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Fangraphs current projection for 2015 D-backs: 74-88

Fangraphs currently has Arizona as in line for another season in the cellar of the NL West. But are they perhaps under-estimating the team?

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Worst in the West?

Here's how they currently predict the National West to shake down for next year:

2015 Projected Full Season
Team W L W% RDif RS/G RA/G
Dodgers 91 71 .560 83 4.00 3.49
Giants 83 79 .510 14 3.76 3.68
Padres 78 84 .484 -22 3.77 3.91
Rockies 78 84 .482 -29 4.56 4.73
Diamondbacks 74 88 .460 -58 3.84 4.20

In some ways, that's obviously an improvement for Arizona: it's ten games better than we managed this year, mostly because it looks like our pitching is expected to be significantly better. We allowed an average of 4.58 runs per game this year, so getting the figure down to 4.20 would certainly help. However, the offense appears to be stuck in more or less the same rut it was last season, when we scored 3.80 runs per game. Contention, or even getting past the .500 mark, still seems a significant way off. The Diamondbacks need to pick up another eight wins from somewhere, to avoid leaving Tony La Russa "absolutely brokenhearted".

Also of note: the Dodgers would appear to be the team to beat once again in the NL West. This is my unsurprised face. That pitching rotation, spearheaded by unanimous Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, means they should have a chance to win just about every game. Perhaps the other thing that stands out is how little impact all San Diego's moves have had on their chances, with their projection just a single win better than their actual record in 2014. It's not just Fangraphs which thinks so: Beyond the Box Score came to much the same conclusion. Going by the comments section, this is not welcome news to Padres fans.

Breaking it down

However, let's pick apart that particular W-L figure for the Diamondbacks and delve down to the iindividual projections which inform it. Firstly, let's look at the overall projected WAR [for this article, it's all fWAR] for each position, and see how it compares to the actual 2014 numbers from the same spot. [Note, the total figure for offensive WAR this year doesn't equal the sum of the parts, due to players who appear at multiple positions being "double-counted"]

Act 2014 Proj 2015
C 1.3 0.5
1B 2.8 5.3
2B 0.8 1.3
SS 3.3 1.6
3B 1.4 1.8
LF 0.1 1.3
CF 5.7 2.9
RF -1.9 1.1
DH N/A 0.8
Tot Off 11.0 16.5
SP 8.5 6.7
RP 2.6 1.2
Tot Pit 11.1 7.9
Total 22.1 24.4

Hang on... This indicates our pitching will be worse next year? But, you say, I thought we were conceding fewer runs per game? How is that possible? It's because WAR here is based on FIP, fielding independent pitching, which comes off the rates for strikeouts, walks and home-runs. Collectively, the 2015 Diamondbacks FIP is expected to decline from 3.83 to 4.08. However, the projected ERA goes the other way, dropping from 4.26 to 3.98. The former drives WAR, the latter runs conceded. This implies that the projections think our defense will improve in 2015, making our pitching staff look "better", and indeed our team comes in at 10.3 fielding runs above average..

Reasons for hope?

But there are some factors which would suggest that these numbers are likely on the pessimistic side as far as the 2015 Diamondbacks are concerned.

The Tomás effect

There are, as yet, no solid projections for Yasmany Tomas, the most expensive player in Diamondbacks history. Indeed, right now, it's still not certain where he'll play, or even if he will be on the roster come Opening Day. Some vague idea of his value is to be found here, which calls him "a solid 2-win player with upside to become a 3-win player." Call it 2.5 WAR, and leveraging that at the place on the diamond where it will do most good (which, by the projections, would be in right field), gives Arizona an extra 1.4 wins. Using him in left would be slightly less effective, and putting him at third worst of all, with Jake Lamb expected to be worth a decent 1.7 WAR.

Catching a cold

These projections are based on Tuffy Gosewisch being the front-line catcher, with the backup an unholy mix of Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez, Jordan Pacheco and local kid Matt Pagnozzi. I think the phrase "worst-case scenario" probably comes to mind for that. They're worth a total one-half win above replacement, and I think we should be able to do better than that - the best catcher left available on the free agent market is Geovany Soto, currently projected to be worth 1.2 WAR, and that's in 320 PAs, so about half a season. I wouldn't necessarily expect great things from our catchers, but another win shouldn't be beyond expectations.

Spin the wheel o' starters

Currently, the projections appear to have no frickin' idea who will be starting for Arizona. While they are hardly alone there, I certainly hope we get more than 84 innings out of Patrick Corbin, Rubby de la Rosa and Bronson Arroyo combined. Especially since Corbin and de la Rosa are projected to have two of the three lowest ERAs, along with Randall Delgado. Things look bleak with Trevor Cahill projected to be our most valuable pitcher, at 1.3 WAR. But full seasons of performance, even at the projected numbers, from those where injury has led to their projected workload being slashed, would certainly look significantly better.

So, what do you think? Is 74-88 a reasonable projection for the 2014 Diamondbacks, as they currently stand?