Mets ZiPS projections come up a little light

One of the internet’s popular baseball projection systems is ZiPS, a mathematical-based compilation produced by ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski.

What is ZiPS?

A few weeks ago Szymborski told Jayson Stark that his system pegged the Mets for 68 wins (a more realistic look than the best-case scenario we published).

Today, Szymborski released his player-by-player projections.

ZiPS tends to run on the conservative side, basing its pick on a player’s last four seasons. Here are the projections we found to be most interesting:

David Wright (.274 BA, .357 OBP, .449 Slug pct, 19 HR, 4.0 WAR)

We told you ZiPS is a conservative guess, and this seems very much like one based on Wright’s 2012.

But Wright has a couple things working against him in terms of a more favorable projection, most notably his recent injury history (the back injury) and the fact that his defensive numbers were considerably better last season than they’d been in a long time.

Also remember that as good as Wright was, his slashline (batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage) was .258/.334/.416 with 10 home runs after the All-Star break.

A more favorable view on Wright comes from Bill James, who pegs him at .302/.392/.488, with 21 home runs, which would be a near-match for his 2012.

Travis d’Arnaud (.257 BA, .305 OBP, .424 Slug pct, 13 HR, 1.9 WAR)

I asked a Mets fan what the team needs d’Arnaud to develop into for you to feel comfortable with trading R.A. Dickey for him.

We eventually settled on him evolving into Brian McCann.

McCann hit .278 with a .745 OPS and averaged a home run every 36 at-bats in his debut season, then had his breakthrough season in Year 2.

ZiPS has d’Arnaud’s OPS coming in a little lower than that (.729) but with a home run every 31 at-bats.

That seems like a good starting point from which D’Arnaud can develop.

Other projections of Note

Ike Davis (.245 BA, .328 OBP, .453 Slug pct, 21 HR, 1.9 WAR)

ZiPS likewise takes a conservative route on Davis, though fans will be pleased to see his batting average jump to a more tolerable number.

His projected power numbers don’t necessarily match fan expectation levels of 35 to 40 home runs, partly due to a low-end guess at his plate-appearance total (491) and partly due to Davis’ 19 home runs in 601 plate appearances in his rookie season, 2010.

But if you prefer a more aggressive take on Davis, point to this:

Davis hit 20 home runs in 251 at-bats after the All-Star Break last season, or one home run every 12.5 at-bats. A slight drop-off to a home run every 15 at-bats would give Davis a 35-home run season if he managed the same number of at-bats he had in 2012.

Zack Wheeler (3.81 ERA, 141 2/3 IP, 136 K, 1.38 WHIP, 1.9 WAR)

The most notable thing about Wheeler’s projection is not necessarily those numbers, but who ZiPS views as Wheeler’s most favorable comparable player -- former Pirates and Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt.

The question then inevitably becomes: Which version of Schmidt will Wheeler be? The one who had a 4.39 ERA in about 800 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates, or the one who was often dominant and posted a 3.36 ERA in 162 starts with the San Francisco Giants.

A first-year like ZiPS projects seems to put Wheeler on track for the latter, and that’s promising.

Matt Harvey (3.80 ERA, 163 1/3 IP, 159 K, 1.33 WHIP, 2.2 WAR)

ZiPS likes Harvey to be the Mets' best pitcher in 2013, with numbers that are actually very similar to Wheeler’s.

We looked at two other projection systems on Harvey -- the one from James and one from fantasy baseball expert Ron Shandler, and both forecast Harvey’s ERA to be in the same range.

So why are none of these systems pegging Harvey for another sub-3 ERA? (He had a 2.73 ERA with the Mets in 59 1/3 innings last season.)

Harvey’s .262 batting average on balls in play was considerably lower than he’d shown in 46 minor league starts, and his component numbers (strikeouts, walks, hits allowed, home runs allowed) suggested an ERA more likely to be between 3.30 and 3.70.

Thus, Harvey takes a little bit of the hit for that in 2013.

For the full list of projections, you can find them here.