has a career worst ERA and BABIP in a season where he also posted a career low FIP and HR rate (HR/9 & HR/FB) I think it’s fair to suggest that there’s something going on beyond just a bad individual performance. We all know that the Mets weren’t exactly a gifted defensive team last season.
Obviously, the caveat of a small sample size goes both ways though – I’m not saying the positive stats would have held up over a full season any more than I’m saying that for the negative stats.
WAR for pitchers is a guessing game
Rick Porcello rocking that 4.6 adjusted fWAR in 2020 despite an ERA above $5.00 for the second consecutive season.
Not 2013 Shaun Marcum territory, but that’s close!
Nice to see the Jays have four players on the list with all slated to improve in 2021. Happy to see Ryu not on the list of dropoffs. We need that guy to pitch like he does more than ever. But if Ray and Pearson can give us more production, we are looking good. Still need 1 or 2 more quality starters in the rotation to feel any sort of comfort.
Gonna have to go with yelich for most likely to improve from last season for hitters. For pitchers, I’ll agree with the chart and go with Strasbourg.
I do find it funny they project kluber to have such a good season.
Predictions are a monumental waste of time.
I thought you’d say that.
WAR isn’t a consistent thing. Players earn WAR for exception stretches of play. It doesn’t make much sense to extrapolate what they would have earned in ’20 for a full season because that assumes they would produce at that same level for the rest of the season. That assumption is entirely flawed and is a major reason why anyone expecting this information to help them is fooling themselves with small sample size data.
So Tony Gonsolin is going to go from a stud to a barely above replacement level player? Is that because he is projected to move to the bullpen full time?
Insert free agent who signed big contract here.
That’s a lot of high hope for the Astros hitters. No Yuli, though?
Cap & Crunch
Im assuming they are using Danny Scrambles (“new” proj) system….. Its had more flaws than a early 2000 Ford Explorer so far …. even the FG truthers are weary of it and they are a hardcore bunch of loyalists
Makes PECOTA actually seem reasonable and PECOTA is a joke
Definitely don’t understand Tim Anderson’s projections. I get not believing in 2019 in 2020, but now with another 220 PAs, it seems like his 2019 wasn’t a fluke. Even with a .020 or so drop in BABIP to a more likely .360, he’s still going to be hitting well over .300 – and no projection believes that. Why would a guy on the upswing of his career drop to his career average?
Abreu dropping some seems much more likely, though I still think he’ll be worth more like 4 WAR, particularly if he’s able to take DH-breaks fairly often again, which he should be able to.
He’s the player I have the most problem with being on this list. Fan graphs and the rest of the analytic community have been saying Tim Anderson’s previous season was a fluke for 3 seasons now.
This isn’t Marcus Semien who has 1 all star type season in his 6-7 year career.
Abreu being closer to 1.8 than 4 wouldn’t surprise me at all. His HR/FB% is going to come back to earth and I doubt he keeps up the .350 babip.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if his defense rates more negatively over a full season.
Having Lamet lose WAR in my opinion is BS. Yes in the past he hasn’t been the best and 2020 he was very good but when hes not gonna have all the pressure on being the ace this year with Snell and Darvish I think he can get adjusted and have a good year.
He had a Babip that was the second lowest of his career, only beat out by the 15 inning stop in AAA in 2019 and an insanely low HR/9. Projecting him for 2.6 WAR in ~130 innings sounds pretty realistic.
Lamet 2021 cy young
I think the projection that says my team’s players will be bad is wrong because of these cherry picked stats, but I agree with the ones that say my team’s players are going to improve.
Wow, let’s raise those punches a bit there pal
Largely true, but I’m not sure Madrigal gets to 2.3 WAR. Hoping, sure, but the complete lack of power and relatively few walks drag down his value considerably.
I think the real problem here is twofold:
1. People are naturally going to focus most on their team and people generally like complaining more than saying nice things. So you get a lot complaints about what people deem wrong and little good said about what they think is right.
2. These projections are generally conservative. Some players will still fail to meet them while others will blow them away. I’d like to see a chart of their projections by year per player vs actual player performance, normalized to a WAR/162 metric. Then we can see how accurate these are overall, but even then, the standard deviation on these is probably pretty high.
My vote is for puig lol
Those are some lazy projections…. Can I put some money down? torres over 2x WAR over Swanson? Bellinger as much as Abreu, Yaz & Myers combined???
The drop off for kyle hendriks surprises me the most…he has been the model of consistency through out his career and hasn’t shown anything that would make you believe there would be a large drop off …if anything he has tweaked his pitching style a lil past couple years and consistency kept batters thinking..i would expect pretty much the normal results from him as in the past.
With the new dead ball coming, there’s gonna be big changes as well.
Good point didn’t even consider that ..should even point to maybe a slight improvement over his and other pitchers results
What dead ball? The lab testing results showed a pretty negligible difference in flight distance. These new balls are getting seriously overhyped.
Why all this love for Joc Pederson? He’s been mediocre his whole career and now he’ll be counted on everyday on a worse team. He will be exposed. I’d love to take a bet with someone that Myers outperforms Joc.
Ray and Pearson being able to add 5 WAR would be pretty sweet. Both have the upside of that but I don’t know how confident I would be on counting on it.
Pearson is optimistic, I think Ray is a little unrealistic. I think Pearson gets to somewhere between 3-4, Ray more of wild card, but I’m thinking 2-2.5.
Pretty sure fangraph have had Greinke fallingof for the past 5 years. BTW RAFAEL DEVERD FOR MVP!!!!
Pretty sure fangraph have had Greinke falling off for the past 5 years. BTW RAFAEL DEVERD FOR MVP!!!!
Devers for MVP over J-Ram, Trout, DJLM, and more? He’s a fine young player, but he’s going to have to step up his game to get to the top of that pack.
Wow they really like the astros little cheaters a lot! Maybe they expect the trash can to make a comeback in 2021!
I think the true Astros performance was somewhere between their cheat years and last year. Lots of guys all around baseball had down years: Bryant, Yelich, Moncada, Ohtani, and plenty more. Several of those guys happened to be Astros. I don’t think their entire success was due to trash cans, so I think something of a rebound is likely for most of them.
Hey maybe these lists mean the Orioles have hit rock bottom and can only improve. I am hoping Trey Mancini improves his WAR by at least 2. Chris Davis could improve his prorated WAR by almost 3 by not stepping on the field anymore.