JUPITER, Fla. -- Are the St. Louis Cardinals projection-proof?
Of course, we could argue that every team is, since the future is unknowable, but the Cardinals have tended to exceed the win expectations of computer projection systems in the past and they certainly hope they can this season. If they don’t, they’ll be left at home in the playoffs.
FanGraphs, which employs a blend of two of the larger projection systems in the public sphere, Steamer and ZiPS, has them winning 84 games, 10 fewer than the Chicago Cubs and not enough to get into the postseason, even as a wild card.
Some Cardinals were surprised to hear the computer thinks they’re only slightly better than mediocre considering they were ravaged with injuries last season and won 100 games. Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright are healthy and the team is hopeful Yadier Molina will return by, or shortly after, Opening Day.
“We won 100 games with half the people in the room that we have here,” Matt Carpenter said.
In 2014, FanGraphs projected the Cardinals to win 89 games. They won 90. In 2015, it expected them to win 87 games, 13 short of the mark.
“Those things also have people like me hitting .260 with nine homers,” Carpenter said. “I’m going to guarantee you that I’ll hit better than my projected stats. I don’t buy into it. I believe that they’re always kind of not very accurate, first off, and we know what we’re capable of with this group of people.”
The general lack of respect from both computer and human analysts is becoming something of a theme around Cardinals camp. Manager Mike Matheny said he has kept vague track of what the projections and national pundits are saying about his team and the NL Central, but hasn’t yet used it in a motivational message. He reserves the right to change his mind.
“I don’t deny it, but I don’t make any more of it than I need to. I let myself get down here and interact with the guys before I put together the messaging,” Matheny said. “If I feel that they’re concerned and worried about what our projections are, then I’ll address it. If I feel like they believe we’re being slighted, I’ll address it.
“We don’t care, because we’re not asking for people to give us high projections. We’re asking ourselves to go out and do our talking on the field. I realize for our fan base and everybody who follows this game, it’s fun to try to put the projections together and take the data, but the data doesn’t tell the whole story.”