I wasn’t going to predict the Pirates 2014 win total until the end of Spring Training, but then I realized that nothing which might happen in the next two weeks – short of a major injury – is likely to make a difference in my prognosticating. So, here goes.
First, a warning.
If you really want to be entertained by the Pirate season, you probably should not read this. There isn’t going to be a whole lot of suspense, surprise, and excitement once I tell you exactly how many runs the Pirates will score this year, how many runs they will allow, and how many games they will win and lose. So, you might want to stop right here . . . unless you are swayed by the blaspheming notion that I’m probably not going to be exactly right.
Now that the few, who truly want to be entertained by the season, have wisely heeded my warning, I can speak freely to the masses who are not convinced that what I am about to say is a rock-solid lock to happen – just as I say it will happen.
I’ve really got nothing to lose here. Those who think I might know what I’m talking about have already stopped reading. And you, who are still reading, figured I would probably be wrong to begin with. So, if I do end up being wrong, those who thought I might be right won’t know. And you, who already think I’m wrong, weren’t going to wait until October to tell me so, anyway.
And, if I’m right, I’ll make sure every-damn-body knows.
All right, this is how I made my calculations.
For the position players, I converted my batting line projections (average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) into a “Runs Created” total. I assumed that the 2014 team will have the same number of total team plate appearances as they did in 2013 and I distributed them according to the likely number of at-bats per position and player. (For example: CF is going to get more at-bats than SS.)
After projecting the total plate appearances and “Runs Created” for those position players who are locks to make the team, I still had 718 plate appearances to fill for the full season. I gave them a Runs Created total that corresponds to a replacement level player at 0.0 WAR. (I did the same with the 33.1 innings pitched that needed to be filled by minor leaguers.)
The Pirates had the worst hitting pitchers in baseball last year (.104 batting average with zero extra-base hits). And I see no reason to think that will improve, so, I gave them the same 4 Runs Created that they had in 2013.
It was simpler to calculate the number of runs the Pirates will allow this year. I just converted my xFIP/ERA projections to total runs allowed per 9 innings – based on a formula that has held true for the past three seasons.
I also considered the Pirates fielding in my Runs Allowed projection. They had a team UZR of 4.4 runs above average last year and Fangraphs had them at 10.9 defensive runs saved. So, I decided to deduct 7 runs from the pitchers’ total Runs Allowed projection.
Plate Appearances / Batting Line / Runs Created
Andrew McCutchen: PA: 650; .290/.380/.489 — .869 OPS; 106 Runs Created
Pedro Alvarez: PA: 587; .239/.309/.454 — .763 OPS; 75 Runs Created
Neil Walker: PA: 572; .270/.343/.417 — .760 OPS; 74 Runs Created
Starling Marte: PA: 587; .256/.317/.410 – .727 OPS; 70 Runs Created
Russell Martin: PA: 492; .247/.341/.409 — .750 OPS; 60 Runs Created
Jose Tabata: PA: 451; .283/.351/.422 — .773 OPS; 60 Runs Created
Andrew Lambo: PA: 440; .240/.295/.419 — .714 OPS; 51 Runs Created
Jordy Mercer: PA: 400; .265/.322/.400 — .722 OPS: 48 Runs Created
Gaby Sanchez: PA: 320; .256/.347/.402 — .749 OPS; 39 Runs Created
Travis Snider: PA: 271; .248/.317/.394 — .711 OPS; 31 Runs Created
Clint Barmes: PA: 300; .233/.282/.351 — .633 OPS: 28 Runs Created
Replacements: PA: 718; .212/.255/.345 — .600 OPS; 62 Runs Created
Pitchers: 4 Runs Created.
The Grand Total! The Pirates will score 708 runs in the 2014 season.
Innings Pitched / xFIP/ERA / Runs Allowed
Gerrit Cole: IP: 173; xFIP/ERA: 3.51; Runs Allowed: 73
Francisco Liriano: IP: 153; xFIP/ERA: 3.78; Runs Allowed: 70
Charlie Morton: IP: 160; xFIP/ERA: 3.86; Runs Allowed: 74
Wandy Rodriguez: IP: 142.1; xFIP/ERA: 3.95; Runs Allowed: 68
Edinson Volquez: IP: 161; xFIP/ERA: 4.16; Runs Allowed: 81
Jeff Locke: IP: 135.2: xFIP/ERA: 4.22; Runs Allowed: 69
Jason Grilli: IP: 49; xFIP/ERA: 2.62; Runs Allowed: 16
Mark Melancon: IP: 63.1; xFIP/ERA: 2.67; Runs Allowed: 20
Tony Watson: IP: 58; xFIP/ERA: 3.89; Runs Allowed: 27
Justin Wilson: IP: 73; xFIP/ERA: 3.79; Runs Allowed: 33
Vin Mazzaro: IP: 73; xFIP/ERA: 3.65; Runs Allowed: 32
Jeanmar Gomez: IP: 80; xFIP/ERA: 3.90; Runs Allowed: 38
Stolmy Pimentel: IP: 50; xFIP/ERA: 3.85; Runs Allowed: 23
Bryan Morris: IP: 65; xFIP/ERA: 4.04; Runs Allowed: 32
Replacements: IP: 33.1; xFIP/ERA: 4.25; Runs Allowed: 17
The Grand Total: 673 Runs - 7 Fielding Runs = 666 Runs will be scored against the Pirates this year.
I arrived at my 2014 Pirate win-loss prediction by plugging the Runs Scored and Runs Allowed projections into a winning percentage formula that was first developed by Bill James. It goes like this: (Runs Scored squared) divided by (Runs Scored squared + Runs Allowed squared)
The Pirates will score 708 Runs. They will allow 666 Runs.
And the Final Win-Loss Record for the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates will be . . . ???!!
I make no apologies. The only suspense left for you now is whether 86 wins will be enough to make the playoffs. You were warned in advance.
But it’s not as if I’ve never been wrong before.