Don’t Fret Over WAR Projections


Fangraphs came out with its early ZiPS projections for the 2014 White Sox a few days ago and they didn’t look pretty.

You can see the entire article here, but the most noteworthy projection is that they don’t expect the White Sox’s offense to be very good, with only Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez compiling WAR above 2.0.

ZiPS doesn’t like Avisail Garcia. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It comes as no surprise to anyone with a brain that the White Sox are expected to struggle in 2014. However, it’s tough to imagine the retooled team Rick Hahn has assembled will end up worse than any other roster in baseball except for the Miami Marlins, as this formula projects. (See the full list on the right side here).

And while some of the system’s projections are favorable, most notably what is expected out of Abreu and Chris Sale, some are questionable or downright baffling. Here are a few that stood out:

Avisail Garcia

I’m sure the algorithm has its reasons, but I’m not quite sure what the make out of Garcia’s projected line. For one, his age comparison is Raul Mondesi. Garcia is 23 and in his age-23 season Mondesi put together one of the best years of his career as a rookie (ultimately winning the Rookie of the Year award). Garcia’s counting stats aren’t out of sort, necessarily. Nor are they poor for a 23 year old. Which is why it surprised me that he projects to only have a 0.9 WAR. His walk and strikeout rates are still a concern, which are likely factors.

Marcus Semien

The system looked favorably on Semien, who at the moment still appears a long shot to make the 25-man roster unless another move is made between now and the start of the season. Semien showed signs of competence during his late-season stint in 2013 but doesn’t seem to have a place to play with the White Sox failing (or declining?) to trade Alexei Ramirez or Gordon Beckham during the offseason.

Josh Phegley

Based solely on WAR* Phegley projects as the fifth best position player on the White Sox in 2014 at 1.6. I have a hard time believing Phegley will be a more valuable player in 2014 than Garcia or either of the newcomers, Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton. Or at least, I sure as hell hope that’s not the case.

Paul Konerko

Given his age and declining skills prevalent in 2013, it’s not necessarily a surprise that Konerko isn’t favored by this system. But it’s worth pointing out that ZiPS has him as a -0.5 WAR player for the White Sox in 2014. He’d need to remove that minus to justify the contract he received, unless the unquantifiable leadership skill everyone likes to point to when discussing Konerko is really worth the price they paid.

Unlike teams with little turnover, the White Sox’s roster might be one of the toughest to project. Given the fact that the team could have three regulars — Davidson, Eaton and Abreu — who have seen little if any time in the majors, ZiPS had its work cut out for itself.

* – For the sake of clarity and to dissuade comments about my relying too heavily on WAR, I’ll point out that I understand WAR is not the end all, be all. Pointing out each player’s war projection is merely a starting point, but that’s the purpose of this exercise.