What would it take for the Phillies to win 85 games in 2014?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What would it take for the Phillies to at least be in contention in 2014? Do they have to play like it's 2008? Or is there a way for the current roster to compete even without the use of a time machine?

Why 85? An 85-win pace likely means they are still in contention in July, and would then be buyers at the trade deadline to try to squeeze out a win or two more down the stretch (admittedly many would see this as a bad thing, but I've come to trust that they wouldn't damage future competitiveness). What's more, playing at an 85-win talent level could mean a 90-win pace or even more, given that some teams exceed their fWAR projections every year.

For example in 2013, 7 of the 15 NL teams beat their FanGraphs projection by at least 3 wins, and 5 of those 7 beat it by at least 5 wins. Those that were 5+ over are dark green below, and those 3-5 over are light green:


Note that the NL overall won 21 more games than its WAR totals would estimate. Meanwhile, AL teams won 21 fewer games. This is due to the perceived difference in talent level between the two leagues, which slightly depresses NL WAR.

The table below shows how the Phillies' FanGraphs WAR has been split between position players and pitchers since 2000, and how their total projected wins (when adding in the 48-win replacement level) have compared to actual wins. After winning within about 3 games of their fWAR projection for most of the decade, they have won 8 to 9 more than their projection in 3 of the last 4 years. However 2012 shows that it can also go the other way:

Phillies fWAR, 2000-2013

And graphically...

(the sum of Replacement level wins, Hitting/Fielding WAR, and Pitching WAR represent the projected number of wins in each year, and the line shows the actual wins)


WAR Comparisons

So what would individual players have to do for the Phillies to generate an 85-win level, at least on paper?

We will compare the 85-Win scenario to two measures of recent performance, and to two projections for 2014:

Recent performance:

  • 2011-13 High: highest fWAR achieved over the last three years
  • 2011-13 Average: the average of the last three years' fWAR

2014 Projections:

  • 2014 Steamer: projects WAR based on an estimated number of PAs, although the PAs don't always make sense in aggregate.
  • 2014 Oliver: projections are all based on 600 PAs, so they need to be prorated based on what playing time is actually expected to be.

85W Scenario: Conceivable -- but in many cases optimistic -- projections for the 2014 roster that would add to 37.3 fWAR, and therefore project to 85 wins. These are based on an estimates for playing time (PAs or innings), which are typically similar to the Steamer playing time projections.

First, the summary:


In other words, if every player duplicated their best year from the past three, they would generate 50.2 WAR (28.5 by position players, and 21.7 by pitchers). This includes both players in decline who are very unlikely to do that (e.g. Rollins, Ruiz), and young players who can almost certainly improve on their highest WAR to date if given enough playing time (Asche, MAG). With 50.2 total WAR, and the 47.7 replacement level, the Phils would be projected to win 98 games.

If every player's 2014 equaled their average annual WAR from the past three years, they would be projected to win 78 wins.

The 2014 projections add up do either 73 wins (from Steamer), or 78 wins (Oliver).

Below is the detail by player...

Position players:


I started this before the Abreu signing, but I don't see it making a significant difference.

and graphically...




and graphically...


85-Win Scenario vs. 2011-2013 seasons:

(for anyone who would rather look at individual years rather than the high or the average)




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