Throughout the offseason Dan Szymborski has been rolling out the ZiPS projections for each team in the Major Leagues. The Reds projections came out in mid-January, and things have changed a little bit in the time since then – the team picked up outfielder Nick Castellanos as well as reliever Pedro Strop. Neither player was included within the projections at the time since they weren’t in the organization.

While there is a little more to projecting the total WAR, and record for a team than simply looking at the Depth Chart graphic for the team within each article, it’s a good place to start with that is likely going to hold the majority of the answer for both. Looking only at those Depth Chart graphics we finally can see how the National League Central stacks up, as the Cubs Depth Chart hit twitter on Wednesday night and the entire Chicago projections were published at Fangraphs on Thursday. Let’s take a look at how the division stacks up, according to those Depth Charts cumulative WAR (only for the players listed):

Team WAR
Chicago Cubs 40.7
Milwaukee Brewers 38.1
St. Louis Cardinals 35.9
Cincinnati Reds 35.3
Pittsburgh Pirates 24.4

These are the numbers from the time they were published, though. The Reds were at 35.3 before they signed both Nick Castellanos and Pedro Strop. We don’t have the projections for Strop, but as a reliever, it’s likely 1.0 WAR or less. We do have a generally good idea of the projection for Castellanos, though. Late last regular season after he had gone on an absolute tear for the Cubs, Szymborski took a look at just how much his run with Chicago had changed his future ZiPS projections, and the change was actually quite dramatic. His WAR went up by 50% for the 2020 season due to what he had been doing with the Cubs.

The projection for the 2020 season for Castellanos was for a .281/.333/.501 line and 2.1 WAR. Combine that with Pedro Strop, and you are looking at somewhere in that +2.5-3.0 WAR territory. But we can’t just add that to the 35.3 total above. Castellanos is going to be replacing Aristides Aquino and or Jesse Winker, or at least part of their production. Strop seems to be replacing Sal Romano, who was designated for assignment as a result of the signing. That seems to be roughly an even swap, as Romano was projected for 0.7 WAR.

You can work the math out on that one if you’d like to, but I’d say that the Castellanos and Strop additions combined with the reduced playing time of the other corner outfielders and Romano being out is worth an addition 1-2 WAR depending on exactly how you feel about the differences available. That’s enough to push the Reds just ahead of the Cardinals, but not quite enough to reach the Brewers in second place.

Even before the Reds signings of Nick Castellanos and Pedro Strop, the top four teams in the division were within about 5.4 WAR of each other. For a team, that’s the margin of rounding errors for it’s players. As we’ve seen with the other early projections and predictions, everyone except the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to be a contender for the National League Central.

28 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    I read what Krall said, but I think that was GM speak that doesn’t really mean much. Nothing on the horizon could mean nothing is close enough to the point that they feel comfortable mentioning it, not necessarily that nothing is being worked on. I’ve got to believe that they’re still working on improving.

    As has been mentioned, with such a tight race incremental improvements make a big difference. I hope the Reds are still talking to Holt, still trying to upgrade SS, and even scanning the waiver wires for depth pieces with options.

    • GhostRunner

      I’m guessing Holt is waiting for Boston to free up some money (Trading Betts) to offer him a contract.

    • Justin

      I agree with the thoughts expressed, that said, take a look at the SS free agents next off season. Now take a look at the following year.

      Looking at those lists made me think the Reds may be wanting to see if Garcia takes a big step this year. If he does, maybe we can wait on him. But if he doesn’t, the crop of free agents coming up take the pressure off developing a stud at SS.

  2. CFD3000

    The only way the Reds finish fourth in 2020 is if there’s a weekly pool party at Eugenio Suarez’ house. These projections are interesting, and in the absence of actual baseball games I understand the apppeal, but if the takeaway is that the Reds will be worse than Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee don’t you have to go back and reconsider the underlying premise? But the good news is that this is purely speculative, and every game will be decided on the field and not in a spreadsheet. So the Reds can just go ahead and make the playoffs and send the pundits back to scratching their heads. Pitchers and catchers, next week.

    • Linkster

      Amen! They will have to win to gain the respect they deserve.

    • RV

      If they could just STOP those pool parties, that should be worth a couple of games a month.

  3. 95

    Watch out Doug!
    From the original Fangraphs article:
    ”Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR.”

    • Doug Gray

      We’ve got to get Dan to come out to Cincinnati more often than he does already. This was my challenge.

  4. Doc

    Speaking of Suarez, have there been any updates on his condition? What was found and how bad was it?

    What is the health status of Cody Reed? For someone who is being routinely mentioned in the mix for an RP spot, I have seen essentially nothing about him since he last threw a baseball in competition.

  5. centerfield

    How has team WAR translated into actually wins in the past couple of years?

    • Amarillo

      I did some research because your question really interested me. I looked at each teams record in the NL Central and AL East (I didn’t feel like doing every team) and here are the results. This is number of wins a team actually had vs Team WAR.
      Yankees +5 actual wins, Rays even, Red Sox -7, Toronto -6, Baltimore -11, Cardinals +3, Brewers +8, Reds -2, Cubs -4, Pirates +6.

      There seems to be some fairly substantial variance between WAR counting and actual record, and there doesn’t really seem to be a trend in a specific direction.

      In my research, the statistic that has the highest correlation between the stat and actual win loss record is Team OPS. There seems to be a higher correlation to actual record in hitting than in pitching which I have found interesting.

      • Amarillo

        I should note that is a small sample size because I couldn’t find it tabled anywhere and just looked at a few teams manually.

      • Amarillo

        Concerning Team OPS, there were 15 teams with a winning record last year, and 14 of those 15 were in the top 15 in team OPS. The outlier was not surprisingly Colorado. The outlier the other direction was the Cardinals.

  6. Bdh

    in 2010 when they won the central I wonder what the projections were for a lineup that included Dickerson, Cabrera (Opening day hitting 1-2 btw) and lance Nix? Maybe opening day starter Aaron Harang fresh off a 12-31 record the 2 previous seasons boosted the projections! these things are just talking points. This club is much better than 4th in the division.

  7. Matt WI

    I’m pretty surprised that the Brewers figure quite as high as they do… I mean, Yelich is going to give you a super high WAR, but in the context of the rest of the roster, I’m taking the 2020 Reds every time. I don’t think the Brewers are going to bomb, but I would vote them “most likely to underachieve expectations.”

  8. Optimist

    Take a shaker full of salt to the precise numbers, but the general picture is clear – Bucs in last, the other four teams equal on opening day. With that, absent serious streaks into June, either winning or losing, gearing up for the trade deadline will be fascinating. If the Tribe falls out of contention, the Lindor asking price will be going up daily, and someone will likely pay it.

    • Bdh

      I don’t Lindor goes anywhere this season. I could see the phillies falling behind in the NL East race and trading Didi. If Galvis is the hole people think (I don’t) then the reds could get their chance with Didi again

      • Jefferson Green

        Didi has to prove he is playing like he did a couple of years ago in order to have value. The recent release of new OAA fielding data had him as one of the worst fielding short stops in all of baseball last season, and his bat produced at 16% below average (wRC+ of 84). For comparison, Galvis is one of the best fielders in the league at SS and produced a wRC+ of 89 last season. Gregorius may well rebound, but at age 30, it is interesting that he couldn’t do any better in free agency than a one year deal for $14 million.

      • Optimist

        He has to move. Unless the Tribe extends him he’s a rapidly depreciating asset, and far more serious than Bauer, for example. He’s clearly a long-term signing, so 2 pennant races has twice the value of one, for the teams unlikely to go for the 9 figure extension. Namely, the entire NL Central, unless the Cubs decide to open the wallets again, in which case it’s a sign-and-trade deal.

        Didi is an even shorter fix, and unless he’s on fire, barely an improvement.

  9. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I believe mid-hight 80’s, also. I’m not sure if they will compete for the division title, but I do believe they will compete for the last playoff spot. For how long? I don’t know that.

    One thing that I don’t believe many are considering is this. Several times during last season, even though the Reds were in 4th or 5th place in the division, they had one of the best “Expected W/L records” in the league. That told me:

    – when the game was a blowout, the Reds were doing the blowing out more often
    – when the games were close, the Reds were losing

    It’s the second one I will concentrate on. The Reds were a younger team last year. What is a common (though not 100% correlation) of a young team? They lose a lot of close games. Many would say, “They don’t know how to win. They don’t know how to step it up.” Moose won a WS already with KC and was with the Brewers in 2018 when they went to the NCLS. Miley was with the Brewers, also, in 2018 as well as Houston last season, for what that’s worth. Even Nick was with a Detroit playoff team. And, Shogo was with a winning team in Japan. What am I getting to? These guys have experienced what it takes to get to the post season. I believe the newbies will have some drive enough to show these youngsters what they need to do, how they need work, etc., to win the close games during the season, so the Reds can get to the playoffs.

    Oh, I believe their bats and pitching will help, also. But, I am hoping for an injection of attitude that will push the team over the top.

    • RedNat

      Good points. I felt the 2019 reds had good pitching and hit a lot a homeruns but were not a very good team. We didnt make a lot of good baseball plays. Poor base running, few outfield assists. I feel the reason we lost so many one run games was not just from lack of offense but also poor defense and baserunning.

      • David

        Another term that might apply to what you are saying is low Baseball “IQ”.

        I always hate cliches in sports, because they cover up real truths to be examined. But the idea of Baseball IQ covers “he plays the game the right way”, and sometimes “veteran presence”. Those are cliches, but they illuminate the idea of making the right decision, in a split second, which leads to winning more games.
        Hitting the cutoff man. Throwing to the right base. Fielding and throwing the bunt to the right base. Making the right pitch in a given situation. Preventing a passed ball. All these things seem obvious, but sometimes players make a bad split-second choice or play due to lack of practice, experience or good coaching.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler


        I will go even a bit further than that but still is baseball IQ. For example, young players may ease over to a field a ball. But, that can easily allow the baserunner to beat the throw. I believe I saw this with a easy ground ball to 2nd last season with the Reds. The 2nd baseman, playing deep, didn’t come forward at all for the ball. The runner went to a full sprint and beat the throw to 2nd base.

        Or, with Senzel running into the wall like he does, getting injured. I’ve seen this from a couple of other Reds through the years (wasn’t there a “Freel” who played similarly?). Outstanding players, full of potential. However, because of their style of defense, they constantly got hurt and never really lived up to their full potential. Veteran players realize how to play to maximize their benefit to the team.

        I do remember saying what you said, though, also, about Frazier. I believe it was with one of Price’s first games as a manager. The team running more than with Baker, like a young inexperienced team, though. Frazier hit a ground ball down the first base line, but it barely got to the near corner of the stands. Frazier tried to stretch it to a double and was out by like 20 feet.

        It’s not that players with “high IQ’s” don’t play hard. It’s that players with high IQ’s know when to play hard and when it’s stupid to play hard.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        But, also, what I was referring to was the training and extra work that veterans will put in to be the best. Or, rather than just “working through the drills”, actually “work at the drills”. For instance, in working on fielding a ball hit to your side, are you actually going to just put your glove out there like a bullfighter’s cape and give the “Ole crap” (If I may steal from Major League movie, I believe). Or you are going to move your feet and actually get in front of the ball?

        Or, maybe, it’s been said, young players simply go through the motions. And, if they win, they win. Winners show they want to win. They play with their head and their heart, maxxing out each.

        Hopefully the new guys will be able to press a little more out of our home grown young studs.

  10. Bill J

    Remember when Phillips made one of those crazy plays, one of commentator would say,he actually practices that. That’s what good players do.

  11. Michael E

    As General Beringer (Barry Corbin) said in the movie Wargames:
    General Beringer (smirking) “Like I needed some computer to tell me that”

    Sorry, had to take a jab at “analytics”. I just can’t help myself. It has it’s places for sure, but I also fear going all in and losing site of the actual game. Still, better to go in that general direction than stay hardcore, old-school, no doubt.

  12. Ron Payne

    St. Louis 89 – 73
    Cincinnati 87 – 75
    Milwaukee 84 – 78
    Chicago 81 – 81
    Pittsburgh 70 – 92

    Divisional Winners:
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    St. Louis Cardinals
    Atlanta Braves

    Wild Card Teams:
    Cincinnati Reds
    Washington Nationals