Predictions and projections used to be a bit of fun back in the day, and they were more like 'guesstimations’ rather than an exact science. Now, though, computers run thousands of simulations in seconds and then average the results to come up with figures that are fairly accurate overall, but sometimes off on an individual basis.
That is exactly what happened this year to ZiPS when it came to Giancarlo Stanton. The projection specialists hammered the Marlins when it came to predicting individual performances over the course of the 2017 season (although they did think that the team would win 80 games), but the negativity toward Stanton particularly stood out. This is the partial stat line they predicted for the slugger:
484 PA, .254 AVG, .351 OBP, 31 HR, 82 RBI, 30.0 K%
Feeling outraged with what the company had released, this alternative predicted stat line was produced here at Fish Stripes (OK, by me):
607 PA, .268 AVG, .363 OBP, 40 HR, 98 RBI, 28.7 K%
Obviously, Stanton exceeded even these predictions by producing one of the most historic seasons by a position player in recent history. Granted, no one would have predicted (especially computer simulations) such a monster season, even if there were indications that 2017 was going to be extremely potent in terms of offensive output across the entire league.
But, digest this: Stanton's actual stat line, just including those six factors listed above, was 38.92 percent better than ZiPS projected it to be (and 20.43 percent better than my ‘optimistic’ prediction). While that is probably not how voters for the NL MVP award will come to a decision on their nomination for the prestigious award, those figures are astonishing, and they add another dimension to an already strong case that Stanton is deserving of the honor.
The ZiPS projection on Stanton alluded to him having another injury-riddled season (due to the low number of plate appearances), which was unfair, as most of his recent injury problems have been unrelated. Proving a somewhat-proven system wrong by nearly 40 percent collectively across a number of areas is no small feat.
Sixty home runs would have really helped Stanton stand out in a crowded field for the NL MVP, in which all of the other candidates are gearing up for the playoffs, but 59 homers was still the ninth most in history. That is astounding, but in a record season for home runs, the ‘wow’ factor of Giancarlo Stanton’s 2017 may come down to how he blew the projections right out of the water.
Just like with Russell Westbrook in the NBA this past year, the MVP award should go to the most outstanding player, not just the best player on a championship contender. Stanton commanded the attention of all of baseball in August while putting the Marlins on his back and guiding them back to the fringes of the Wild Card race.
While the Marlins did not prove everyone wrong, Stanton did, and sometimes that deserves just as much credit as actual numbers.