I’m going to make this post pretty short, because I’m lazy and don’t want to recap the entirety of the Braves offseason. It’s widely understood that the Braves are currently in rebuilding mode, and are essentially writing off their 2015 and 2016 seasons to stock up for their move to the new stadium in 2017. As such, they have chosen to trade away some solid players to focus on rebuilding their once decrepit farm system. Specifically, they’ve traded away some solid offense in Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis. Most people have looked at this and quickly come to the conclusion that our offense will definitely be much worse in 2015 than it was in 2014. I’ve been labeled “The Worst Devil’s Advocate Ever” by our esteemed Senior Editor, K Yamada, so obviously I was skeptical of this notion.
I mean seriously, can it really get any worse than 2014? That was pretty freaking bad. Besides, while they did trade away some good bats, they also improved one of the weakest spots on our team last year: the bench. On top of that, it’s hard to believe Andrelton Simmons and Chris Johnson will repeat their horrendous 2014 campaigns. I could go more in depth about how bad the bench was and who’s projected to be better, but seriously, I’m lazy and don’t want to type out stuff that can easily be found on a spreadsheet. So just click here for the 2014 stats and here for the 2015 depth chart and projections. Anyway, maybe these slight improvements could make up for the downgrades, and at worst we’d be just be as bad offensively, rather than worse. To answer this question I did some #sabermetrics.
One of the most underutilized baseball tools on our interwebs is Matt Hunter‘s SaberSim. If you’re unfamiliar with this tool, head on over to Matt’s post on the Hardball Times where he outlines 10 things he learned from making a baseball simulator. In short, SaberSim allows you to simulate thousands of baseball games against two teams by inputting a lineup and a pitcher for each team. For the inputs for the players you can select from a variety of options, or you can choose your own inputs. For this project, I’ve gone with my own inputs.
To test our hypothesis- that the 2015 Braves offense won’t be worse than 2014- I’m going to run 10,000 simulations of the 2014 lineup against the 2015 projected lineup. For 2014, I used Baseball Reference’s play index to see how each lineup spot for the Braves performed in 2014. For 2015, I used Fangraph’s Depth Charts page along with Steamer’s 2015 Projections to get a projected 2015 lineup. I had to guess how Fredi Gonzalez would
screw set up his lineup for 2015, and ultimately decided to have the right field position bat first, followed by short stop, first base, third base, second base, left field, catcher, center field, and the pitcher spot. The actual lineup may vary, but the impact of that will likely be 2 runs per year or less versus what I used. I used the exact same inputs for the pitcher’s spot in the lineup for each lineup. I then set each to face a league average pitcher, using the league average stats from 2014 for all pitchers. For a summary of the inputs, see this spreadsheet. Alright, on to the results…
The simulated 2014 and 2015 lineups differed by only 2.3 runs per season.
That’s it. Only 2.3 runs. They’re projected to be almost exactly equal. The 2014 lineup average 3.29 runs per game, and the 2015 lineup average 3.28 runs per game. I don’t think it could possibly get any closer than that. Now, typically I would tell you to always trust what the projections tell you. However, before running these numbers, Dan Simpson from Talking Chop challenged me to a friendly wager. He originally bet me $20 that no matter what the numbers say, the 2015 team is going to do worse. When the numbers came back to support Dan, I originally planned to call the bet off. As I said, I always go with the projections. But in this case, the numbers are absurdly close and we need something to spice up next season. Besides, the simulator can’t account for us possibly platooning more in 2015, and it also assumed we had average hitting pitchers in 2014. In reality, we had the third from the worst hitting pitchers in baseball. Account for those two things and you could easily make up a 2 run per season difference (I could do the simulations again and account for the pitcher hitting stats, but as I said in the beginning, I’m lazy). Based on all this, I’d say it’s a 50/50 shot that we score more runs next season, which is good enough for me to entertain a challenge.
We modified the wager a bit to make it both more exciting and beneficial for the world, because that’s just how this site does things. If the 2015 Braves score less total runs over the course of the season than the 2014 Braves, I will donate $50 to Dan’s charity of choice. If they score more runs, Dan will do the same for my charity of choice. Simple as that.