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One of the many satisfying ways to pass the time until the 2016 baseball season finally arrives is to pore over the various projections for the upcoming season. Brett already took a look into the Chicago Cubs 2016 ZiPS projections here, Luis looked more closely at Jorge Soler’s unique projection here, and I took a look at the Cubs overall win projections here.

But today, the ZiPS projections for the St. Louis Cardinals were released at Fangraphs. So let’s take a look at what ZiPS projects and determine what kind of competition the Cardinals might be in 2016.

As of now, the Cardinals offense doesn’t look to be particularly potent. Where the Cubs project to have seven players with a wOBA over .330, the Cardinals project to have just three (Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and Stephen Piscotty). Indeed, the outlook for positional players is relatively thin. Just two players, Matt Carpenter (3.8) and Yadier Molina (3.3), project to finish with greater than 3.0 WAR.



The Cardinals can probably stand to add another outfielder, but with Yoenis Cespedes looking like he’s headed to the Nationals, Dexter Fowler might be the last available impact free agent at the position. Of course, they could always look to make a trade from their still-strong minor league system. With Adam Wainwright halfway to 35 years old, the Cardinals will probably hope to push for one or two more seasons with the current group of players 0n the roster. 

And speaking of Wainwright, ZiPS doesn’t project a full comeback in 2016 after rupturing his achilles tendon early last season. At just 156.0 innings, though, ZiPS still believes in Wainwright, projecting a 3.12 ERA (3.10 FIP). However, with Michael Wacha (154), Mike Leake (176) and Carlos Martinez (172) all projected to finish with relatively low inning totals, the Cardinals are going to have to find some serious depth, particularly for the beginning of the season, if they hope to compete all year long (recall, top pitching prospect Alex Reyes is suspended for 50 games). Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal – who, no joke, received an MVP vote for his 2015 performance – does project to have yet another strong season, with a 2.53 ERA (2.43 FIP) over roughly 74 innings pitched.

But if you’re starting to feel less concerned about the Cardinals, I’d advise caution. At the beginning of the article, Carson Cistulli reminds us about the Cardinals’ voodoo magic from 2015 (or, the statistical improbabilities that seem to bless the Cardinals year in and year out).

For example, no team outperformed their BaseRuns record/differential by a greater degree than the Cardinals did last season. What that means is that despite actually winning 100 games, they played like a team that should have won just 89 games.* Now, that definitely doesn’t mean that it can’t happen again, but it does go to show the nature of projections.



Projection systems – like ZiPS – try to conservatively predict how a team – or its individual players – will perform in the aggregate. They never include outliers, because outliers are – on their face – something you shouldn’t actually expect (even though the unexpected does happen). So, just because the Cardinals are projected to win X more or less games than, say, the Cubs, doesn’t mean you should necessarily expect it.



Here’s the Cardinals Depth Chart for 2016:

You can see the Cardinals and the Pirates full ZiPS projects, here and here, respectively. And, as for the overall standings, you should know that the Cubs (95 wins) are projected to finish 12 games up on the Cardinals (83 wins) and 13 (82 wins) games up on the Pirates. If the projections were correct and that is indeed how the NL Central shook out, both Pittsburgh and St. Louis would miss the playoffs in 2016.

But hey … they’re just projections, right?

*[Brett: In case you were wondering, as I was … the Cubs outperformed their BaseRuns record by only three games. So, then, their true talent level was closer to 94 wins, rather than 97. The Pirates were closer to a 91-win team.]


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