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According to PECOTA, this could be a dangerous offense if they do

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A lot is made every time Baseball Prospectus releases their PECOTA projections for the season. I know I personally look forward to it because of the sometimes eerie accuracy they display, but also because of the sometimes preposterous claims they make (remember when Matt Weiters was supposed to lay waste to baseball as a rookie? That was fun.) Any way you want to look at it, they’re a fun way to begin looking at how the team might perform in 2018 based on their respective histories.

This year’s PECOTA projections were especially fun to look at since this is one of the first times we see these sophisticated thinking machines and what they think about our dear prospects now that they’ve arrived at the big league level. When looking at the projected starters for the team (which includes all four outfielders), there is some things to get excited about:

Phillies’ PECOTA

Player AVG/OBP/SLG PA R HR RBI BB SO WARP
Player AVG/OBP/SLG PA R HR RBI BB SO WARP
J. Alfaro .233/.276/.391 431 45 14 50 17 141 -0.2
C. Santana .244/.357/.438 607 79 23 80 88 106 2.0
C. Hernandez .274/.345/.379 599 75 8 50 56 116 2.0
JP Crawford .239/.337/.391 566 67 15 61 71 111 1.8
M. Franco .252/.299/.438 559 64 22 76 33 92 0.0
R. Hoskins .257/.352/.522 597 89 36 101 69 141 3.0
O. Herrera .278/.336/.429 553 66 14 64 39 120 2.1
N. Williams .256/.296/.450 501 66 20 62 23 141 0.6
A. Altherr .236/.307/.414 324 39 11 40 25 85 0.6

Obviously, PECOTA is not exactly bullish on this team hitting for average. When only one regular projects to hit over .275, that’s when you’ll see old school fans and certain Sunday commentators start howling over the lack of a “.300 hitter”. Of course, me being the contrarian, I see a lot of power, a lot more patience and three players OPS-ing over .740. I’ll take that any day of the week for a team this young.

It doesn’t look like a playoff worthy offense, of course, but we are all well aware that it is a big step forward over the likes of having to give regular at bats to the Daniel Navas, John Mayberrys and Cedric Hunters of the world. There is a lot of room for improvement for this lineup, improvement that can only be made by having them face major league pitching on a regular basis.

However, the theme of this spring has been “Be Bold!” Gabe Kapler isn’t ceding a playoff spot just yet, talking about how if each player improves just a bit, they could boldly surprise some teams with a bold run at the second wild card. So with that in mind, we ask: what if the Phillies’ projections were improved just a little bit? What would the offense look like then?

By looking at PECOTA’s projections on a per player basis, we are able to look how they might do if they hit different percentile projections. For example, this is what it Rhys Hoskins’s card looks like:

Good Lord, if this man hits his 90th percentile projections.....<fans self>

Now, let’s talk about that small step forward again. What if we assumed that small step forward is every player hitting his 70th percentile projection? For a guy like Hoskins, that’s hitting another three home runs, adding a few more points of batting average, getting a few more walks. Folks, that’s a borderline MVP candidate. Not entirely out of the realm of possibility, right? Let’s see what each player’s 70th percentile looks like.

Phillies’ 70th percentile PECOTA

Player AVG/OBP/SLG PA R HR RBI BB SO WARP
Player AVG/OBP/SLG PA R HR RBI BB SO WARP
J. Alfaro .246/.291/.409 453 50 15 55 19 144 0.3
C. Santana .252/.369/.449 624 84 24 85 94 107 2.9
C. Hernandez .288/.361/.397 616 79 8 54 61 117 2.8
JP Crawford .253/.353/.410 585 73 16 66 77 112 2.7
M. Franco .265/.315/.462 577 69 24 81 36 93 0.0
R. Hoskins .272/.369/.551 617 95 39 109 75 142 3.9
O. Herrera .291/.350/.447 572 71 15 69 42 121 2.8
N. Williams .270/.313/.473 521 72 22 67 26 144 1.4
A. Altherr .251/.324/.441 347 43 12 45 28 89 1.1

If this constitutes a small step forward, color me excited for 2018. Granted, we are in the era of the juiced baseball (for now), but are any of these outcomes all that outlandish? A lot of these are numbers that they have already hit.

  • Aaron Altherr has already hit 19 home runs over a season
  • Odubel Herrera has already hit 15 home runs over a season
  • Cesar Hernandez’s slash line is a step back from what he has done the last two seasons

A lot of fans are already lamenting that the team isn’t doing enough to try and win this season, specifically pointing to the rotation as a cause for concern. While we can look and see that that part of the team probably is the weakest point, the offense is looking like they can do some real damage. If PECOTA is correct on at least three of these players and their upper percentile projections, we could be looking at an offense that puts actual fear into opposing pitchers. It’s something to get excited about.