Blue Jays 2020 projections By WAR: Fun With Numbers

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays and teammates salute the crowd during the last game of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays in the third inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays and teammates salute the crowd during the last game of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays in the third inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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One way to project the 2020 Blue Jays season is to take the individuals who you expect to be playing and estimate their individual Wins Above Replacement (WAR), then add them up.  What result does that exercise give us?

There are many ways to project a team’s future performance.  The one most commonly used by prognosticators like Depth Charts is the “bottom up” technique, where you project estimated stats for each player on a team and to add up the wins above replacement (WAR) that this exercise produces.  It has been estimated that a team made up entirely of replacement-level players would win 48 games, so a team’s projected win total can be calculated by adding 48 to the projected aggregate player WAR.

Just for fun, I did this for the 2020 Jays.  My (admittedly simplistic) calculations are shown in this table.

Let me explain my rationale.

Catchers:   Danny Jansen (2 WAR) + Reese McGuire (1 WAR)

Jansen had 1.4 WAR in 2019 in 384 plate appearances with a very unlucky BABIP of .230.  An increase to 450 PAs combined with even average luck should increase his WAR to 2. 0. McGuire had a 1.2 WAR in 105 PAs.  I’m not sure he can sustain that pace, so I have reduced him to 1.0 WAR in 150 PAs in 2020.

First Base:   Rowdy Tellez (1)

I assume that Rowdy improves marginally, though not even to MLB average.  Note that this assumes that the Jays do not re-sign Justin Smoak, or do something funky like sign Nick Castellanos and convert him to 1B.

Second base :  Cavan Biggio (3.5)

Biggio earned 2.4 WAR in 2019 in 430 PAs.  Extrapolating the same pace to 600 PAs would give 3.35 in 2020.  I rounded up to 3.5.

Third base:  Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3)

I assume some improvement in his 3B defence, less fatigue, and some (hopefully more than “some”) improvement in his bat.  Remember Vladdy was projected for over 4 WAR in 2019.

Shortstop:  Bo Bichette (4.5)

Bo earned 1.7 WAR in 212 PAs in 2019.  Extrapolating to 600 PAs would give 4.8 WAR.  Round down to 4.5.

Outfield:  Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (3), Randal Grichuk (2), Teoscar Hernandez (2)

Gurriel Jr’s 2019 extrapolates to 3.1 WAR over 600 PAs.  And remember, that includes his slow start.  Round down to 3.

Grichuk had a bad 2019, but he averaged 1.93 WAR from 2016-18.  Assume he can return to a 2.0 WAR, playing centre field where his defence is well above average.

Hernandez had a poor start, but he earned 1.7 WAR in the second half of 2019.  Assume he can earn 2.0 WAR over a full year in 2020 in right field.

Designated hitter:  PTBNL (1)

DH will be used to rest the position players above, but when a Vladdy or Bo is DH-ing someone will be covering in their position.  I assume that the “9th man” (whoever that is) will earn 1 WAR.

Bench:  combined (1)

I assume that the 4-man bench (remember that the roster will increase to 26 players in 2020), not including McGuire, will earn 1 WAR.

Starters:  FA (3), Nate Pearson (2), Matt Shoemaker (2), Ryan Borucki (1.5), Trent Thornton (2)

I assume that the Jays acquire a pitcher (I use Zach Wheeler as a placeholder in my table) who can earn 3 WAR.  Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Matt Boyd, David Price, Corey Kluber were all at or above that pace in 2019.  And no, I have *not* given up on Gerrit Cole!

I assume that Pearson is promoted in May and that one of the kids (Kay/Waguespack/Zeuch/etc) keeps his spot in the rotation warm until he arrives.  I project a combined 2 WAR for this “opener/closer” team

Similarly, I assume Shoemaker will pitch ~20 games before he gets hurt (sigh) and that one or more of the kids pitches the remainder of the season.  Shoe has averaged a better-than-2 WAR pace over the last two years when healthy, so I assume that the Shoe + backups team can achieve 2.0 WAR in 2020.

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Borucki earned 1.7 WAR in 2018 in 17 starts.  To be conservative, I assume 1.5 WAR in 2020 for him + whatever backups he may need, over the full season.

And finally, Thornton earned 1.9 WAR in 2019 in 154 innings.  I assume that he can maintain the same pace with a few more innings in 2020, for a 2 WAR performance.

Bullpen:  combined (2)

The Jays bullpen earned an aggregate 1.9 WAR in 2019.  I assume roughly the same level in 2020.

Aggregate wins:  Adding up the WAR figures gives a projected 2020 win total of 84.5 wins.  Which, with some improvement in the 2019 100-loss teams (those cheap wins for other teams inflating win totals), would put the Jays on the fringe of wild card contention.

Next. Blue Jays may have to solidify the outfield via trade. dark

The bottom line

The above calculation is highly subjective, and it does not make allowances for attacks by suitcases, sprinkler heads, or stupidity.  It would be easy to create alternate scenarios where a combination of injuries, under-performance, sophomore jinxes, and abduction by space aliens changes these results dramatically.  But it is fair to say that there is considerable reason for optimism in 2020, and even more so in 2021 and beyond.

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