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2021 Projections Primer

Hello Birds on the Black and Flyover Country Baseball friends! Welcome to February! This year's projection series debuts soon. It’s getting to be that time of year again. I am going to be publishing my individual St. Louis Cardinal pitcher and position player projections for the 2021 season in the upcoming days and weeks. Back in the mid-to-late-2000s or so, I began attempting to create a projection system similar to Steamer, Marcel, ZIPS, etc. in order to see what I thought the Cardinals had going for them for the next season. I have attempted to improve upon it each and every year. In the past several calendar years, I have revamped the way minor league and foreign league numbers play into my projections. That has been one of the hardest parts of doing this exercise year in and out. Basically, the gist of what I do is this:

  • I start on Google Sheets (formerly Microsoft Excel at the beginning of all of this).

  • I have a sheet for each individual player. I manually input their career major league, minor league, and foreign league statistics. I manually input their prior three seasons’ worth of statistics. I manually input how many plate appearances or batters faced at each level each season.

  • I then use a special formula to convert each level of the minors to a Major League Equivalency (MLE) output to compile their MLE stats for the 3 most recent seasons (minors/foreign+majors combined) and for their careers.

  • I then use a formula to attempt to weight each of those factors (the three most recent seasons AND the career statistics) and have it spit out what I use as my projected stat line for the upcoming year.

*The only thing that I sometimes fudge around with is plate appearances or innings pitched that I am allotting them for the upcoming season - since that is still an unknown.* The finished product for each individual player looks something like this for position players:

And this for individual pitchers:

After I get everyone finished (such as above), I go through and input them into another sheet for the entire team. Below you will find the sheet for the position players in 2020:

And the sheet for pitchers in 2020:

As you can see, I make sure that the team is only allotted (at most) 6,300 plate appearances (and ~1,450 innings on the pitcher side). I've got 5800 PA and 1,458 innings allotted in the 2021 tables. I have to take guesses as to playing time, basically I create my own depth chart - which is why these projections don’t come out until the spring; and I have to use a formula to get the totals because not everyone’s plate appearances / innings are guaranteed. That helps me to see about how many runs I believe the team will score vs. how many I believe they will allow on the season. In turn, those numbers help guide me on how many projected wins I believe the team can have in the following season.

An addition to last year's projection series will be the record I believe the Cardinals will have in each of the starting pitcher's games started, adding where I think we see wins vs. losses in the upcoming season. That will continue in 2021.

The other new piece last year was that for position players I incorporated a couple of (I hope) interesting items to go along with the mean (average) projection. This will be called THE CERUTTI. I am going to be adding in two sections, one if everything is going right for that player (THE GOOD) and one if everything is going wrong with that player (THE BAD). I was able to do it for pitchers, too, which wasn't a certainty at the time of last year's primer. Those will continue into the upcoming season's projections as well! Any questions? Any suggestions for the future? I hope you're looking as forward to these as I am to putting them out there for everyone to...most likely critique. :) As always, I hope you have as much fun with this as I do! Please talk to me about these on Twitter or on Facebook or right here on Birds On The Black, or wherever and however you come across these projections. These take a lot of work, so the more feedback and response I get on these, the more it drives me to continue them.


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