Before the season, I did a series of posts looking at the Fan Projections that were voted on by the users of FanGraphs. The fans projected the performance of hundreds of players; I compiled those projections for each NL East team to see which team had the best projected infield, outfield, rotation, and so on. I then added up all these values to project the final standings.
In this post, I'll take a look at how the Braves have matched up with their fan projections so far. I hope reading this will help you appreciate just how amazing it is that the Braves are in first place (some players have severely under-performed their projections). Keep in mind that a slight underperformance is normal. The projections do not take into account injuries and such, so if a player is only 0.3 WAR under their projection, that is normal. Similarly, if a player has matched his projection so far, that should really be thought of as a slight over-performance.
All projections below are for the pro-rated part of the Braves' season so far (82 of 162 games). For the full-season projections, see the original articles.
First off, I know that a lot of you will be surprised to see that Hudson has the same WAR as Derek Lowe. That is because WAR is based on FIP rather than ERA. For most pitchers, FIP is a better assessment of performance than ERA, but Hudson is clearly an exception to that rule. In reality, Hudson has been much better than he was projected to be; just disregard his WAR values.
As for the other players, Jurrjens' injury clearly was a big blow to the team. If he can perform up to expectations in the 2nd half, that will be a huge boost. Hanson and Kawakami, despite some inconsistency, both basically matched their projections. Lowe has been somewhat disappointing, but not disastrous. Kris Medlen has done a very good job filling in; his projection was so low because the fans thought he'd only make 10 starts all year, a number he has already matched.
(More after the jump...)
Not Projected: Jonny Venters (0.7 WAR), Craig Kimbrel (0.1 WAR), Chris Resop (0.0 WAR), and Christian Martinez (0.0 WAR)
Frank Wren's two big bullpen additions (Wagner and Saito) have both outperformed expectations, but the biggest surprise would have to be Jonny Venters, who was not even eligible for projection because he had not debuted in the big leagues. Venters was not even on my radar before the season, but he has been fantastic--second only to Wagner in the Braves' bullpen.
Eric O'Flaherty and Peter Moylan have also been good, though Moylan has been inconsistent. The fans thought Jesse Chavez was a replacement-level reliever, and sure enough, they were right. The less that is said about Reyes, Resop, and Martinez, the better.
Not Projected: Brooks Conrad (0.8 WAR), Brandon Hicks (0.0 WAR)
Yeah... Martin Prado is awesome. He's already passed his projected WAR for the entire season. Troy Glaus has also done well, exceeding his projection slightly despite a terrible UZR number (that I think will go up as the season progresses). Yunel and Chipper have both underperformed, but both have been better in the last month or so. Infante has done pretty much exactly what he was expected to do... Well, he wasn't expected to make the all-star team, but other than that he's been exactly what the fans thought he'd be. Brooks Conrad, on the other hand, has been much better than anyone thought. He's been a huge boost.
Fun fact: the Braves' infield has more WAR than any other infield in the division, including the Phillies' heralded group.
Both our fantastic catchers have performed up to expectations. That might surprise some of you; after all, Brian McCann has supposedly been having a "disappointing" year. The fans who voted on these projections probably aren't too surprised, though. And really, he's been pretty darn good. If he picks up his game in the second half, he could easily exceed his full-season projection. Ross' 0.8 WAR is greater than that of several starting catchers, including the NL's All-Star starter, Yadier Molina.
Not Projected: Gregor Blanco (0.3 WAR), Brent Clevlen (0.1 WAR)
Ugghh. I never thought this would happen, but our outfield has not played any better than last year's outfield. Three of our top four outfielders to start the year have dropped off a cliff, playing at worse than replacement level. McLouth and Diaz have had injury issues on top of their incompetence, too. McLouth has probably been one of the biggest disappointments in all of baseball. Maybe we do need to trade for another outfielder after all...
On the plus side, Heyward has already matched his projection for the whole season (though that wasn't a fan projection; it was a combination of his CHONE and Bill James projections). Eric Hinske was a huge help for a while, though he has come back to earth dramatically in recent days. Gregor Blanco has played surprisingly well, too.
Given all of the underperforming players the Braves have, it's fair to wonder how they are in first place. There are a few reasons. First, we've gotten nice contributions from some unheralded players (Venters and Conrad). Second, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward have been twice as good as the fans expected. Third, WAR probably understates the value of several of our players, most notably Tim Hudson.
Of course, this is all relative. The Braves do lead the NL East in WAR, though the WAR standings do not match up with the actual standings:
|Hitting & Fielding WAR
Based on the pre-season projections, it is not surprising at all that the Braves are leading the division (in WAR or in actual wins). The Braves did have the highest WAR in the fan projections. What is surprising is that the Phillies have fallen off the pace quite a bit, due largely to injuries. Fun fact: Roy Halladay (3.9 WAR) has more than half of the Phillies' pitching WAR, and 22% of their overall total.
It's interesting that there is so little difference between the Braves' and Marlins' WAR totals, though 9.5 games separate them in the standings. The Braves have outperformed their WAR by around 4 wins, and the Marlins have underperformed their WAR by around 5 wins. Maybe Jeffrey Loria was looking at these numbers when he fired Fredi Gonzalez (fat chance). The Nationals have also underperformed their WAR values by around 4 wins.
It will be interesting to see how the second half of the season plays out. So far, it is good to know that the fans' confidence in this Braves team has been largely rewarded. Let's hope the second half goes as well as the first!