Every season during Spring Training, multiple publications attempt to use highly sophisticated models to predict detailed outcomes for the season. For the last several years, Fangraphs’ Dan Szymborski has shared the results of his ZiPS projection and analyzes the model’s success and failures at accurately predicting team’s win totals and various statistics such as slugging percentage and earned run average. He recently produced a series of articles providing analysis of ZiPS for the 2020 season with some surprising and some not-so-surprising results for the Colorado Rockies.
As our staff counts down the best performances by Rockies players this season, you’ll notice a few starting pitchers high on the list. Antonio Senzatela overachieved many of his projections en route to an excellent bounce back campaign. Notably, Senzatela was projected to have a walk rate of 8.8% but tallied a rate of 5.9%, beating the projection by 2.9%. Also, he beat out his projected ERA of 5.54 by over two runs, finishing the season with an ERA of 3.34. It will be interesting to see if his results in 2020 are repeatable or if he will regress a bit.
Jon Gray, on the other hand, underachieved his project strikeout rate in tremendous fashion. He struck out only 12.6% of batters faced, which was nearly half of the predicted mark of 23.8%. This change from the ZiPS model was the worst among all pitchers. While the sample was much smaller this season, given how important strikeouts have become in today’s game this is a red flag. It was a steep dropoff considering Gray’s lowest K% from the previous four seasons was 21.6% in 2015.
Looking at hitter performances, there are two subpar hitters that standout. The model predicted what would have been an impressive age-35 season from Daniel Murphy pegging him with an OPS of .832 but it wasn’t meant to be as he struggled through 2020 with a career-low of .608. Nolan Arenado, meanwhile, hit well below expectations as he was hampered by a shoulder injury which certainly affected his ability to slug for the model-predicted OPS of .930 and he finished with his lowest OPS (.738) since his rookie season.
It does appear as if these individual player outcomes evened each other out though, because the 2020 win total predicted by ZiPS was spot on at 26, which a few of our staff writers also predicted prior to the start of the season. In fact, the model correctly predicted exact win totals for the Philadelphia Phillies, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, and Cincinnati Reds as well. Possibly with a few more overachieving outcomes, the Rockies could have taken advantage of the expanded playoff format and made some noise in 2020.
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Marc Carig and Andy McCullough group each MLB team by their expected approach in this year’s off season. Dick Monfort has already addressed ticket holders with a letter stating that financial concerns will dictate their decision making. The pressure index, as they define it, is meant to gauge teams’ “pressure to act” in free agency. Their take on Monfort’s letter is that either Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story will be shopped for a trade deal that could transfer their large salaries to another franchise.
For a long time now, the possibility of trading Nolan Arenado has been a frequent topic of discussion, but with purse strings being tightened all around baseball, the list of potential trade partners is getting smaller. Joshua Pedvis of Jays Journal writes about this opportunity for the Toronto Blue Jays to part ways with some of their farm talent to land Arenado at the third base vacancy created when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was moved to first base. Potential returns include Jordan Groshans, Austin Martin, and Nate Pearson.
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