FanGraphs 2023 projections are promising for the Astros
FanGraphs has released their annual ZiPS projections for the American League. As should surprise absolutely none of us, Houston is projected to come out on top.
The Astros are projected to finish with a 90-72 record, which is the best projected record in the AL. The model predicts the Yankees will win 89 games, the Blue Jays will win 88 and both the Mariners and Angels will win 85 games a piece.
Houston is given a 50.2% chance of winning the division, a 78.2% chance of making the playoffs and a 9.1% chance of winning the World Series. All three of these marks are best in the American League.
Interestingly enough, and perhaps a promising sign, the Astros were also projected to win 90 games in the 2022 ZiPS model. Of course, Houston beat the models by 16 games, winning 106 en route to a World Series title.
FanGraphs' Dan Szymborski addressed the similar projection:
"It may seem like ZiPS gives the Astros the same projection every year, but a big part of that is that the computer sees some combination of the Mariners, Angels, and Rangers inching closer each year. With the team’s high-end offensive talent and deep pitching staff, I’d consider the median projection a bit of a disappointment, but it’s just that the hyenas are nipping a bit at the lion’s feet."- Dan Szymborski
I believe Dan is correct here. A 90-win projection for the Astros feels low. The Astros won 84 games in the 2016 season, and have not won less than 96 in a full season since. This is a machine that consistently churns out 100+ wins. Yes, Justin Verlander has moved on and yes, divisional foes have improved, but is that cause for a 16-game regression?
Seattle, Los Angeles and even Texas will all be much improved in 2023. That said, Houston won't play these three teams 19 times a piece as they have in previous years. Under the new schedule changes, Houston actually has the easiest schedule in baseball based on opponents' 2022 records.
It seems very unlikely that Houston, having added José Abreu and a healthy Michael Brantley to the lineup plays the easiest schedule in the MLB and somehow lose 16 more games. But for a sport as superstitious as baseball, it's not exactly discomforting to see the same projections Houston received in a World Series winning season.
90 wins or 110 wins, all that matters is if Houston hoists the Commissioner's Trophy at the end of the season. According to FanGraphs, no American League foe has a better chance of doing just that.