FanGraphs’ 2015 Projected Standings & Playoff Probabilities

clint hurdle postseason

FanGraphs has posted their projected standings and preseason playoff probabilities for the 2015 season. Their model is based on Steamer & ZiPS projections as well as their team depth charts, ultimately simulating the season 10,000 times and observing the results.

Last year, they accurately projected the final NL Central standings…

fangraphs projected nl central standings 2014

…as well as the NL Wild Card matchup, giving the Pirates and Giants the best preseason odds for the do-or-die game.

So, here’s what the numbers say for 2015:

fangraphs projected nl central standings 2015

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Now & Later: Which MLB teams feature the most top talent?

andrew mccutchen batting

If you followed MLB Network’s annual “Top 10: Right Now” features this year, you’ll know the Pirates ranked very well. With “The Shredder,” they again objectively named the best major league players at each position. Subjectively, I can say some of the rankings were questionable (Pirates included). But they’re still fun to think about, and there’s not much else going on in the final days before spring training.

MLB.com also recently finished up their top 10 position-by-position lists for the minor league side of things. If you recall their top 100 we wrote a little bit about, the Bucs are doing well in the farm system as well.

So why not compare all of the lists and see which organizations are loaded with the most talent? The positions are a little different (MLB uses all three outfield positions and starter/reliever; MiLB has just outfield and right-handed pitchers/left-handed pitchers), but we’ll go with it.

The method: if a team has the #1 player at a position, they get 10 points; #2 player gets 9 points; #3 gets 8; and so on. We’ll keep it simple for now — everything on the same scale, even though the best at one position may not be as valuable as the best at another position.

Here are the results…

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How NL Central teams are allocating resources in 2015

Using Roster Resource‘s projected 25-man rosters and Baseball-Reference‘s estimated salaries, here’s a quick look at how the NL Central teams will be spending their money in 2015…

nl central payroll allocation

A few notes:

– These amounts only consist of the projected 25-man rosters. So, for example, Jose Tabata‘s $4 million is not accounted for since he isn’t expected to make the big club.

– While he is likely to start on the disabled list, I did make an exception for Charlie Morton, so the Pirates’ rotation reflects his $8 million instead of league minimum pay for his likely replacement (Jeff Locke).

– Speaking of league minimum, it’s $507,500 this season, to be exact.

– For players whose arbitration cases are not yet settled, their salaries are from MLB Trade Rumors’ projection. While they won’t be 100% accurate, they shouldn’t be off by too much and won’t have a major impact on this.

– Projected rosters & salaries are as of late Thursday night (1/29) — already includes Neal Cottsdeal with the Brewers.

Anyway, here’s the projected total dollar amounts for each club…

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15 Questions for the Second Half — Answered

During the All-Star break, we had 15 questions for the upcoming Pirates’ second half. Here are the answers.

1. Can they avoid a second half slump?

This question was built around the premise that in each of the first three seasons under Clint Hurdle, the Bucs played better ball in the first half than the second:

2011: .522 / .347

2012: .565 / .403

2013: .602 / .551

Their .516 winning percentage first half winning percentage was the lowest of the Hurdle era, so it wasn’t too hard to buck this trend. They won 39 of 67 games, good for a .582 win % to avoid the second half decline.

And, just for fun, consider this from the old post:

[quote_simple]On the other hand — the Pirates have played 67 games since May 2nd, winning 39 of those. If they kept that pace over the next 67, they’d finish with 88 wins. Maybe enough to sneak into the Wild Card (the Giants, who currently hold the second WC spot, are on pace for 89 wins). But the Bucs will have to avoid any sort of second half slump.[/quote_simple]

They managed to keep that pace and land right on 88 wins — tied with SF in the Wild Card.


2. Can the pitching improve?

FIRST HALF

ERA: 3.76
FIP: 3.97
xFIP: 3.82
K/9: 7.25
BB/9: 3.04
GB%: 49.5%

SECOND HALF
ERA: 3.10
FIP: 3.55
xFIP: 3.55
K/9: 8.08
BB/9: 3.14
GB%: 52.1%

Absolutely, and it certainly helped for the playoff push. A healthy Francisco Liriano once again looked like an ace, Gerrit Cole turned in some solid starts upon returning, Edinson Volquez was unbelievable from an ERA standpoint, and the bullpen saw better results. They flipped the switch at just the right time to get the Bucs back to October.


3. Can the offense stay steady?

The Pirates had one of the most well-round offenses in the league with the success of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Russell Martin, Starling Marte, and Neil Walker. After so many years of dismal offensive outputs, this was refreshing. They were good as a unit in the first half (.256/.331/.388, 105 wRC+), then got even better in the second half (.264/.327/.428, 113 wRC+) — hit for slightly more average, kept a steady OBP, and got a big boost of power. Their 113 wRC+ post-All-Star break was second-best in the Majors behind the Dodgers (115). Give Jeff Branson a raise.


4. What’ll happen at the deadline?

Nothing! The Pirates stood pat at both the non-waiver July 31 deadline and the waiver August 31 deadline. This was a bit of a surprise, but Neal Huntington & Co. believed that “no move was the best move.”

In hindsight, this probably hurt them in the long run. Of course they didn’t match on a Jon Lester or David Price deal, but even adding a legit bullpen arm could have gone a long way. Looking at how the postseason is shaping up (Giants and Cardinals in the NLCS), the Pirates were pretty close.


5. What’s in store for the MVP?

Unfortunately for Cutch, a first career trip to the disabled list was in store. He was hit by 7 pitches, including the 95 mph retaliatory fastball to the back in Arizona.

He *only* hit .295/.393/.482 in the second half, though his struggles actually came before hitting the disabled list (8-for-48 slump entering August, possibly some proof that he may have been hurting before that HBP).

Although he probably wasn’t 100% upon returning, McCutchen returned to ridiculous form and hit .324/.409/.559 from mid-August through the end of the year.

Overall, it was his third consecutive season of hitting better than .300/.400/.500 — he’s the fifth Pirate to accomplish that, joining Honus Wagner, Paul Waner, Arky Vaughan, and Brian Giles.

McCutchen was even better at the plate than he was last year, making another MVP case:

cutch city


6. Can we get an El Toro breakout?

What’s the opposite of a breakout? He appeared in only 29 games after the All-Star break, committing five more errors and hitting just .208 with a .625 OPS. El Toro became even more of a defensive liability at third base, forcing the team to try him out over at first base. He played 37 innings over there before suffering a foot injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.


7. How about some first base productivity?

Meh. Ike Davis continued to get on base at a decent clip and finally showed some power (.440 slugging in the second half), hitting a couple of memorable homers against the Cardinals in late August. Gaby Sanchez continued to do nothing, batting .239 with a .670 OPS and just two homers. Both are candidates to be non-tendered this winter, depending on how the organization feels about Alvarez at 1B (and a few other factors).


8. Which Francisco Liriano will show up?

The good version. He posted a 2.20 ERA in 86 second half innings, boasting a 9.8 K/9 rate. He surrendered more than two earned runs in only two of his 14 second half outings — a 7 ER outburst vs. Atlanta on August 19th, and a 3 ER performance vs. Cincy in his last start of the year. Will that be his last start in a Pirate uniform?


9. Can Gerrit Cole come back strong?

Yep. He struggled to work deep into ballgames upon returning, but only got better as we got deeper into September. His last three outings:

vs. Boston: 7 innings, 2 runs, 7 K, 0 BB
@ Atlanta: 7 innings, 2 runs, 8 K, 2 BB
@ Cincinnati: 7 innings, 1 run, 12 K, 0 BB

Wish he pitched the Wild Card game, but whatever.


10. Is that the real Jeff Locke?

Nah…

First Half: 2.89 ERA, 2.95 FIP

Second Half: 4.66 ERA, 5.42 FIP


11. Can they beat the Central teams?

They were just 13-26 against the Cardinals, Brewers, and Reds in the first half. Here’s how they fared in the second:

vs. Cards: 2-4
vs. Brewers: 4-2
vs. Reds: 3-3

They had no trouble knocking the Brewers out of the race, but still couldn’t handle the Cardinals. That three-game sweep in STL in early September was a killer.


12. Will the Brewers turn it around after a miserable end to the first half?

LOL no. After winning 2 of their final 13 games heading into the All-Star break, the Brew Crew went 29-37 in the second half. They lost 22 of their final 31. Absolute choke job.

brewers playoff odds


13. How will the Cardinals fare without Yadier Molina?

They went 21-19 in Molina’s absence. But the Cardinals always find a way — they once again won the Central and are in the NLCS for the fourth consecutive year.


14. Can the Reds make some noise without a few of their key players?

Haha, no. The Reds were absolutely atrocious, going 25-42 after the All-Star break. Only the Diamondbacks had a worse record in that span.


15. Playoffs?!

Ah, yes. Even if it was only one game (and a terrible one at that)… hard to believe they made it back. It was painful to see it end so abruptly, but can’t take a playoff spot for granted after two decades of losing.

playoffs 100

Go Bucs


Photo: Jason Miller/Getty

Series Preview: Pirates @ Cardinals

Pirates vs Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates (71-65)

@

St. Louis Cardinals (73-63)

Monday, September 1st – 2:15 pm
Tuesday, September 2nd – 8:15 pm
Wednesday, September 3rd – 1:45 pm

Busch Stadium – St. Louis, MO

BUY TICKETS

Follow us on Twitter @ForbesToFederal.

This is it. September is here; 26 games remain. The 10-game roadtrip that starts today in St. Louis could make or break the Pirates’ season. It’s go time.

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Probable Pitchers

Monday — Gerrit Cole vs. Lance Lynn

Tuesday — Jeff Locke vs. Adam Wainwright

Wednesday — Edinson Volquez vs. Shelby Miller

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News, Notes, Storylines

– If the Pirates want to make the playoffs, they gotta win on the road. Their road record: 27-37, fourth-worst in the National League … 17 of the last 26 are away from PNC Park.

– Since the seven-game losing skid, the Bucs have won 7 of 10.

– The Cardinals have tied Milwaukee for first place. The Pirates trail them by two games, in both the division and the Wild Card.

– These are the final three games vs. STL this season… They’ve been even in 16 games thus far: 8-8.

– With rosters expanding today, the Pirates re-added Gerrit Cole, called up Tony Sanchez, and activated Stolmy Pimentel. They also added hard-throwing reliever John Holdzkom to the 40-man roster last night (DFA’d Chris McGuiness), making him eligible for the postseason roster. Expect more moves tomorrow (Jeff Locke for sure) — Indianapolis’ season ends today.

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Opponent Blogs

Viva El Birdos | Redbird Rants | Cards Diaspora

What they’re saying:

[quote_simple]”It’s September 1, and the Cardinals, the frustratingly mediocre, underachievingly overachieving, too young, too old, beat to hell Cardinals are tied with the Brewers for first place. Pete Kozma helped them get there. I don’t know anything. However, I can take a good guess that this September is going to be unpredictable and highly entertaining.” – VEB[/quote_simple]

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Player to Watch

Adam Wainwright. The Pirates beat him last Wednesday … can they do it again? Waino’s once again proved to be one of the best in the National League, but has stumbled as of late — 5.17 ERA in six August starts. He apparently has been dealing with a dead arm, though the worst of it may be behind him. The middle game of the series, Tuesday is a big one … either handing one of the teams a pivotal series win or setting up a crucial game on Wednesday. It’ll be interesting to see which Wainwright shows up; is he healthy?

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Prediction Time

Confidence. Pirates take two of three.

Go Bucs