Every year during spring training we all put in our predictions on how well the Tigers will perform both individually and as a team. Who will be the Tigers' breakout player this year? Who will disappoint? Who will see some regression (positively or negatively) based on last season's results? Who will have a great year this year based on nothing more than pure optimism?
While we all like to pretend that we are experts on this subject -- Ed.: seriously, look at our preseason predictions -- there are actual experts that use well-tested formulas to create more accurate projection models. For example, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system projected that the Tigers would win 82 games and score 4.55 runs per game while allowing 4.47 runs per game (They also projected that the Tigers would finish first in the American League Central...whoops!). In reality, the Tigers have scored 4.37 runs per game and have allowed 5.05 runs per game.
Two common projections for individual performances are ZiPS and Steamer. ZiPS is the work of Dan Szymborski from Baseball Think Factory and uses data from the previous four years while factoring in aging curves. Steamer uses the last three years of data but doesn't take aging into account. Both have had different levels of accuracy in the past but it's very difficult to predict how adjustments will work out and almost impossible to predict injuries.
Here is how the Tigers' preseason projections compare to their actual results (I'm using a minimum of 100 plate appearances to have a big enough sample size).
This is a good example of how an adjustment can change someone's expectations. All of the stats in the projections look about right except for the power. Martinez's home run percentage is up by over two percent, which bumps the slugging percentage up by almost 100 points. Martinez is among the top five players in the American League in home runs.
Cabrera showed some signs of slowing down in 2014. Well, slowing down for Miguel Cabrera. His 2014 wRC+ was down 44 points from 2013. Add in the fact that he is on the wrong side of 30 and it was reasonable to expect a slow but steady decline. Instead, Cabrera is having one of the best years of his career. While the home run power isn't quite there like it used to be, the batting average and on-base percentage are at the highest of his career, which results in a wOBA of 30-35 points better than expected.
Jose Iglesias is the perfect example of how you just don't know what to expect when a player misses a whole year due to injury. Iglesias' over-performance is mainly fueled by batting average while his power (both home run and isolated power) is just about even with expectations. However, Iglesias' strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. Looking at his plate discipline numbers, it doesn't look like a fluke.
Kinsler started the year struggling and has still managed to exceed expectations. His wOBA is about 25 points higher than what ZiPS and Steamer projected, mainly due to a higher batting average and higher walk rate. If we only focused on second half numbers, the difference would look even staggering. It has been quite the turnaround for Kinsler this year.
Oh boy, no one has under-achieved as much as V-Mart this year. While not too many people expected him to repeat his career 2014 season, not too many people expected this much of a drop-off either. Some of his struggles can certainly be blamed due to his injury, but age might finally be catching up to him as he turns 37 next year.
Avila's previous three seasons had wOBA's of .327, .310 and .311, respectively, so it was reasonable to expect that he would be right around that mark again in 2015. Nope. As bad as the ZiPS and Steamer projections look, they are still about 45 points higher than his actual 2015 wOBA. Injuries, declining talent, dumb luck; whatever the reason, fans are already happy that James McCann will be the starting catcher in 2016.
Just about right:
Collins is all over the place. His walk rate is about half of what was expected, but his batting average is up. This results in a pretty accurate wOBA projection, which is why I chose to put him in this category. It's always hard to project a bench player who has bounced between Triple-A and MLB, but these projections were pretty accurate.
Again, for a backup, this is pretty remarkably accurate. Both ZiPS and Steamer were dead on in almost all three slash line stats as well as wOBA. The only real noticeable difference is that Romine has shown a little more home run power than what was expected.
Davis has struggled in the second half (.526 OPS), but Monday's two-homer game bumped him just above his preseason wOBA projections. If Davis continues to struggle, the difference might be more noticeable by the end of the season, but right now the expectation is pretty accurate. The big difference is the stolen bases; there is a chance he could reach his Steamer projection of 26, but 35 is a long-shot.
Anthony Gose seems like a disappointment because of his second half struggles (.282 batting average in the fist half; .203 batting average in the second half), but he didn't have much of a track record before this season. Average everything out and he's right where expectations were going into this season.
Castellanos is a hard player to categorize because his ZiPS and Steamer projections weren't in agreement. His Steamer projected wOBA is only six points off, but his ZiPS projection is 24 points higher than his current figure. Castellanos is on a second half surge (.850 OPS) and if he continues that with the next few weeks, he'll be closer to his ZiPS projection by season's end.
McCann is another player that is hard to categorize. The perception is that he has out-performed everyone's expectation, but really it's only in one stat -- slugging percentage. This has increased his wOBA by about 20 points higher than expectation, but he has been struggling (.265 slugging percentage since August 1). If you want to put him in the over-achieving category in the moment, I won't argue, but it is not by a wide margin.
In summary, the offense has performed about as expected. There are four over-achievers, only two under-achievers and the rest are just about where we expected them to be.
So how did your predictions turn out? Who were your surprises and who performed about as well as you thought they would?