Rockies Zingers 2014 MLB ESPN Forecast Panel Predictions

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As a member of ESPN’s SweetSpot blog network covering the Colorado Rockies, we’ve been fortunate enough to be included in the new ESPN Forecast Panel which is being used to preview the 2014 Major League Baseball season.

This year, ESPN decided to create a diverse panel of 140 people with MLB expertise to project the win-loss outcomes of each team as well as the playoff race and the various awards. In addition (available to ESPN Insider), the panel’s predictions were compared against Dan Szymborksi’s ZiPS projection system. Well, the results have been tallied and Eric Garcia McKinley and I (Richard Bergstrom) are excited to share with you how much we aligned and where we differed from the rest of the ESPN Forecast panel and from ZiPS. We will take a look at areas where Eric and I differed, then combine our two predictions into a “Zingers” projection and compare that to the ESPN Forecast Panel and ZiPS.

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AL East

AL West Projections
Team Eric Richard Combined Zingers ZiPS ESPN Forecast 2013 Wins Eric-Richard Difference Zingers ZiPS Difference Zingers Forecaster Difference
BOS 89 90 89.5 88 90 97 -1 1.5 -0.5
TB 92 86 89 87 89 92 6 2 0
NYY 81 93 87 83 85 85 -12 4 2
BAL 80 77 78.5 84 82 85 3 -5.5 -3.5
TOR 77 78 77.5 81 77 74 -1 -3.5 0.5
Winner TB NYY BOS BOS BOS BOS


We start out with the division that we agreed on the least, the AL East. I like what
the Yankees did and pegged them at 93 wins. The Yankees knew they wanted a
center fielder, a catcher, and a starter so they got Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and
Masahiro Tanaka. They’ve gotten good reports out of Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda
during spring training as well. However, Eric disagrees, saying “The Yankees had a
good offseason but their offensive additions barely make up for the loss of Robinson
Cano. Their infield is in pretty poor shape. If Derek Jeter makes it all the way through
his final season, his ceiling for the year isn’t much above replacement level. Not only
that, but the Yankees will be forced to bat him either lead-off or second, lest they
face the wrath of their fans and the media. The rotation is a wild card and needs C.C.
Sabathia to return to form, a quality first season from Masahiro Tanaka and Michael
Pineda to demonstrate the Yankees won the trade with Seattle. Two of those three
might happen, but even so, I don’t think it will push them towards contention. In
particular, I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the sound offense and
excellent pitching that the Tampa Bay Rays offer.”

As far as the Rays go, hey I love them, but I think the AL East is going to get even
tougher as I see the aforementioned Yankee improvement plus a deadcat bounce from
Toronto putting pressure on the rest of the divison. The Rays generally are middle of
the pack in run prevention and run scoring, particularly having a problem scoring runs
outside of their core players like Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. I don’t know if the
development of their rookies like Wil Myers and Chris Archer is enough to
counterbalance just how much tougher the Rays will be.

The Red Sox are a bit of a conundrum, just because they did so well last year thanks
to a league-leading offense. However, I’m inclined to think they will drop some. The
latest word is Archie Bradley was demoted in favor of giving Grady Sizemore the
starting center fielder job until he pops a wheelie. No one is quite sure what Xander
Bogaerts will do, whether Will Middlebrooks will rebound to rookie form or if A.J.
Pierzynski, as reliable as he has been, will replicate Jarrod Saltalamachhia’s 2013
production. That dropoff in offense, to me, makes it more likely the Red Sox will be
closer to 90 wins than 100.

That being said, we both liked the Boston Red Sox enough where, if you averaged out
our two predictions, they would be the Rockies Zingers’ “collaborative” choice for the
division winner. For myself, there’s enough uncertainty out of the Red Sox camp where
I think they’ll regress from their 2013 win total of 97 to our 2014 projection of 89-
90ish. ZiPS and the ESPN Forecast had similar projections of 89-90 wins but definitely
think the division race is closer than Eric and I predicted.

So, though Eric and I are both undecided about the #1 team, we both felt good
enough with Boston at #2 where our averages “fell in line” with ZiPS and the ESPN
Forecaster in suggesting Boston would win the division. Compared to the field, we
were very pessimistic about the Baltimore Orioles and feel they need a breakout from
an unexpected source just to get to .500. Meanwhile each system felt the Toronto
Blue Jays would gain a few games from their poor 2013. Though we weren’t quite as
optimistic as ZiPS was to me it is indicative of how much tougher the AL East would
be.

 

AL Central

AL Central Projections
Team Eric Richard Combined Zingers ZiPS ESPN Forecast 2013 Wins Eric-Richard Difference Zingers ZiPS Difference Zingers Forecaster Difference
DET 91 92 91.5 89 91 93 -1 2.5 0.5
KC 79 88 83.5 83 83 86 -9 0.5 0.5
CLE 77 85 81 80 82 92 -8 1 -1
CHW 75 66 70.5 70 72 63 9 0.5 -1.5
MIN 71 64 67.5 68 69 66 7 -0.5 -1.5
Winner DET DET DET DET DET DET


Across the board, everyone likes the Detroit Tigers and no one thinks it is close. I do
think it will be “closer” than the field believes as I think the Tigers will miss Fielder
and I think the rebuilt defense pulled their own leg, bad pun intended. I’m obviously
very high on the Kansas City Royals. They needed a second baseman and a leadoff
hitter and got both with Omar Infante and Norichika Aoki. They also have many
potential breakout players on offense along with one of the best bullpens in the
league and league leading run prevention. By next year, the Royals could be clear
favorites in the AL Central. On the flipside, I don’t think the Cleveland Indians will
maintain their magic act though the emergence of Denny Salazar could keep them
help.

Curiously, everyone from Eric to ZiPS is projecting a huge leap for the Chicago White
Sox and the Minnesota Twins over their 2013 win totals. Thus, I’ll happily stand in
outlier territory and think the White Sox and Twins will provide the other teams in the
division a gracious opponent to play against. If Miguel Sano had been healthy, I might
have bought in, but I just don’t know how the Twins are going to score runs. While I
like the Nolasco signing, I can’t remember the last time that Mike Pelfrey was an
answer to a question that I ever wanted to ask. Now, I do think the White Sox should
be
a little better than 2013, particularly because Adam Dunn can’t possibly be any
worse (right?). Also, with Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton in the fold they do have some
developing starting pitching but I’m not sure who they will be “taking wins” away from
besides the Indians and Twins.

 

AL West

AL West Projections
Team Eric Richard Combined Zingers ZiPS ESPN Forecast 2013 Wins Eric-Richard Difference Zingers ZiPS Difference Zingers Forecaster Difference
OAK 84 92 88 89 87 96 -8 -1 1
TEX 90 89 89.5 88 87 91 1 1.5 2.5
LAA 86 82 84 81 85 78 4 3 -1
SEA 80 77 78.5 77 77 71 3 1.5 1.5
HOU 70 58 64 68 62 51 12 -4 2
Winner TEX OAK TEX OAK OAK/TEX OAK


Another muddled division producing a coinflip between the Oakland Athletics and
Texas Rangers. I guess this is the season where we find out if the Texas Rangers
success is more due to Jon Daniels or Nolan Ryan… and perhaps, the relative
ineptitude of Ron Washington. It’s hard to measure managers but the Rangers have
collapsed near the end of the season twice in a row. “On paper”, I’d prefer Texas
except for that fact. Losing Jurickson Profat for that long definitely doesn’t help
though I love the Prince Fielder acquisition. However they may end up missing Nelson
Cruz more than they thought. Oakland doesn’t really have a superstar and it can be a
little hard to tell if Josh Donaldson will remain elite or if Yoenis Cespedes will rebound
from a pretty meh 2013. However, one advantage of not having a superstar is a better
ability to ride out injuries since some other above-average no name can be thrown in
the gap. The ability to keep growing pitchers on trees. More so, they actually do a
good job at foretelling the market. After the Moneyball days, they invested in defense
before it was en vogue acquiring players like Terrence Long and Mark Kotsay. Now
they’ve added some offense to that mix and actually, shockingly, paid money for
closer Jim Johnson. The thought process is with a “name closer”, it frees them to use
their best relief pitchers in earlier innings when it is actually needed. Eric, meanwhile,
seems to view them like I did the Tampa Bay Rays and projects them to fall back to
third place.

Pretty much everyone thinks the Los Angeles Angels will be better. Pretty much no
one thinks it will be enough. The Seattle Mariners have Cano and still aren’t projected
to break .500 by the ESPN Forecasters or by ZiPS but Eric is hopeful. They’re kind of
like a weaker version of the Royals, in a way, with some potential on offense but more
injury risk and a tougher division. Tagging wins for the Houston Astros is like throwing
a dart left handed… you can try with the best intentions and still miss the mark. I
think the Astros will be Pirates-scary three years from now and everyone thinks they
will be better this year. I don’t see them breaking 60 wins since the AL West is still
pretty tough but some predictors are more ambitious than others.

 

NL East

NL East Projections
Team Eric Richard Combined Zingers ZiPS ESPN Forecast 2013 Wins Eric-Richard Difference Zingers ZiPS Difference Zingers Forecaster Difference
WAS 90 92 91 90 91 86 -2 1 0
ATL 86 89 87.5 85 86 96 -3 2.5 1.5
NYM 74 76 75 75 75 74 -2 0 0
PHI 69 69 69 74 73 73 0 -5 -4
MIA 72 66 69 69 69 62 6 0 0
Winner WAS WAS WAS WAS WAS ATL


This is another division where every projection system is pretty much in agreement.
Heck, even Eric and I agree. Everyone likes the Washington Nationals, though as
Szymborski notes in an ESPN Insider article, they may be overrated slightly especially
with their weak bench. Regarding the Atlanta Braves, some of these predictions came
out before the injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. I’ll admit mine came out
afterwards. You’d like to think a rebound from B.J. Upton has to happen and
something better than last year’s version of Dan Uggla will help on offense, even if
it’s this year’s version of Dan Uggla. But then again, you could say the same thing for
most of the Nationals offense and defense. From a runs perspective, the Nationals
lost 76 runs on offense and 32 runs on defense between 2012 and 2013. The Braves,
meanwhile, had a similar output on offense between 2012 and 2013 while dropping 60
runs on defense. I don’t think all that Braves run prevention can be attributed to
Andrelton Simmons and with the pitching injuries, I expect regression. Some call the
Mets a sleeper team. I will, for 2015 when Matt Harvey is back in full swing. There are
just a few too many injuries and a bit of sorting out who is a player versus who is a
Dud(a) to see them doing much this year.

I’m convinced the Philadelphia Phillies are following the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
playbook. Remember that one? The glory days of Greg Vaughn and Jose Canseco and
other overpaid, overold players back when the team was called “Devil Rays”? If you
don’t, don’t worry, because you didn’t miss out on much and I’m skeptical Jayson Nix
was the last piece needed to begin the new Phillies dynasty. As for the Marlins, they
should deserve to lose at this point, but hopefully whoever is in their scouting
department gets the opportunity to work with a real team. Actually, they don’t deserve
to lose but their scouting department should still get an opportunity to work with a real team.

 

NL Central

NL Central Projections
Team Eric Richard Combined Zingers ZiPS ESPN Forecast 2013 Wins Eric-Richard Difference Zingers ZiPS Difference Zingers Forecaster Difference
STL 91 92 91.5 90 92 97 -1 1.5 -0.5
PIT 85 90 87.5 87 85 94 -5 0.5 2.5
CIN 85 77 81 84 84 90 8 -3 -3
MIL 78 75 76.5 76 76 74 3 0.5 0.5
CHC 74 74 74 72 69 66 0 2 5
Winner STL STL STL STL STL STL


Another one pretty straightforward to peg from a high level. The Cardinals win the
division as more rookies drop from the arch like Batman. On that note, I had Kolten
Wong as the National League Rookie of the Year and Eric had Oscar Taveras as the
Rookie of the Year. The Pirates should be second, the Reds third, Brewers fourth and
Cubs last. It’s the nitty gritty about the individual win projections that gets a little
more foggy. The Pirates could have (and should have) done something more this
offseason. I mean, Jameson Taillon looks great (and I hope he is because he’s on my
Scoresheet team), but the Pirates needed something, well, more… particularly at first
base. Still, I think they will be closer to the Cardinals than pretty much every
projection… and thus I toss that gauntlet and wager my first born’s old onesie. To
counter that, everyone loves the Reds except me. I’m excited for Billy Hamilton but
the Reds lost a huge on-base piece in Shin-Soo Choo. Meanwhile, Brandon Phillips is
getting ornery and Joey Votto’s getting the Adam Dunn treatment. There’s just a little
too much festering there for me to even want them to surpass my expectations. Too
bad no one’s wagering a toddler-sized hoodie on it.

The Milwaukee Brewers should be a lil better, just because they’ll have a lil more
Braun even if he takes a lil less juice. Everyone likes the Brewers a lil more than last
year. The Chicago Cubs are just starting to see things come together. Now, Eric and I
have both done time in Illinois so I’d like to hope some bias didn’t creep into this. The
Cubs still aren’t sure what kind of pitching that they’ve got (much less, what Starlin
Castro have got). The biggest difference is probably this… in years past, the Cubs
would have one hot rookie who had the entire hopes of the organization pinned on
him. If Mike Olt doesn’t work out, the Cubs farm system is so deep that they can go
through a Kris Bryant or Javier Baez or Christian Villanueva as an answer at third base. I don’t think
the Cubs break .500 this year, but again, wait ‘til next year!

 

NL West

NL West Projections
Team Eric Richard Combined Zingers ZiPS ESPN Forecast 2013 Wins Eric-Richard Difference Zingers ZiPS Difference Zingers Forecaster Difference
LAD 95 93 94 90 93 92 2 4 1
SF 84 82 83 86 84 76 2 -3 -1
ARI 78 79 78.5 84 80 81 -1 -5.5 -1.5
SD 79 77 78 76 78 76 2 2 0
COL 80 80 80 76 75 74 0 4 5
Winner LAD LAD LAD LAD LAD LAD


Now we’re back to our favorite division… except it’s not our division anymore because
the Los Angeles Dodgers pwn it. Worse, it seems everyone knows it. Gone are the
days when the Dodgers argued about parking spaces instead of player salary yet
remained interesting because they could develop prospects. Now, well, they have a lot
and what they don’t have, they will buy. Across the board, the Dodgers are favored to
win the division with no personal or prediction system projecting any team closer than
four games. The second team is pretty unanimously the San Francisco Giants who
have a history of good pitching and have finally found some good young hitters to
compliment that. The Arizona Diamondbacks are third-ish because, well, someone has
to be there. I’m really not impressed by adding Trumbo and the D-Backs sacrificed a
lot of young depth in general to basically tread water. I’m not sure how ZiPS projects
a 3 game improvement and the recent injury to Patrick Corbin probably doesn’t help.
Then you’ve got the San Diego Padres who get to enjoy the warm weather with
players swinging their bats to help the fans keep cool.

And now, the Colorado Rockies. Some things to point out about how these predictions
panned out. As mentioned earlier, Eric and I did ours separately. Whether it’s a matter
of bias or expertise or appealing to our readership (please Like/Follow us!), we had
the Rockies at 80 wins and third place. The ESPN Forecasters had them dead last and
ZiPS had them tied for last. The things that could hurt the Rockies record are the loss
of Dexter Fowler and the probable regression of Michael Cuddyer as his BABIP falls
from its mile high heights. To offset that, the Rockies are replacing the hodgepodge
that served up batting practice in the 5th slot of last year’s rotation with Brett
Anderson. Nolan Arenado has the potential to explode and if Wilin Rosario can learn
how to catch (and hopefully draw a walk), I have to think the Rockies will be better in
2014 than they were in 2013. I think their chances of being an 80 win team also
increase drastically if Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray are called up at midseason.
Nowhere near contention, but a nice preamble to 2015 when Butler and Gray should
have full-time roles. Of course, the projection also has the persistent “if healthy”
disclaimer thrown on Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. On the other hand, as much
as I’d like the Rockies to win it all, I find I don’t have enough straws to grasp the 90
win projection
offered by our fearless owner, Dick Monfort.

Part of Eric’s belief stems from his projection that Tulowitzki will be the National
League MVP. He writes “Two things need to happen for this to take place: Tulo needs
to play at least 150 games, and the Rockies need to at least sniff contention. I think
both things will happen. Past injuries reliably predict future injuries, but I don’t think
Tulo’s recent injury woes suggest that he has any chronic issues that will keep him
out of the lineup in the future. Two years ago he played through a slight groin pull,
which eventually caused him to have surgery to remove scar tissue—lesson learned.
Last year, he broke a rib making a baseball play—nothing to be done about that.
Tulowitzki has been worth just over five wins during his last 120 game campaigns, and
I think he will demand votes with a seven to eight win season. Second, with the
possible exception of the National League East, I don’t think any NL division will be
hotly contested. I see the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Nationals comfortably winning their
divisions. However, I don’t see any teams running away with the two Wild Cards (I
picked the Braves and Pirates to win them at 86 and 85 wins, respectively). I think the
Rockies will stay in it long enough for Tulo to get votes from the lovable BBWA
curmudgeons who require it.” I’ll agree that Tulowitzki is one of the more valuable
players in the league in terms of WAR and position scarcity i.e. it’s hard to find
anyone who does what he does, much less a shortstop. However, as we see with the
Mike Trout vs Miguel Cabrera debate, WAR generally defers to who is in the playoffs.
Similar to Eric, I had the Pirates and Braves pegged as winning the Wild Card. The
difference is I had them at 90 and 89 wins respectively, meaning I think it’ll be much
tougher for the Rockies to get a Wild Card berth.

I decided to reach out to Dan Szymborski who, as I mentioned earlier, founded the
ZiPS projection system that we’ve been affectionately comparing our predictions to in
this article. Regarding the 80 win projection for the Rockies, he says “It’s not that off
base, though probably a few wins high for me. I’m skeptical of Morneau and Dickerson
and I don’t think Cuddyer matches his 2013. While I like a lot of the rotation, I’m a
little uneasy about the health of a few of the pitchers – everybody could remain
healthy and Chacin get back in May with no problems, but banking on pitcher health is
dangerous (as you probably remember first hand a few years ago when the Rockies
essentially lost everybody).” That time “a few years ago” was 2011 when the Rockies
had Jamie Moyer slated as their number two starter. I’m glad the Rockies rotation has
improved since then.

There’s also the danger that the Rockies, come July, are floating near contention and
get stuck in limboland… too close to being in the playoffs to not make a move for a
player but talent-wise, too far to expect a first half hot streak to carry over into the
second half and take them to the playoffs. Let’s face it, the Rockies don’t have a deep
farm system. If it did, virtual retreads like Franklin Morales or Justin Morneau or even
a Boone Logan could be found internally instead of externally. Thus, the danger is
being so close to contention that the Rockies deplete an already farm system even
further just to get that one player they “believe” will push them over the hump. Thus,
I hope the Rockies are much closer to 80 wins than 90 wins. Then, they can use 2014
to sort out center field, find out whether Juan Nicasio is worth keeping and try to
derive better solutions in the lineup and bullpen. Come 2015, when Gray and Butler hit
the scene, that’s when the Rockies should make their push.

Other tidbits…

Your Name Which team will win the first National League wild card? Which team will win the second National League wild card? Which team will win the American League title? Which team will win the National League title? Which team will win the World Series?
Richard Bergstrom Pittsburgh Pirates Atlanta Braves Detroit Tigers Washington Nationals Washington Nationals
Eric Garcia McKinley Atlanta Braves Pittsburgh Pirates Detroit Tigers Washington Nationals Detroit Tigers

 

Your Name Who will win the American League Rookie of the Year award? Who will win the National League Rookie of the Year award? Who will win the American League Cy Young award? Who will win the National League Cy Young award? Who will win the American League MVP award? Who will win the National League MVP award?
Richard Bergstrom Nick Castellanos Kolten Wong Yu Darvish Stephen Strasburg Mike Trout Bryce Harper
Eric Garcia McKinley Taijuan Walker Oscar Taveras Yu Darvish Clayton Kershaw Mike Trout Troy Tulowitzki

In the process of participating in the ESPN Forecaster’s panel, there were other little
tidbits like who actually wins the World Series and all that where we were asked our
humble opinion. The aforementioned caveats aside, Eric and I were in alignment on
the overall picture including a Tigers/Nationals World Series. It’d definitely be a neat
pitching matchup with some of the most electric arms in the game. Overall, we
disagreed most with the panel on the Colorado Rockies (+5 wins higher than the
panel), the Chicago Cubs (+5), the Philadelphia Philles (-4) and the Baltimore Orioles
(-3.5). Compared to ZiPS, they like the Diamondbacks (-5.5) and hate the Yankees (4)
more than we do.

We also differed in our rookie of the year choices. Personally, I like Nick Castellanos
because he’s handled all the position changes and Cabrera-blocking maturely and
should thrive in a regular role. Similarly, I like Wong’s chances in the NL because he
has a regular gig. As Eric points out, “My pick is riskier because Taveras doesn’t have
a place to play right now. The St. Louis Cardinals outfield is set at the moment, with
Matt Holliday, Peter Bourjos, and Allen Craig. Taveras can find his way into the lineup
due to either too­poor hitting by Bourjos or if Craig or first baseman Matt Adams gets
injured (in that case, Craig would slide over to first). The other way is for Taveras’s
bat to force his way in the line­up, which is ultimately what I think will happen, and
Bourjos is the most likely to be displaced. In the end, though, can we agree that we
wish that we weren’t talking about two Cardinals rookies?”

I hope by the end of 2015 unless Butler and Gray get called up _way_ too early, we’ll
be talking about two Rockies rookies.

This was an exciting process for both of us and I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel
free to comment below and we will respond as soon as we can.

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