FanGraphs Fan Projections Are Craaaaazy

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.)

Player Pos Fans CarAvg Diff
Heyward, J RF .426 .376 .050
McCann, B C .383 .364 .019
Uggla, D 2B .381 .351 .030
McLouth, N CF .380 .343 .037
Prado, M UTIL .371 .352 .019
Freeman, F 1B .368 N/A N/A
Gonzalez, A SS .339 .298 .041

The pitchers:

Player Fans CarAvg Diff
Hanson, T 2.63 3.38 -0.75
Minor, M 3.24 N/A N/A
Lowe, D 3.43 3.80 -0.37
Jurrjens, J 3.46 3.85 -0.39
Hudson, T 3.51 3.82 -0.31

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.

Player Pos Fans CarAvg Diff
Utley, C 2B .395 .388 .007
Howard, R 1B .372 .391 -.019
Victorino, S CF .341 .343 -.002
Ibanez, R LF .334 .351 -.017
Ruiz, C C .330 .326 .004
Rollins, J SS .329 .336 .-007
Polanco, P 3B .321 .334 -.013

Four of the Braves’ hitters — including Nate McLouth and almost Martin Prado — are projected to perform better than Ryan Howard. Heyward is expected to be significantly better than Chase Utley.

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.

Player Fans CarAvg Diff
Halladay, R 3.07 3.42 -0.35
Lee, C 3.02 3.77 -0.75
Oswalt, R 3.61 3.34 0.24
Hamels, C 3.62 3.77 -0.15
Blanton, J 4.44 4.21 0.23

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.

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14 comments

  1. Cos

    January 13, 2011 03:08 PM

    Clearly the result of the overwhelming mid-market southeast media bias.

  2. sean

    January 13, 2011 03:17 PM

    as i was saying on twitter the difference doesn’t come from the fan prediction that note themselves as “actual fans” of the team but people that are fans of “other teams”. www.fangraphs.com/fanpdetails.aspx?playerid=520&position=SS

    team fans think he’ll put up a .249/.284/.393 which is pretty inline with his career along with 52 runs 56 rbi 15hr 5 stolen base attempts.

    the “other fans” throw off the projections with a .290/.358/.536 103 rbi 28 hr and 36 stolen base attemps from a guy that for his career never attempted more then 8 in a season. tommy hanson gets similar boosts from other fans saying he’ll pitch 35 games www.fangraphs.com/fanpdetails.aspx?playerid=9129&position=P . fangraphs needs to fix their sample or find where the crazy projections are coming from

  3. Bill Baer

    January 13, 2011 03:19 PM

    Oh, that makes sense, Sean. Maybe a couple of trolls spent a few hours gumming up the projection machines.

  4. sean

    January 13, 2011 03:20 PM

    and the braves are the only team i could find that are benefiting from the crazy boost. from the looks of it the “other fans” think that jason heyward got cloned all over the diamond considering the HR/SB totals

  5. John K

    January 13, 2011 05:05 PM

    i got interested in this last year a bit…
    www.lastplayerpicked.com/community-forecasts-are-up/#comment-7225

    the solution was obvious, as i mentioned in another post – just force people to do one forecast for a player on a team that isn’t in their favorites list. that would help the case for the wisdom of crowds since the errors should be iid in that case

  6. Matt

    January 13, 2011 06:54 PM

    Clearly I think Phillies fans tend more towards pessimistic biases over most other cities. It doesn’t surprise me at all to see these results. It’s the same mindset that causes and entire stadium of Eagles fans to go completely silent the moment their team falls behind in a game. I bet there are libraries that are louder than The Linc when the Eagles are losing. We are naturally pessimistic.

  7. Heather

    January 13, 2011 11:56 PM

    Matt, the pessimism you feel at the Linc is obviously a proud tradition of Philadelphians.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the Eagles have never won a superbowl in 40 years, despite going to the playoffs 19 times.

  8. Moose

    January 14, 2011 02:15 PM

    I saw this posted on mlbtr comment thread and died laughing. as did everyone else

  9. Anthony

    January 14, 2011 04:35 PM

    Moose, I believe that was me who posted those projections on MLBTR.

    Most of them are WAY too optimistic. But I do expect improvements from Heyward, Uggla, Hanson, and Lowe. McLouth can’t be any worse than he was last year, but he’s certainly not putting up a .850+ OPS.

    I got Heyward down for a .285, .410, .510 line with 28-30 HR and 15-20 SB. I expect him to run more because Fredi Gonzalez isn’t as hesitant to send runners as Bobby Cox was.

  10. Matt

    January 14, 2011 05:08 PM

    Here is the reason for Philly pessimism. I did a quick rundown of all of the Philly pro-sports seasons that ended in a Championship versus the seasons ending in either a Finals loss (e.g. Super Bowl) or Conference/League Championship Loss (e.g. NFC title game, NHL Eastern Finals, etc.). For the Eagles, I only used the Super Bowl era. Here are the records.

    Phillies 2-9
    Eagles 0-6
    Flyers 2-11
    Sixers 3-18

    We get there many times, but disproportionately come out on the wrong end.

  11. derekcarstairs

    January 15, 2011 05:03 AM

    I note that Oswalt has the best career FIP among the Phils’ four aces, but the fans rank him well below Halladay and Lee.

    Oswalt does not get the respect he deserves. He has been a stud since he first entered the majors.

    I like all of our guys, especially Hamels, but I am rooting for Oswalt to out-perform them all in 2011. Big Roy will be the biggest challenge, but Little Roy is certainly capable of pulling it off.

    I also want Oswalt to make decisions difficult for the front office regarding his Phillies’ future.

  12. hk

    January 15, 2011 12:32 PM

    Matt,

    Your rundown is misleading on a number of levels. First of all, it allows for 2 chances to count as a loss (semi-finals and finals) but only one chance to count as a win (finals). Secondly, you are including a number of the Syracuse Nationals seasons before they became the 76ers, which should have no impact on Philly pessimism. Finally, I’m not sure why you would include the Whiz Kids 1950 WS loss, but not include the Eagles titles in 1948, 1949 and 1960 just because the NFL Championship was not called the Super Bowl at that time.

  13. Matt

    January 16, 2011 11:14 PM

    Man, hk…. everybody’s got something to criticize. All I was doing was comparing seasons ending with championships versus seasons ending in the heartbreak of losing in the finals or losing in the conference finals. I was using those two end results because they highlight how many times Philly teams have gotten “close” only to fall just short. Sorry you didn’t appreciate the post. And I doubt that leaving out the pre-Super Bowl era Eagles really did anything to ruin my point.

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