UPDATE: The always great David Appelman of FanGraphs found and fixed the problem with the projections.
FanGraphs’ fan projections are crazier than Jim Sipala.
Dave Allen found that fans projected their favorite team’s players more inaccurately than players on other teams. It makes sense: fans are biased towards their team and are unaware of that bias and/or are unable to remove that bias in their evaluation.
But… some of the 2011 fan projections are ridiculous. Take a look at some of the Atlanta Braves hitter projections using wOBA and pitcher projections using FIP:
(Note: positive differentials for hitters are optimistic while negative differentials for pitchers are optimistic.)
As you can see, the fans are optimistic that every player with a listed projection will out-pace his career average. In most cases, significantly out-pace their career average.
Just to illustrate how zany the projections are, the .426 wOBA for Heyward would have ranked fourth-best in the Majors in 2010, behind Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, and Miguel Cabrera. I think Heyward is a great player, but a .426 wOBA in his sophomore season after posting a .376 wOBA? 50 points of wOBA was the difference between Ryan Braun and Jonny Gomes last year.
Fans expect Jair Jurrjens to increase his K/9 by 1.5 and lower his BB/9 by 0.5 compared to his career averages. Derek Lowe is projected to post his highest K/9 since 2001, when he was pitching out of the bullpen for the Boston Red Sox. Tommy Hanson is expected to put up a 2.63 FIP. By comparison, Roy Halladay has only once posted a FIP that low and it was in a short season in which he made just 16 starts.
Meanwhile, the Phillies’ projections aren’t nearly as crazy.
Overall, fans are more realistic, or just plain conservative, about the Phillies’ hitters. The largest gap between a player’s career average wOBA and their fan-projected wOBA is Howard at -.019. Every Braves hitter had an equivalent disagreement or greater above their career average.
Despite equivalent disagreements between the fan-projected FIP and their career averages, Tommy Hanson‘s projection is more unrealistic than Cliff Lee‘s because of how far down his FIP lies. Additionally, Lee’s pitching prior to 2008 is included and we all know that Lee transformed during the same year that the Phillies won the World Series. Overall, the fans are generally optimistic about the Phillies’ starting rotation, but fans are pessimistic about Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. On the other hand, each pitcher in the Braves’ rotation is expected to best his career average FIP.
Oddly enough, Mike Minor is expected to post a 3.24 FIP, which is outstanding for a pitcher with all of 41 innings of Major League experience. His 9.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 were excellent and his 5.98 ERA was egregiously high, but a 3.24 FIP is still unrealistic. Even with those great numbers, his FIP in 2010 was still 3.86.
The fan projections are fun, but they don’t appear to be reliable in any way. Take them with a huge grain of salt; take the more objective methods of projection with a slightly smaller grain of salt.