Which team was ranked higher?
Let’s look beyond the two teams to find rankings from other writers. Although the rankings were generally close, some writers ranked the Diamondbacks higher. Their classifications follow:
On the other hand, some projection systems ranked the Giants higher.
- The Empirical Player Comparison and Optimization Test (PECOTA) algorithm showed that the Giants have the highest average of your rank wins (80.5 vs 74.7 wins on March 18, 2023). Because PECOTA emphasizes rank, either team could finish the season with more wins despite a seemingly large 5.8-run difference in averages.
- In February, ZiPS projected that the Diamondbacks would win 81 games and the Giants would win 88 games. Details matter. The text accompanying the projection clearly indicated that the Giants’ wins could be significantly less.
“The Giants appear to have a lower ceiling than their rivals, but like the Braves and Cards, ZiPS sees them picking up a few extra wins simply by having enough depth to reduce the number of negative scenarios in the mystery cube.” –Dan Szymborski
- FanGraphs Depth Charts showed the Giants with just 3 more total WAR than the Diamondbacks. Therefore, I conclude that ZiPS credited the Giants with 4 wins due to depth (7 win difference in ZiPS minus 3 win difference on depth charts).
Which team will have more outstanding performances?
A standout performance is a player having the best season of his career with a performance that significantly exceeds projections.
The Diamondbacks have 4 big prospects who could play in the Major Leagues (Corbin Carroll, Gabriel Moreno, Brandon Pfaadt and Drey Jameson). At least one of these players could have a standout performance. Furthermore, Geraldo Perdomo is 23 years old. Last season, when Ahmed got hurt, he abruptly moved up to shortstop. Given the circumstances, his performance was commendable. Although he starting this season on the bench, he could possibly have an outstanding performance.
The Giants are not expected to play any top prospects in the majors. Their youngest player competing to play in the majors, Blake Sabol, has hit well in spring training (1.380 OPS and 3 home runs in 36 PA), and is in the running for the designated hitter position according to Roster Resource. However, due to the age and injuries of their players, the Giants would not benefit from a young player at DH.
Fox Sports’ Jordan Shusterman confirmed the talent of the Diamondbacks’ young players. He looked at players 26 and under. He ranked the Diamondbacks 12th in the Majors (the Giants ranked 29th). Clearly, the Diamondbacks have more talent in their younger players. Up-and-coming players are likely to be in that younger player pool. My conclusion is that the Diamondbacks are likely to experience additional wins brought on by breakdowns in player performance.
Which team had more significant injuries?
The Diamondbacks’ most significant injuries were to pitchers Mark Melancon and Corbin Martin. Whether Mark Melancon would have made the opening day roster is debatable. Corbin Martin is likely to be out for most or all of the season. However, the overall impact was relatively small compared to the Giants.
Last season, the Giants suffered season-ending injuries. They dropped from 107 wins in 2021 to 81 wins in 2022.
This season, preseason injuries have reduced the Giants’ depth. Two areas that were especially affected were:
Giants shortstop. On March 13, Brandon Crawford reinjured his knee. He will be out of baseball activities for a week. His ability to confidently play a Gold Glove defense (as he did in 2021) may take a hit.
Brandon Crawford’s injury could be significant.
“Crawford, 36, went on the disabled list with the same knee problem twice in 2022 and missed nearly a month of the regular season.” — Maria Saved
“If Crawford’s knee gives out, or bothers him like it did last year, affecting his swing along with his defense, the Giants need to find something that doesn’t include an Estrada/Flores midfielder.” — Steven Kennedy, SB Nation
If Crawford starts the season on the disabled list, projected second baseman Thairo Estrada (who posted a negative 12 DRS at second base in 2022) could move from second base to shortstop. A new issue is who would play second base. Isan Díaz injured his hamstring and was sent down to AAA. Projected bench player Wilmer Flores earned a negative 9 DRS at second base in 2022 (The Fielding Bible). My conclusion is that the defense would be very weak at both second base and shortstop.
Gardens of the Giants. Four outfielders have been injured, three in spring training. There is speculation about moving an infielder (like Estrada) to the outfield. My opinion is that by doing that you get a bad outfielder and permanently damage the player. Let’s look at the injured outfielders.
Center fielder Austin Slater underwent an MRI because he strained his calf muscle. He strained his hamstring muscle. He was projected to be the bench outfielder. If he starts the season on the disabled list, there will be no backup for leading center fielder Mike Yastrzemski.
“The six-year veteran [Austin Slater] He dealt with an elbow ailment earlier in the spring and was beginning to return to game action before sustaining a calf injury. —Jeff Young
Luis González underwent surgery on his back. Last season he was primarily a corner outfielder. His injury could reduce depth in the outfield.
Mitch Haniger strained his oblique. He primarily plays right field. His injury could reduce depth in the outfield.
“The Giants are now two down [it could be three if Austin Slater is seriously injured] outfielders, as offseason signer Mitch Hanger he is dealing with a Grade 1 oblique strain that threatens his preparation for Opening Day.” —Steve Adams
Michael Conforto is projected to play left field (Roster Resource). He hasn’t played left field since 2018. In 2022, he didn’t play in the majors or minors. His performance (hitting and fielding) includes uncertainty due to time out of baseball.
“Conforto missed the entire 2022 MLB season after undergoing shoulder surgery in April and is in the final stages of his rehabilitation as the Giants prepare for spring training.” —Taylor Wirth, February 2023
Joc Pederson is projected to play right field (Roster Resource). Last season he had a negative 15 DRS in the outfield (The Fielding Bible). Although he played first base recently in spring training, perhaps DH is a better position for him.
Overall, the Giants suffered preseason injuries that significantly reduced their likely performance at second base, shortstop, and outfield.
Which team will beat their projected hitting?
The spring training results are a window into the season. Depth charts from FanGraphs projected the Diamondbacks to lead the Giants in batting WAR by 1.4 wins. The Diamondbacks’ batting advantage will likely be higher than the projection. Comparing the teams’ spring training OPS through March 14 at two positions shows that the Diamondbacks will likely compare more favorably than the Depth Charts project.
- Third base. The Diamondbacks’ Josh Rojas (OPS .762)/Evan Longoria (OPS .185) are much better than the Giants’ David Villar (OPS .214). Instead of the Diamondbacks having 1-2 better WAR, the Depth Charts projected them with an unlikely 0.3 worse WAR.
- Center field. The Diamondbacks’ Alek Thomas (OPS .890) is better than the Giants’ Mike Yastremski (OPS .464). Instead of the Diamondbacks having 1 to 1.5 better WAR, the depth charts projected them with an unlikely 0.1 better WAR.
In the preseason, several writers ranked the Diamondbacks above the Giants despite projections from PECOTA and ZiPS. The ZiPS projection included a negative caveat to the Giants’ projection of him.
The Diamondbacks are likely to benefit from at least one standout performance from a top prospect.
The Giants’ preseason injuries have degraded their defense (and possibly their offense) at shortstop, second base and outfield.
The spring training OPS indicated the Diamondbacks could earn more hitting WAR than projected on the Depth Charts, especially at shortstop and center field.
In answer to the question, the Diamondbacks will probably win more games.. Two big takeaways:
- Unless things go exactly as they hope despite the injuries, the Giants have a lower ceiling than the Diamondbacks’ projected wins.
- The Diamondbacks are likely to win more games than projected.