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"Absurdly Preliminary" ZiPS give D-backs 41% playoff chance

Not a bad place from which to start.

Palmist reading the hand of a man

Here's a nice Black Friday nugget for D-backs fans. Over on Fangraphs, Dan Szymborski has posted what he explicitly calls The Absurdly Preliminary 2023 ZiPS Projected Standings. Obvious caveat is obvious: "These 2023 projections are guaranteed to be awful, wrong in many ways ranging from tragic to comic...absolutely premature and littered with horrible misses." But he goes on to point out that they still are useful. They are "the best estimates ZiPS can make at this point about where a team sits in the league’s pecking order, based solely on the players currently under contract with the team."

This will, clearly, be different from the roster with which a team arrives at Opening Day, some four months from now. But, as Dan concludes, "It’s hard to get where you want to go if you don’t know where you’re starting." It's in that light these numbers should be read. Details of how the numbers are crunched are at the link, but long story short: he simulates the season a million times. Now, this approach seems to grind down outliers. I'll wager my house that some team in the American League will end up with more than the 90 wins projected for the top-ranked Astros. But in terms of scenarios and playoff odds, it appears a solid methodology.

So what does it have to say about the NL West, and the Diamondbacks in particular? Here's the projected numbers for the division.

Fourth place again. 83 wins. Nothing to get too excited about so far. That number is close to the 84-win figure Jack came up with earlier in the week. But look at the percentage columns. A 41% chance of making the postseason: roughly 30% coming through the wild-card, plus an 11% chance of winning the division? Some of this is a result of ZIPS being very bullish on our young team. Dan calls the D-backs, "Probably the most surprising team in these standings" and admits, "The projections for Arizona were so positive on the whole that I actually went back and double-checked every park factor and calculation specific to the Diamondbacks and their minor league affiliates." Yet, here we are: 41%.

It's not THAT much worse than the 56% assigned to the Yankees right now. Admittedly, this number is without the reigning AL MVP, whom they might well re-sign, and Arizona... probably won't, shall we say. It may be partly why Arizona ranks so well. These current projections subtract any free-agents from their 2022 employers, and the loss of Jordan Luplow and Ian Kennedy won't have moved that needle much. As those free-agents re-sign, the big spenders will improve to a greater extent than more economical franchises, and the Diamondbacks project to be in the latter category. This may be the highest Arizona's playoff chances get, between now and Opening Day.

That said, with the way the Phillies and Braves parlayed a wild-card spot into the National League pennant the past two years, I'd be perfectly fine with that being the D-backs' route into the playoffs, if necessary. Let the die fall where they may thereafter, even given MLB's efforts to game the postseason in favor of the division winners. Still, how does 83 wins seem to you, as we head into the off-season proper? There's a poll below, and explain yourself in the comments.


83 wins for Arizona next year is...

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Far too high
    (7 votes)
  • 23%
    Somewhat high
    (25 votes)
  • 61%
    About right
    (66 votes)
  • 5%
    Somewhat low
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    Far too low
    (3 votes)
107 votes total Vote Now