clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2019 Atlanta Braves projection review: position players

A review of stuff you probably already knew, for position players

Divisional Series - Atlanta Braves v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images

Hello, friends. This post is part of an annual series that provides a brief projection retrospective. Given that this is the nth year of doing this, I’m going to skip most of the high-level overview stuff and just focus on the players. Every year I’ve done this, I basically end up with the same conclusions in retrospect, so I’ll dump these here, offer to dump some tables to anyone who cares care about the actual tabulated data, and then move on to a player-specific discussion. With that said, big (same-y) takeaways:

  • As usual, most of the team’s position player production came from the same array of usual suspects expected to garner PAs for the team during the season. No surprise. This post discusses 13 players, who across them comprised over 90 percent of the team’s PAs in 2019.
  • As usual, the projections do a pretty good job of doing what they’re intended to do — give a high-level, aggregate assessment of the production of a group of players. Like in past years, the wRC+, Def (UZR plus positional adjustment), and fWAR totals accrued by Braves position players were very close, on average, to their forecasts, especially when you consider that overestimates for one player can and do get cancelled out by underestimates for another. As far as offensive runs over actual PAs accrued, the Steamer/ZiPS/IWAG differences from actual were +1.2/+1.5/-0.6 runs, on average, across 13 players (or about +2/+1/-2 in terms of wRC+), where a positive number means the projections underestimated a player’s production and a negative number indicates an overestimate. As far as Def, those figures are +0.8/-1.5/+0.5; as far as WAR, they are +0.2/-0.1/-0.2. When you have a group of 13 players, and on average, their production is off by mere fractions of a win across three projection systems, yeah, you’re doing okay at justifying your system’s existence and continued use.
  • This also holds in aggregate. Before the season, across two different formulations of playing time spread across players, I calculated that Steamer/ZiPS/IWAG estimated position player WAR for the Braves in 2019 at 22 to 28 wins (Steamer: 22 to 23; ZiPS: 26 to 27; IWAG: 27 to 28). The Braves clocked in at 28 wins, or 27 if you pro-rate back to the original number of PAs estimated for a team before we knew what the 2019 run environment would hold for us all. Seems perfectly reasonable to me, well within shouting distance for decision-making purposes.
  • Once again, Steamer, ZiPS, and IWAG were more or less interchangeable in terms of accuracy. IWAG continued to be over-optimistic, Steamer continued to be mostly overly pessimistic, and ZiPS generally ended up between the two. ZiPS was the best at minimizing per-player “error” while Steamer tended to be closest on the largest number of individual players. Given IWAG’s continued tendency for over-optimism, it kind of had the same effect where it ended up closer than the other systems where a player did much better than expected, but much worse when the player did much worse than expected.

Anyway, you probably knew all this already — both in terms of the general comparison of the systems, and also in terms of what actually transpired for the Braves in 2019. Let’s go player by player, because that’s a somewhat more interesting discussion.

Ronald Acuña Jr.

  • Expectations: 123 to 127 wRC+; -8.7 to -1.3 Def/600; 2.9 to 3.9 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 126 wRC+; 1.3 Def/600; 4.7 WAR/600.

Among Braves full-timers, Acuña surpassed his projections by the most. Yet, the hitting was exactly what was projected. Instead, the difference was mostly defense (and some baserunning). Some combination of his own defense and the positional adjustment was widely thought to eat into Acuña’s production, rather than bolster it. Instead, he was neutral-to-slightly-positive by these measures, and that led to a sizable difference. Even ZiPS, which projected Acuña for 3.9 WAR/600, ended up falling short by nearly a win (though only around two runs of that was defense-related).

One key notable: Acuña was among the unluckiest full-time regulars in baseball, with an xwOBA underperformance of around .017. If his wOBA reflected his xwOBA last year, he’d have ended up with even more WAR, rendering the projections even greater underestimates. So, while it looks like he ended up exactly where expected hitting-wise, that’s only kind of true.

IWAG distribution commentary: likely due to the xwOBA outperformance, Acuña’s hitting didn’t really register anywhere remarkable with respect to the probability distribution estimated for him. However, IWAG basically didn’t foresee any real likelihood that hitting aside, the combination of his defense, baserunning, and/or playing time would lead to a season nearing six wins. Then he did it anyway.

Ozzie Albies

  • Expectations: 100 to 106 wRC+; 6.3 to 10.1 Def/600; 3.1 to 3.6 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 117 wRC+; 3.9 Def/600; 3.9 WAR/600.

Albies hit way better than expected (in fact, he was the most uniformly under-projected Braves batter for 2019), but his defensive value took a bit of a step back. He still ended up above expectations, but the difference was more modest. I struggle to find much more to say in this regard — Albies basically made huge strides in 2019 in a way that didn’t seem particularly feasible before the season, and he did it without any real gains or changes in plate discipline or launch angle. The difference was just much better (harder) contact across the board, and it should be exciting for every Braves fan that there doesn’t really seem to be any reason why he can’t just keep repeating his 2019 production in the future.

IWAG distribution commentary: as noted, the offense improvement to the tune of a 117 wRC+ was definitely only seen as a remote possibility, and getting 700 PAs also doesn’t tend to be a thing that gets forecast. IWAG saw a slim but definitely possible chance Albies would approach 4 WAR, though — unlike his best bud, whom it definitely didn’t see anywhere near the total he accrued.

Freddie Freeman

  • Expectations: 134 to 145 wRC+; -7.0 to -5.6 Def/600; 3.9 to 4.9 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 138 wRC+; -14.0 Def/600; 3.5 WAR/600.

While the preseason projections figured Freeman’s crown as the Braves’ most productive position player could be threatened by Josh Donaldson in 2019, they also all figured that Donaldson wouldn’t play a full season, and that Freeman would once again lead the team in fWAR, or at least be pretty close. (Freeman finished either as the team’s top fWAR-getter or second in every season between 2013 and 2018, though Shelby Miller in 2015 and Tyler Flowers’ framing in 2017 edged him out of the top spot twice.) Instead, on the heels of a ghastly-and-hopefully-idiosyncratic defensive slide and a September swoon, he finished just fourth on the team with 4.0 fWAR.

Hitting-wise, there was perhaps a bit more variance in Freeman’s projections than for other Braves. Since 2013, Freeman’s wRC+s have fallen between 132 and 152, but that’s still a chasm of 20 points, and the projections basically spread across the middle bit of that range. That variation was the difference between Freeman ending up at 4 WAR/600 or 5 WAR/600, in a nutshell, as each projection system figured Freeman would play good-but-not-awesome first base defense. Freeman’s actual wRC+, 138, ended up being basically a repeat of his 2018, as well as essentially the same as his career mark, and also essentially the average of his projected 2019 totals. It was the defense that tanked him to just 3.5 WAR/600, and made Steamer’s relatively pessimistic 3.9/600 projection the closest... but not for its expected rationale of his bat taking a bit of a step back.

IWAG distribution commentary: nothing about Freeman’s 2019 season seemed particularly weird in terms of IWAG’s probability distributions, though both his WAR and WAR/600 totals ended up at the lower end of his range. That defensive hit, yeesh.

Josh Donaldson

  • Expectations: 126 to 137 wRC+; 1.5 to 4.9 Def/600; 4.4 to 5.1 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 132 wRC+; 4.1 Def/600; 4.5 WAR/600.

Donaldson ended up pretty much as expected. For a player who was touted as particularly high-risk and the source of substantial uncertainty, the projections were all pretty close with respect to his production (especially Steamer)... sorta.

You see, among the Braves’ presumed full-time starters, Donaldson was essentially the only one whose playing time was forecasted at a reduced rate, generally to accommodate injury/health risk. (Steamer also forecasted fewer than 500 PAs for Dansby Swanson, but that’s it among actual full-timers.) So, while the projections were very much correct on a rate basis, Donaldson did something that was really unexpected from a different angle, in that he played a full season and amassed 659 PAs. (For benchmarking, IWAG saw only around even odds that he’d be able to get 659 or more PAs, and its “most likely” PA total range for his 2019 season was placed around 400 to 550.)

So, while Donaldson’s 4.5 WAR/600 actual looks a lot like his 4.4/5.1/5.1 WAR/600 projections, his 4.9 WAR is substantially different from the 4.1/4.0/3.5 WAR figures actually forecasted on a health-permitting basis. It’s an interesting wrinkle not only for retrospective assessment, but also for thinking about the best way to evaluate projections after the fact. In most cases (and most years), this hasn’t mattered very much, but Donaldson is an interesting case in this respect, as what one considers the projections’ accuracy varies a fair bit based on whether one chooses to focus on projections of talent level or projections of pencils-down, final-answer production.

IWAG distribution commentary: not much to say here, as IWAG basically saw everything Donaldson did in 2019 as eminently possible. The one interesting thing is that IWAG’s probability distributions for Donaldson saw greater chances of MVP-level production mixed with less-than-perfect health, and he, of course, didn’t quite reach that level of performance, but made up for it by staying on the field all season.

Dansby Swanson

  • Expectations: 80 to 87 wRC+; 8.2 to 11.6 Def/600; 1.6 to 1.9 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 92 wRC+; -0.9 Def/600; 1.7 WAR/600.

Dansby Swanson continues to be an enigma with stellar hair. On the plus side, he’s gone from the occult conundrum of “why can’t he hit” to a different set of quandaries, which is certainly a positive development. On the minus side, he still clocked in (slightly) below-average production in 2019, so not much has changed.

Swanson’s 2019 is a case study, or more of a quasi-teaching exercise, in considering the sum versus parts, and why/whether we should care about one versus the other. In the end, Swanson ended up basically where expected by each system, but absolutely for the wrong reasons. He hit way better than expected, but fielded way, way, way worse than expected. In addition, he was one of the unluckiest players in baseball under any sample size, which further muddies the potential accuracy of the projections, unless one chooses to only think about outcomes.

The amusing thing is that on a raw basis, considering both WAR and WAR/600, Swanson’s projections were the most accurate across the 13 players considered here. Yet, his offensive projections were among the least accurate for full-timers, and only Johan Camargo’s defense ended up further from forecasts. But, those two gaps happened to basically offset each other perfectly, such that Swanson ended up right where expected. Is that a win for projections, or a loss? That’s up for you to decide.

Swanson’s defensive metrics continue to be about as confusing as his hitting. By DRS, he’s gone -7, +10, -3 in his three full seasons. By UZR, it’s been -3, +5, -6. The projection systems all figured he’d be at least average at shortstop in 2019, given that in the two seasons prior, he mixed a bad year and a good year. Somehow he ended up with a bad year again. While not particularly consequential, 2020 projections for Swanson’s defense will be really interesting to examine.

IWAG distribution commentary: this seems somewhat silly to talk about given the above, but given Swanson’s outputs, nothing was surprising from a distributional perspective.

Nick Markakis

  • Expectations: 97 to 103 wRC+; -9.8 to -6.3 Def/600; 0.9 to 1.4 fWAR/600.
  • Actuals: 102 wRC+; -14.1 Def/600; 0.5 WAR/600.

There are a lot of small, strange, not particularly meaningful things about Nick Markakis in 2019 relative to his projections. If you take a step back and think about a theoretical, past-30-years-of-age, below-average player who had a renaissance year in his most recent season, you might be inclined to think that the projections for his follow-up campaign might be a bit too pessimistic. After all, he just defied aging and found another gear in the most recent data we have, surely that should counteract to some extent the downward trajectories dictated by aging and his other, less-inspiring recent production, right? I guess not, at least for Nick Markakis in 2019.

After three straight below-average seasons as a Brave, Markakis busted out with a 2.6 fWAR season that no one saw coming in 2018. While historical data suggested that revival-type seasons for declining players in their 30s generally don’t reset a trend but are just a one-year blip, Markakis’ 2018 at least gave his proponents some ammunition with respect to his potential rejuvenation: his exit velocity went up, and his Statcast fielding and running metrics also improved (despite the inexorable, unidirectional crawl of time). While all of this factored into the projections to some extent, there wasn’t any real expectation that Markakis would do anything close to repeating his 2018 season. All three projection systems saw an average bat (essentially Markakis’ first three years as a Brave, rather than his 115 wRC+ 2018) and average-to-below-in-an-outfield-corner fielding, leading to a below average projection overall. Steamer and ZiPS saw Markakis as failing to clear 1 WAR/600; IWAG was a little more sanguine at 1.4 WAR/600.

Somehow, Markakis managed to fall short of most of these marks. Hitting-wise, he was basically the same in some respects, as his 102 wRC+ was basically exactly in line with forecasts. Fielding-wise, he was way-worse, giving back all his gains from 2018 and then much more. He ended up around half (for Steamer/ZiPS; one-third for IWAG) as productive as forecasted, even on a rate basis, due to that defensive slide. Ratcheting up his offense to reflect average luck rather than the somewhat bad wOBA versus xwOBA outcomes he suffered would have brought him more in line with projections... but in any case, 2018 doesn’t look like anything but a one-year blip at this point (even though that should have been self-evident even before the 2019 season began).

IWAG distribution commentary: due to injury and his defensive decline, Markakis ended up clocking in at the lower end of his IWAG distribution plots, WAR-wise, though still within reasonable bounds. His hitting, as mentioned, was basically exactly as expected, and even had his wOBA balanced out to his xwOBA, the outcome wouldn’t have fallen outside of them.

Brian McCann

The IWAG projections were done before Fangraphs (and Steamer) incorporated framing into their assessment of catcher value. 2019 actuals, as far as fWAR goes, do incorporate framing. That creates a bit of a disconnect.

  • Expectations (no framing): 89 to 94 wRC+; 5.5 to 8.8 Def/600; 1.6 to 2.4 WAR/600.
  • Actuals (yes framing): 89 wRC+; 15.8 Def/600 (or 9.2 Def/600 with framing backed out); 2.1 WAR/600 (or 1.4 WAR/600 with framing backed out).

The cool part for the Braves was that Brian McCann posted positive framing marks in 2019, meaning that his overall value was average-y on a rate basis (2.1 WAR/600). Beyond that, everything more or less happened as expected, as he paired a below-average bat with below-average other catcher defense stuff. So, he basically ended up where expected, perhaps a bit on the lower end. The Braves weren’t going for the jugular with his signing, and in turn, they got a very efficient but not impressive result.

IWAG distribution commentary: McCann basically hit the 20th percentile of his IWAG probability distribution in terms of wRC+, WAR (no framing), and WAR/600 (no framing). He didn’t really recapture any of his early-career magic, but he had some great individual moments and gets to retire on his own terms rather than hanging around and posting replacement level (or worse) seasons until no one wants him. Seems like a good deal to me.

Tyler Flowers

The IWAG projections were done before Fangraphs (and Steamer) incorporated framing into their assessment of catcher value. 2019 actuals, as far as fWAR goes, do incorporate framing. That creates a bit of a disconnect. (Yes, I re-pasted this. Are you really still reading? What’s wrong with you? Go back to work.)

  • Expectations (no framing): 91 to 106 wRC+; 6.0 to 8.4 Def/600; 2.1 to 2.8 WAR/600.
  • Actuals (yes framing): 88 wRC+; 36.8 Def/600 (or 11.3 Def/600 with framing backed out); 4.1 WAR/600 (or 1.5 WAR/600 with framing backed out).

While Tyler Flowers was not the biggest offensive disappointment for the Braves in 2019, he was up there. His previous low point with the bat as a Brave was last year’s 95 wRC+; he crashed well past that with an 88 wRC+ that was actually better than it should have been, given a .021 xwOBA outperformance in his favor.

Fielding-wise, Flowers’ framing was still his main draw as a baseballing human, though his value also benefited from Fangraphs not (currently? forever? who knows?) tabulating blocking value for 2019. Even if blocking value were tabulated, the impacts would be slight, but it’d probably dent his gaudy 4.1/600 output somewhat. Like McCann, Flowers ended up basically on the low end of expectations, and perhaps a little bit worse. The framing still made up for it.

With Travis d’Arnaud in the fold, the Braves have an interesting passive conundrum. They may not want to start with any frequency a Tyler Flowers who provides offensive inputs like he did in 2019 (that .289 xwOBA is gross), but they may lose value every time they don’t, if Flowers’ framing remains as valuable as it has been and d’Arnaud doesn’t add much in that respect.

IWAG distribution commentary: Whereas McCann basically hit the 20th percentile of his distributions, Flowers hit like the 10th percentile and below. Not that weird, just a little disappointing.

Austin Riley

And here, we come to the part-timers. Their smaller samples wreaked a little bit of havoc on the projections, but perhaps not that much. This is where the differences start to get interesting and worth commenting on. Still, these next five players didn’t really get that many PAs relative to the other eight, which is why the team’s overall position player output essentially ended up where it did. (And also because of these five players, two were way worse than expected, two were way better than expected, and one produced basically as expected.)

  • Expectations: 93 to 109 wRC+; -8.0 to 4.9 Def/600; 0.8 to 2.9 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 86 wRC+; -1.2 Def/600, 0.4 WAR/600.

The projections on Riley were all a little different. Steamer saw him with a below-average bat as a rookie (93 wRC+) to go with negative defensive value (presumably in the outfield as a -8 Def at third base would be wild, he’s not Miguel Andujar), adding up to a role player with 0.8 WAR/600. ZiPS maintained the below-average bat but gave him higher defensive marks (4.9 Def/600, presumably at third base), arriving at the sum total package of an average player (1.8 WAR/600). IWAG gave his minor league track record relatively higher marks, with a projected 109 wRC+ as a point estimate. Combined with forecasted average defense, that added up to 2.9 WAR/600 at third base (or 1.9 WAR/600 in the outfield).

There was a point, really more of a span, where Riley looked like he was going to leave all of the offensive projections in the dust. In his first 42 games, he amassed 1.1 fWAR (that’s equivalent to about a 4/600 pace). But, as we all know, over his next 38 games, he gave back nearly all of that production, finishing with just 0.2 fWAR. The end result was a big whiff offensively for every projection system (but especially IWAG), and Riley stumbled to a finish that saw him fall short of even Steamer’s modest expectation for his 2019 production.

Defensively, too, Riley hasn’t really given much clarity. He had positive UZR and DRS marks in the corner outfield, but his OAA/CPA metrics from Statcasts were zeroes. If he ends up being more of a third baseman from here on out, all of those things may be completely irrelevant, too.

Position-player-wise, relative to projections, Riley’s cumulative performances was probably a top-three disappointment for the Braves. That doesn’t fully erase all the positive feelings he engendered when he was raking, but it does create an interesting, tough-to-project situation for 2020.

IWAG distribution commentary: yeah, IWAG basically whiffed here. It didn’t really see any situation where Riley would end up where he did. In part, this is because it figured that he wouldn’t get playing time if he was going to be so replacement-level-y; it could not foresee the wild outcome where he went berserk when first called up, and then was allowed to flounder (and founder) for as long as he did. Baseball is always coming up with interesting ways to bedevil us all.

Johan Camargo

  • Expectations: 97 to 103 wRC+; -1.1 to 7.1 Def/600; 1.5 to 2.8 WAR/600.
  • Actuals (avert thine eyes, child): 67 WRC+; -7.7 Def/600; -1.2 WAR/600.

Johan Camargo’s forecasts were the late 2010s Chris Davis of hitter projections. Did I do that right? Doesn’t matter. Things were bad, fam. Things were bad.

Camargo has always been a weird and somewhat polarizing player. He seems to serve as a reflecting pool for different worldviews, in some ways. If data-is-destiny describes your ethos, then Camargo represents (represented?) an anomaly due to crash, almost an exception that proved the rule. He was unremarkable in the minors, he got lucky, he wasn’t anyone to count on. If results-and-other-stuff-happens was more your speed, then Camargo was a plucky success story, who kept producing even as “things” said he shouldn’t be able to keep it up. Reality, is, of course, a little more nuanced — projection systems don’t draw lines in the sand, and before the start of the 2019 campaign, they uniformly saw at least some value in Johan Camargo, Major League Baseball Player. Steamer was (as is often the case) the least rah-rah, slapping a 97 wRC+, marginally below-average defense, and a 1.5 WAR/600 mark on Camargo, identifying him as a solid bench type. ZiPS ratcheted this up a bit, giving him a league-average batting line and better, above-average defense, for an overall 2.4/600 projection. IWAG bumped up that further still, giving him high defensive marks and a 103 wRC+ (compared to ZiPS’ 101), good for a very solid 2.8 mark that was lower than his 2019 performance, but still very exciting.

We all know what happened. Exciting wasn’t the right word. Camargo finished 2019 with 248 PAs. Among all players with 240 or more PAs, he was bottom 30 in fWAR (-0.5), bottom 30 in wRC+ (67), and below-average defensively (-3.2 Def). Aside from Camargo, the “worst” hitting projection for a Brave was IWAG’s 109 wRC+ for Riley, which was 23 points too high. The “best” projection for Camargo was Steamer, which was 30 points too high. As far as Def/600 goes, there were only five projection system-player pairs that were off by a win or more — Camargo was the only player where two systems overestimated his defensive acumen by such an amount. In terms of WAR/600, the “best” projection was Steamer overestimating his production by 2.7 WAR/600. The right word appears to be “bloodbath.”

IWAG distribution commentary: Camargo’s distribution curve was particularly interesting — it featured a “bigger” hump that reflected something akin to his 2018 performance, and a “smaller” hump where he was replacement level-ish or worse. Those two combined to yield something in the 2-3 win range, but the distinct probabilities of his 2019 outcomes landing in either hump were worth respecting. Unfortunately for everyone, he landed in the smaller, replacement level hump. As such, IWAG didn’t see his 2019 wRC+ and WAR totals as wholly improbable, just unlikely. (The weirder part, which IWAG didn’t see as a real possibility, was -1.2 WAR/600, as it figured something would straighten out to preclude that mark.)

Ender Inciarte

  • Expectations: 93 to 96 wRC+; 4.9 to 10.3 Def/600; 2.1 to 2.7 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 93 wRC+; 3.7 Def/600; 2.3 WAR/600.

Ender Inciarte had himself an odd season but still more or less finished as expected on a rate basis, if not on a totals basis. Amusingly, for a guy whose projections are arguably always weighed down due to built-in defensive regression to the mean, he actually fell short of the defensive marks projected for him. While his final batting line was right in line with expectations, it’s perhaps worth noting that he outhit his xwOBA by nearly .030... but then it’s also worth noting on that front that he’s also outhit his xwOBA by .025 since Statcast became a thing, so who knows whether that’s truly an appropriate measure for benchmarking his outputs.

Even with the slightly-worse-than-projected defense, Inciarte still ended up in the same 2-3 WAR/600 range he was pegged to fall into before the season. Yes, he only actually managed 0.9 WAR due to missing basically four of the season’s six months, but it’s hard to say that all-in-all, he took some kind of giant step back. It was perhaps a modest retreat, but it’ll be extra-fascinating to see how projection systems treat his 2020 now that he showed a bit of a decline, given that Steamer in particular kept giving him 2-win outlooks as he produced 3-win seasons.

IWAG distribution commentary: Inciarte’s actually been really durable (560 or more PAs in every full major league season so far), so the place where IWAG’s distributions failed was figuring that he might miss most of a season. His hitting outcomes were directly as expected in the middle part of the curve, and his WAR/600 was a low-ish (20th percentile) outcome but not a particularly odd one.

Charlie Culberson

  • Expectations: 70 to 80 wRC+; -9.7 to 5.1 Def/600; -1.3 to 0.6 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 85 wRC+; 4.2 Def/600; 1.3 WAR/600.

Charlie Culberson’s 2019 somehow has all of these apply to it: (1) it was worse than the prior season; (2) it beat expectations basically across the board; (3) it was followed by a non-tender anyway. The projection systems didn’t believe in Culberson’s xwOBA-defying theatrics (for good reason), and while he still defied xwOBA to some extent, it was by a much smaller amount. As a result, while he improved his xwOBA by .012 between 2018 and 2019, his wRC+ actually fell by 23 points (and his wOBA by .029). He improved defensively a bit, though it’s hard to draw on this much given that he didn’t really stick at any one position — in 2018 he was below average basically everywhere; in 2019 he played more outfield and did less poorly there, which despite the positional adjustment differential actually dragged his numbers upwards.

Last year, I was amused that IWAG saw Dansby Swanson and Charlie Culberson as kind of similar, especially offensively (80 wRC+ projection for both), with the real difference being that Swanson’s defense gave him like an extra win per season over Culberson’s lack thereof. In 2019, things diverged but didn’t — their wRC+s remained close (85 for Culberson, 92 for Swanson), albeit with luck affecting them in opposite directions. All of this added up to Culberson finishing with 1.3 WAR/600 while Swanson, who suffered some seriously negative defensive metrics, could only muster 1.7 WAR/600. That’s a significantly smaller gap than IWAG forecasted, to say little of ZiPS (a gap of 2+ wins) or Steamer (a gap of 3+ wins, due to Culberson projected for -1.3/600). Funny how things work out... or don’t, if you’re Dansby Swanson.

IWAG distribution commentary: Culberson basically ended up well within the bounds IWAG projected, which themselves were wide given his relative dearth of MLB exposure to date. He’s a better exemplar of stuff like ball-in-play shenanigans and leverage-related shenanigans not persisting than he is of anything particularly interesting in projection-land.

Adam Duvall

  • Expectations: 86 to 88 wRC+; -10.7 to 1.1 Def/600; -0.2 to 1.2 WAR/600.
  • Actuals: 121 wRC+; -6.5 Def/600; 3.2 WAR/600.

Adam Duvall has been a contentious name for multiple reasons over the past 18 months in Braves Country. After being acquired during the 2018 Trade Deadline, he found himself mired in some kind of cosmic punishment z-contact abattoir, which led to him spending most of his 2019 in Gwinnett. He then reappeared in Atlanta, hit some dingers, became a short-lived postseason hero with two huge knocks in consecutive games... and maybe looks in line to be a fourth outfielder for the Braves in 2020? Maybe? Before most of that, though, the projection systems also had some interesting views on Duvall. None of them were able to write off his August/September lack-of-contact purgatory as just a blip, and as a result, the guy who had been a league-average bat in two of his three major league seasons saw a tumbling of his offensive projections to a high 80s wRC+. That made his overall value dependent on his defense, which generally rated well — though Steamer was not seeing it, slapping a nasty -11 Def/600 mark on him, and therefore, a sub-replacement projection. ZiPS and IWAG were more keen on his defense (IWAG thought he could overcome the positional adjustment and post a positive Def), and saw him as more of a 1-win bench/role player type.

Like his unexpected flashes of postseason glory, Duvall didn’t play to type. While he only got 130 regular-season PAs, he put up a 121 wRC+ in them, meaning that he was the offset to Johan Camargo: while Camargo’s wRC+ was overestimated by about 33 points on average, Duvall’s was understimated by about 34 points on average. (Worth noting, though, that Duvall was the luckiest Brave with a .031 advantage to his wOBA over his xwOBA; without that advantage he would have had a league-average batting line, which still would have been a sizable improvement of over 10 points of wRC+ relative to projections.)

Meanwhile, his defense was way more average-y than expected, leading to negative Def due to the positional adjustment. That dragged down his value somewhat, though he still managed 3.2 WAR/600 (or 0.7 WAR in 130 PAs), so I doubt he’s complaining about that twist of fate. (For what it’s worth, his OAA/CPA also saw declines, but with such a small defensive sample it’s hard to say anything, even with these numbers.)

The end result was that on a rate basis, Duvall was the most underestimated of the 13 position players discussed here. (Acuña and Albies were more underestimated when you account for the fact that they got more PAs than Duvall, so their underestimation mattered more in the end). Has any of this changed how the Braves see Duvall? I guess we’ll find out.

IWAG distribution commentary: while IWAG saw nothing weird with Duvall putting up 0.7 WAR in a partial season or even 3.2 WAR/600 during the same, it certainly didn’t envision that it’d ever come with a 121 wRC+ offsetting subpar defense. Definitely a weird mix.

Okay, now here’s the part where I say that if for some reason you want all the standard data that goes along with these, I’m happy to provide it. I just don’t see too much of a reason to throw it up now given that the results of the retrospectives feel pretty same-y every year at this point.

Pitchers later!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Battery Power Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Atlanta Braves news from Battery Power