Can the Oliver projected standings be right?

At the bottom of The Hardball Time’s Oliver forecasts page they have the 2012 projected standings. They were updated yesterday, but I know this was done before the Brewers signed Aramis Ramirez.

National League Central
Team Wins Losses
CIN 90 72
STL 88 74
MIL 86 76
CHN 82 80
HOU 65 97
PIT 62 100

Oliver projects 1.2 WAR for Ramirez so let’s increase the Brewers to 87 wins. I don’t have a problem with the Brewers being this low. If I recall correctly, some of the projections last year weren’t as optimistic as I was about them. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but in my opinion they’re clearly the best team in the division and that’s with or without Prince Fielder. Ignoring my opinions for a moment, the Cubs aren’t that far out.

By the time July rolled around the Cubs would be about 4 to 5 games behind the Reds. They’re contenders. Any team that close to the top would consider themselves in contention and are more likely to be buyers at the deadline than sellers. There are still a lot of free agents available and the Cardinals have a lot of money to spend.

Let’s say the Cubs do sign Fielder. Forget about the contract. That would improve them to about 86 wins. Maybe 87. Another addition or two and they could easily enter the season as a 90-win team according to Oliver. This can’t be right. Can it?

Looking over some of the Cubs projections it’s hard to figure out how Oliver has them at 82 wins. Here are the position players projected to provide more than 1 WAR:

Geovany Soto 623 125 29 0 21 143 72 .232 .325 .406 .323 2.4
Starlin Castro 623 175 33 8 6 79 32 .303 .338 .422 .332 2.4
Marlon Byrd 623 156 33 2 12 98 31 .272 .321 .406 .319 1

Those projections were published before the Cubs acquired David DeJesus and Ian Stewart. Oliver doesn’t think much of either. They have only .6 WAR for DeJesus and .4 WAR for Stewart. That’s 1 more win than Oliver projected out of Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu. Here are the pitchers:

Matt Garza 205 191 21 180 66 3.69 3.74 4
Ryan Dempster 205 207 23 183 78 4.36 4.01 2.4
Carlos Zambrano 200 198 19 157 88 4.34 4.19 2.4
Randy Wells 175 185 21 114 54 4.25 4.38 2.3
Sean Marshall 70 61 4 68 20 3.15 2.86 1.8
Carlos Marmol 70 50 3 90 43 3.63 3.03 1.4

Based on these projections it really makes you wonder why the Cubs front office is so focused on pitching, but that’s not relevant here.

Cincinnati has 6 position players projected for more than 1 WAR. They also have 3 others right at .9 WAR. They have 7 pitchers projected for more than 1 WAR and also 3 others at .9 (subscription required for both links).

It’s no surprise to see Oliver thinks much more highly of the Reds since they’re projected 8 more wins, but it’s a huge difference.

The Brewers have 9 pitchers and 3 position players. One of them is Ryan Braun who will more than likely be missing 50 games next year. So whatever increase they got from Ramirez is going to be eliminated with their loss of Braun.

The Cardinals have 5 position players and 8 pitchers projected to provide more than 1 WAR.

In total, the Cubs have 9 players at 1 WAR or more. The Reds have 13, but also have 6 at .9 WAR. The Brewers have 12 and the Cardinals 13.

This is a lazy way to look at it, but it does paint a picture that the Cubs pitching isn’t all bad and their offense has serious issues. It also shows us that adding another one or two valuable players would make them more equal to the top 3 than I had thought. That’s at least true based on the Oliver projections anyway. I’m less confident that will be true based on other projections.