2012 Cubs ZiPS Projections

In case you aren't familiar, ZiPS is a projection system that forecasts player performances for the coming season and beyond.  If you want a more technical description, here's one courtesy of Fangraphs,

(ZiPS is) the work of Dan Szymborski over at Baseball Think Factory, the ZiPS projections uses weighted averages of four years of data (three if a player is very old or very young), regresses pitchers based on DIPS theory and BABIP rates, and adjusts for aging by looking at similar players and their aging trends.

While Epstein may not have used this particular model in Boston, it's certain that he does use some sort of projection system to assign value to players (as he put it) for what they will do in the future rather than what they have done in the past.  Here are the ZiPS projections for some of the current Chicago Cubs.  Keep in mind, though, that these projections are based on general patterns and cannot account for individual improvement.  It only measures tangible information and the projections assume a full or near full season for each player as a starter.

Among the highlights (and lowlights):

Hitting Stats

  • A slight dropoff in power for both Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez.  Both are projected to hit 21 HRs.
  • It projects Starlin Castro to have pretty much the same year he had in 2011.
  • Bryan LaHair as an above average offensive player with an OPS+ of 107.  As far as traditional stats, it has him hitting .262 with 24 HRs and 77 RBI.
  • Brett Jackson has a right around league average 99+ OPS.  Traditional stats include a .254 avg with a .335 OBP, 16 HRs and 22 SBs
  • It projects Tony Campana to have a .273 avg (.317 OBP) with 44 SB
  • They have Josh Vitters hitting .260 with 14 HRs but with a woeful .297 OBP.

Pitching Stats

  • Matt Garza: 12-9, 3.52 ERA and 181 Ks.
  • Interestingly it pegs both Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano as league average pitchers (96+ ERA).  They have each as .500 (ish) pitchers with an ERA of about 4.25.
  • Andrew Cashner is the only pitcher besides Garza whom ZiPS projects to be above league average.  They have his ERA at 3.76 and splitting the year between the bullpen and the rotation.
  • Trey McNutt projects to a 5-7 record and a 4.95 ERA
  • Nick Struck is at 6-10 with a 5.29 ERA, but unfortunately, there's no projection for Chris Rusin.
  • Chris Carpenter is projected to shuttle between the rotation and the bullpen (do they know something the rest of us don't?), and an ERA of 5.11 overall.
  • Amongst the relievers, Marshall, Marmol, and Wood project as above average.
  • Jeff Beliveau has the best ERA of the rookies with 4.24.  Fellow lefties John Gaub and Scott Maine project to 4.35 and 4.37 ERAs respectively.  Beliveau and Gaub project to over a strikeout per inning while Maine is just under that mark.
  • Rafael Dolis projects to have a 5.04 ERA


  • Starlin Castro comps are ..1) Derek Jeter 2) Robin Yount 3) George Brett.  Now that's pretty good company.  We have actually made the comparison with the first two right here on this site.
  • Bryan LaHair's best comp is Greg Walker
  • Brett Jackson's first comp is Bernie Williams.  I'll take that.
  • Tony Campana's first two comps are Willie Tavares and Willie McGee.  That is far better than I would have expected.
  • For some reason, Steve Clevenger's first comp is...Steve Clevenger.  That doesn't help.   I'm assuming that's a typo.  His second comp is none other than AJ Pierzynski.
  • DJ LeMahieu's best comp is Julio Franco
  • You don't want to know Tyler Colvin's comps.  They're all fringe major leaguers.
  • Josh Vitters comps are former Cubs farmhand Casey McGehee and Wilson Betemit.  You'd expect more from a #3 pick overall.
  • Pitching comps were nothing to get excited about.  I'll let you guys look those up.

There's lots more interesting stuff to browse through, including a lot of stuff on Starlin Castro, who ZiPS projects as a consistent 5 WAR player in his prime with good OBP and slugging numbers.  You can see the rest by clicking on this link.

Filed under: Cubs, Projections


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  • Well, at least the ZIPS didn't project Tony Campana to be as ugly as Willie McGee. Because that would be unfortunate.

    These are fun. I want to look at some more but the pitching projections were a little better than I thought they'd be. If Brett Jackson is anywhere in Bern's class, then yee-bleeping-haw!!!!

    Damn Ron Washington. When exactly was his last drug test? Can they test him between game 6 and game 7? Darren Oliver? To nail down the world series? Really? And there are countless others. At least the game was entertaining as hell.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Always thought McGee looked like he was on the verge of sneezing.

    Did you click the link and visit the Baseball Think Factory site? Lots of good stuff on there.

    I didn't know Darren Oliver was still pitching. He must be in his 40s. Game was great but ultimately frustrating.

  • I was not the only shocked to see Darren Oliver still pitching. Just goes to show you that if you are a left handed reliever, you can pitch forever. If Brett Jackson is another Bernie Williams, that's a win! I'll take that any day.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    That's one I hadn't heard. I've heard him compared to guys like JD Drew, Jim Edmonds, and Mark Kotsay...but I like the Williams comp best.

  • I will also take LaHair's comp of Greg Walker, LaMahieu's comp of Julio Franco, and Clevenger's comp of AJ Pierzynski.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I'll take any those as well. Those were probably the most optimistic ones.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought that might be the case - I'll take one out of three, then. Monty, I'll take Door #1, please.

  • John, do you think some of the pitchers' ZiPS would improve if the defense is improved? Or is that taken into account? I think you have discussed before how Garza's numbers in particular would be better with a better defense (including that of the pitcher when Garza is pitching).

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Not sure. Those stats are calculating using DIPS (defense independent pitching, similar to FIP). But since defense is also calculated in these projections, I wonder if it's factored back in. I'll try and find out.

    Garza's numbers independent of defense were top 10 in the majors this past season. His results, of course, were not. I have to think that they would have been better with better defense.

    I've always observed that ZiPS is a bit more conservative than some of the other models. like Bill James for example. And I think all models tend to be conservative when it comes to certain statistics, like wins, likely because they are difficult to project.

    You also can't factor in intangibles, like gaining strength, gaining or improving an extra pitch, making an adjustment or two at the plate. With a new staff on board, hopefully we'll see some changes, both in terms of transactions and improvement within the organization. That might lead to better numbers overall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks, John, you are indeed a fountain of information.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Yep, agreed Norway. My only comparrison to John Arguello is John Arguello... you're in a league of your own sir!

  • You guys think Willie was bad....check out Danny Napoleon or Don Mossi. Speaking of images, I am upset you used my crystal ball gazing pic without my permission... I always regretted the shower cap choice.
    Forgive me, I'm cranky. I was pretty sure Texas had done it in 6!!!!!!

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    LOL! Sorry Hubbs! Next time I'll ask your permission. Are you still telling fortunes these days?

    That game was so incredibly fun and frustrating at the same time. If Texas doesn't win Game 7, that game is going to stick in their minds forever. Cubs fans would know.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    One things that gnaws at me - what if Marmol doesn't blow that save on the last Sat of the season in St. Louis? Are the Cards even in the WS? That the Cubs may be at least partially responsible for a St. Louis WS championship is insanely irritating!

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Me too. I keep looking back and thinking we had the power to prevent all this insanity and let it slip away through Marmol's fingertips. It's similar to the Bears losing last year when they had a chance to eliminate the Packers on the last day of the season, only to see the Packers win the Super Bowl.

  • Danny Napoleon is widely considered to be one of the ugliest players ever in the majors. I think it was Mickey Rivers who said that Danny Napolean was so ugly that your clothes wrinkled when you walked past him.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Mickey Rivers was a pretty funny guy. He was one of my favorite non-Cubs player as a kid.

  • Mickey Rivers was pretty funny, he was one fo the more quotable players from the 1970's and 80's. One of my favorite was his legendary diss of Reggie Jackson, easily one of the more arrogant players of his era. Reggie was bragging around 1977-78 that his IQ was 160, which is considered around genius level . When Mickey Rivers heard that, he said " Out of what ? a thousand?"

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Haha! I don't know about Reggie Jackson's IQ claim. I do know he was a smart guy, but he was no match for Rivers' wit.

  • I remember reading about the IQ claim, and that he was insufferable after that , even his then wife got sick of him. Your right about Mickey Rivers, few if any players were as sharp and witty as he was in his era.

  • The Koyie Hill - George Mitterwald comparison is killing me. Anytime I hear old people ( I should talk....) talk about bad Cubs eras, George Mitterwald always ends the conversation. The Colvin Comps are indeed depressing. Before the year I had him as maybe Brad Hawpe. But who knows now. Probably trade filler...

    Hey John, I just saw some possible manager ZIPS... They have you know who compared to Branch Rickey, Miller Huggins, and someone named J. Christ. Not sure I believe in the last one....Har Har.


  • In reply to felzz:

    My favorite George Mitterwald story was how he was given the day off a head of time and decided to get completely hammered that night. The manager (I believe it was Whitey Lockman) changed his mind and played him anyway. Mitterwald played with a terrible hangover but still managed to hit 3 HRs. This was early in his Cubs career and early in the year. Everyone thought we had ourselves a star but I think he wound up hitting just 5 more HRS over the rest of the season.

    I think Phil Rogers just brought up your guy a day or two ago. Was going to tell you about it. Here it is if you haven't read it..


  • Ahh, if only Kyle Farnsworth could have channeled his inner Mitterwald...

    I see what you're doing here John. Very sneaky. You think "Here, I'll show this guy that he's in lock step with Super baseball boob Phil Rodgers, realize what kind of idiot he's being, and drop this Bobby V. thing one and for all...." and it almost worked. As I was reading I was thinking to myself 'Dear God, I'm agreeing with Phil Rodgers..." but I remain undeterred. In fact, I'll go one further. it just goes to show how great a candidate Bobby V that EVEN PHIL RODGERS recognizes it.

    Seems to me there's only one person who's not on board.....Shame really. Seems like a great guy. Runs a great blog. but is just too stuck in his ways to endorse the best candidate. Candle is still lit brother....

  • In reply to felzz:

    You're on to me! But a well-played spin, I must say...

    I won't say it's impossible. He has his strengths,most notably strong leadership and attention to fundamental play. If they can get Valentine to buy in to the new metrics it could happen, but he's kind of his own man, has his pride...probably much easier to mold a first time manager who is already familiar with Theo type philosophy.

  • Everything you say is correct sir. And in better moments of clarity, I would probably be better off adapting a new philosophy.

    But I'm too far immersed in my own crap here to change course.

    Here's the brief history. I moved to New York when Bobby V took over the Mets. I HATED the Mets. Hated with a capitol HATED. In fact one of my first Cub games, Mets CF Bruce Bosclair actually spit at my father...

    But Bobby V totally won me over. He was smart, interesting, knew when to ignore the surrounding Hyperbole and crap, ( an absolute must for the Cubs job....) and turned that awful team into a World series contender. When Art Howe tookover.....well.....I'll leave it at Art Howe.

    This is obviously my windmill. I'm going to war with it.

    Bobby V!!!!!!!!!!

  • A Ram's 21 HR's, etc. will be for another team.

    Z's 4.25 ERA, etc. will be for another team. But I like the decent projection because we have to try to get a little something for him.

    Individual projections result in a fairly accurate team projection. In short, our Cubs really stink and are nowhere close to contention.

    The whole thing is about Theo slowly building up young talent. That's gonna take a while. Only then should he invest in expensive veterans. For now, acquire and develop good youngsters. Let them play and see how pans out. This has not been the Cubs way at all, but that's what Theo's gotta do. In short, love these projections stats, but I already knew our parent team stank and will stink for a while. I don't care about projected stats for Z, A Ram, nor for Sori, Demp. We need to clear them out, obviously. And trade Byrd to make froom for B Jax. And trade Soto, who's marketable, and just let Castillo-Clevenger get trials.

    Don Mossi retired the all-ugly trophy. The competition beyond him will always be for the No. 2 spot.

  • In reply to michaelc:

    May have to agree with you there on Mossi. Odd looking guy...and those ears, my oh my.

    I do think the Cubs need to build with their young talent but that shouldn't preclude them from pursuing young talent outside the organization as well. Too many holes to fill. The team needs to be revamped, so they also may need to take a few flyers on potential value veterans to fill some spots.

    We're a long way off, that much is certain.

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