Baseball Think Factory, a sabermetric oriented web site, publishes ZIPS projections before each season. The projections are slowly released one team at a time over the course of the off-season. This off-season the Astros are one of the first projections to be released. Of course, the early projections are based upon existing rosters and minor leaguers, since trades and free agent signings have not yet occurred.
The projections for Astros players are here. The creator of the projections makes the following comment about how he sees the Astros next year:
The Astros have enough players at the top that they can compete in 2009 with some luck, but the team needs to go aggressively after a starting pitcher (and I don't mean a Brian Moehler). Depth emerged as a serious issue every time something went wrong this year and there's not a lot to be found in the minors, meaning that they'll also have to buy depth, which isn't exactly the most cost-effective.
As of now (which is obviously extremely early), I'll put the Astros in the 77-81 win range for 2009.
The sabermetric community has a handful of player projections each off-season. ZIPS, Bill James, PECOTA, CHONE, and ESPN are among the most frequently referenced. And ZIPS has a track record which is pretty good. Obviously, all of the systems will produce examples pertaining to individual players which are wrong by a wide margin. But that is the nature of the beast. It's the accuracy across hundreds of players which is most important. Despite the sophistication of the statistical projections used for these systems, the accuracy of the results often varies only slightly from Tango's Marcel projection, a simplistic trend projection tool.
ZIPS projections were not very kind to the Astros last year. I recall writing something along the lines of "the Astros are in trouble if Michael Bourn's offense is as bad as the ZIPS forecast." As it turns out, the ZIPS forecast was optimistic.
(BA, OBP, SLG, OPS)
Bourn (actual) .229, .288, .300, .588
ZIPS projection .250, .314, .320, .634
Unfortunately, ZIPS doesn't forecast much better performance for 2009, with a .237, .303, .307, .610 line.
Looking back, it's suprising in a way that ZIPS was fairly close in projecting Roy Oswalt. I say surprising, because of up and down year he experienced.
Oswalt (actual/ZIPS) : ERA 3.54/ 3.48 K 165/169 HR 23/19 W-L 17-10/15-10
(For 2009, ZIPS projects a 3.69 ERA and 14-10 record for Oswalt.)
If you're interested, here is the ZIPS projection for the Astros produced in November, 2007.
Let's look at the ZIPS 2009 ERA projection for the Astros starting rotation:
Oswalt 3.61; Wandy 4.51; Wolf 4.68; Moehler 5.40; Backe 5.72.
ZIPS projects a pretty stout Astros bullpen (ERA);
Valverde 3.31; Hawkins 3.39; Geary 3.43; Brocail 3.97.
ZIPS projects an offensive rebound for Tejada, albeit only a small improvement over this season: .785 OPS vs. this year's .729. (I label this a small improvement, because it represents a substantial decline from his pre-2008 performance.) Berkman, Lee, and Wiggy are all projected to have good performances, although not as good as their numbers in 2008.
My thoughts? It's interesting to look at...but still a shot in the dark. I like to review the projections when several are available for comparison.
Any thoughts from you?