Baseball isn’t played on paper. That’s bad news sometimes for fans of the Dodgers, who have had the best record in baseball but failed to win the World Series three times in the past six seasons. (To be fair, they also had the best record in baseball and did win the World Series once, and another time, the other team cheated to beat them in seven games.)
But in the offseason, all we have is paper. Currently, one of the fun bits of paper we have to look at is the list of projections. (Disclaimer: These projections aren’t actually on paper unless you print them off the internet.) So we thought we’d take a look at some of the big projection systems and see how they expect certain Dodgers players to do in 2023.
Up first: Mookie Betts! Here are the expected stat lines for Mookie from three projection systems: RotoChamps, Steamer, and Marcels (in the format of AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI R).
RotoChamps: .274/.354/.524 31 75 111
Steamer: .269/.352/.492 31 85 108
Marcels: .264/.343/.491 26 68 95
There’s some pretty decent consensus on some of these projections. Everyone agrees Mookie’s going to be good this year — his lowest projected OPS is .834, which would his lowest since 2017 but still well above average. But even the highest projection only has Betts at .878, almost exactly where he was in 2022. It makes sense, because these system by their nature don’t predict outlier seasons. But it still makes you think, “I bet Mookie has more in him than that.”
Part of the challenge of projections is they’re based on past performance. In 2021, Betts missed a lot of time and wasn’t at his best even when he was playing because of a nagging hip injury, which seems to have been resolved. In 2022, he missed a few weeks because of a fractured rib suffered in a freak outfield collision. There’s no reason, right now, to expect either of those issues to affect him in 2023, but the projection systems kind of assume they will.
Betts is one of the most talented players in baseball, and he’s won an MVP Award and finished in the top six four other times. If he’s healthy in 2023, a .900+ OPS seems like a logical expectation, and none of these projection systems come close on that.
That might be part of why some of these projection systems have the Dodgers being significantly worse than last year. If Mookie Betts posted a .930 OPS out of the leadoff spot instead of the .840-.850 he’s being projected at, that could be a difference of three or four wins for the team. (Not that Betts’ WAR itself would be three or four wins higher, of course, but again, baseball isn’t played on paper, and you don’t always need to add four WAR to add four wins. If the 2022 Dodgers had gone a lousy 4-for-20 with RISP during that cold stretch in the NLDS instead of 0-for-20, they’d have swept the series despite still not actually hitting well. Situational hitting matters, and big numbers out of your leadoff spot lead to good situations.)
Anyway, it’s fun to see what the projections think about Mookie. But if he’s healthy, he’s leaving these things in the dust in 2023.
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