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Arizona Diamondbacks in ZIPS: A quick overview

Another of the projection systems has come out with its expectations for the D-backs in 2018.

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I had managed completed to miss the fact that Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projections had come out with their figures for the 2019 D-backs. In my defense, we were largely recovering from the SnakePitette’s wedding reception over the weekend [her actual wedding having taken place two years ago - it’s a long story]. Since then, Mrs. SnakePit has come down with the same lurgy I had previously, and I’ve been writing a 1,500-word essay on Richard Avedon’s iconic eighties photograph of Nastassja Kinski and a snake. So the D-backs haven’t exactly been on the radar this week, and I didn’t realize ZIPS were out until BenSharp mentioned it in SnakeBytes this morning.

Jack is out of town this week, but I’m sure he’ll do a deeper dive into them when he returns. For now, though, I figured I’d do some high-level crunching. This is based off Jack’s spreadsheet of projected playing time, but using ZIPS as the expected WAR. Its numbers are then pro-rated to reflect his estimates of playing time, because ZIPS may be based on a different (drastically different in some cases) amount of playing time. A simple example. If Pitcher X is projected by ZIPS to throw 100 innings and be worth 2.0 WAR, but Jack has him only throwing 75 innings, we pro-rate his ZIPS value by a factor of 75/100. He appears with a “ZWAR” of 1.5 instead of 2.0.


ZIPS 2019 D-backs pitchers

Zack Greinke 180 3.7 3.6 180.3 3.6
Robbie Ray 160 2.7 2.7 149.1 2.9
Zack Godley 160 1.7 2.5 159.0 2.5
Luke Weaver 120 1.4 1.5 133.3 1.4
Merrill Kelly 120 0.5 2.2 169.3 1.6
Taijuan Walker 60 0.9 1.4 115.3 0.7
Replacement SP 100 0.0 100.0 0.0
Archie Bradley 70 1.4 1.2 72.7 1.2
Jimmie Sherfy 60 1.3 0.8 56.7 0.8
Andrew Chafin 50 0.7 1.0 55.0 0.9
Yoshi Hirano 60 0.6 0.7 53.0 0.8
T.J. McFarland 50 0.2 0.5 61.0 0.4
Matt Andriese 60 0.2 1.1 101.0 0.7
Silvino Bracho 40 0.0 1.0 65.0 0.6
Replacement RP 160 0.0 160.0 0.0
Total Pitching 1450 15.34 18.03

The total for pitching based on ZIPS comes in at about 2.7 wins above Jack’s estimates. The main players responsible for that (comparing the WAR and ZWAR columns) are Merrill Kelly (1.1 WAR over Jack’s projections), Zack Godley (+0.8). Silvino Bracho (+0.6) and Matt Andriese (+0.5). Going in the other direction, Jimmie Sherfy’s -0.5 is the pitcher on whom ZIPS is most bearish. It makes sense that Kelly is going to be problematic in terms of projections, because of his lack of major-league - or even minor-league - experience. He hasn’t pitched at all on the North American continent since 2014, and few pitchers have previously gone from Korea to the MLB, so there are few comparables available.

Looking at the expected innings is also interesting [though again, ZWAR is pro-rated to match Jack’s workload]. ZIPS has Kelly down to throw almost fifty innings more than Jack, while Taijuan Walker and Matt Andriese are also projected for significantly higher workloads. I’m not certain if ZIPS “knows” that Walker had Tommy John surgery, or if this is purely based off his previous innings totals. It has him starting 21 games, which would require Taijuan to come back about the end of May, and pitch every fifth contest thereafter. Since he underwent the procedure on April 25th this year, that should probably be considered unlikely, although not quite impossible.


One slight caveat before we get into these: ZIPS doesn’t specify plate appearances directly. I’ve simply added together at-bats and walks: this omits HBP, sacrifice hits and flies, or the times they reached on defensive interference. However, in most cases, that won’t be a significant difference. [Fortunately for this scenario, the gurgling vortex for baseballs which was Jon Jay, is probably not going to be on the Diamondbacks this season...]

ZIPS 2019 D-backs hitters

David Peralta 550 2.9 2.1 548 2.1
Ketel Marte 600 2.5 2.4 582 2.5
Eduardo Escobar 600 2.5 2.3 544 2.5
Nick Ahmed 500 1.7 1.9 475 2.0
Steven Souza Jr. 500 1.5 1.5 428 1.8
Jake Lamb 500 1.5 1.3 458 1.4
Jarrod Dyson 300 1.2 1.0 282 1.1
Alex Avila 300 1.1 0.7 264 0.8
Christian Walker 500 1.0 0.6 492 0.6
Carson Kelly 250 0.8 1.3 388 0.8
Yasmany Tomas 0 0.0 -0.5 417 0.0
John Ryan Murphy 100 -0.1 -0.2 273 -0.1
Socrates Brito 100 -0.4 0.5 489 0.1
Pitchers Batting 330 0.0
Replacement 1050 0.0
Total Offense 6180 16.14 15.63

This is slightly less optimistic than Jack, coming in at a total of about half a win less, once we adjust for playing time. That last is especially important here, because ZIPS appears to be having a bit of a laff, projecting that next year Yasmany Tomas will get - and you might want to sit down, or at least hold your sides in case they split - four hundred at-bats. Which would be... four hundred more than Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo gave him in 2018. Given ZIPS has him being worth half a win below replacement level, #ImWithJack. If Tomas gets 400 AB for the 2019 D-backs, something has either gone terribly wrong for everyone else in our outfield, or incredibly right for Yasmany. Hopefully the latter, but...

Most of the other projections come in within half a win of Jack’s: Christian Walker is viewed in a negative light of that amount by ZIPS, while it reckons Socrates Brito is rather better than replacement level by the same amount. Though, again, 489 PA for Brito would probably require the team bus to make an unscheduled diversion to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on Opening Day. [Rule 29 draft, anyone?] Putting the two sets together, we get a total of 33.7 WAR for the team, and with replacement level set at 47.5 wins, the projection is 81.2 wins for the 2019 Diamondbacks, less than a win below the 82 wins actually recorded this season.

To me, that feels surprisingly high, considering the team lost their best pitcher (Patrick Corbin) and position player (Paul Goldschmidt) from the last campaign. But it indicates that the players received for Goldschmidt may turn out, in combination, to be worth something close to his value. Gloomy predictions of a 100-loss season might turn out to be unduly pessimistic, based on the projections to this point.