Thursday was PECOTA day in the internet baseball universe as it was the day Baseball Prospectus unveiled their annual projections. Perhaps most famous for calling Tampa s jump from worst to first in 2008, the PECOTAs have long been the standard by which other projections have been measured.
I m beginning to wonder what all the fuss is about.
This isn t about the Royals won-loss projection or about their position in the AL Central. Let s take care of this right away. Here s how PECOTA says the Central will play out.
At this stage in the winter, I can t quibble with the standings. The Twins added a couple decent bats and it seems like none of the five has done a damn thing to improve their rotations. So it figures the standings would remain bunched together for yet another season. They should call it the AL Status Quo.
However, I don t think that 82 wins will take the division. Last year, the Twins won the division with 87 wins and I expect the same number will be required, give or take a couple of wins. It also seems like either the White Sox or the Tigers could leapfrog the Twins and take control of the division. At this point, it wouldn t be a surprise if any of the top three teams took the crown. The Indians win total seems wildly optimistic.
The Royals projection seems correct.
So my issue with PECOTA this year isn t with the standings, although the won-loss records could use some adjusting. My issue is with the expected offense.
PECOTA is on the juice. Check how their projection for runs scored fits into the 10 year run scoring trend. The following graph represents the total runs scored in the AL for each year since 2000. The 2010 number on the right is the PECOTA projection.
Wow. It s projecting 11,656 runs will be scored in the American League. If that happened, it would be the second most since 2000, when 11,995 runs crossed the plate. After some uh, inflated numbers in the late nineties, the trend seems to be fewer runs. This projection calls for a substantial increase of over 700 runs. While that s a huge number, it s not unprecedented. A similar jump occurred from 95 to 96. (Don t worry, I adjusted for the shortened 95 season.)
Last year, the league average for runs scored was 781. PECOTA says every team but the Toronto Blue Jays will outscore the 2009 AL average.
It s the same story with OBP. Last year, the average AL team posted a .336 on base percentage. PECOTA says every team will top that except the poor Jays.
For the Royals they rank the top hitters as follows:
Butler – .297/.370/.489
DeJesus – .294/.379/.433
Callaspo – .298/.363/.422
Gordon – .263/.352/.433
Ankiel – .257/.323/.470
In short, they don t buy Callaspo s power surge from last year, they expect DeJesus to get on base at a much better clip than ever before (his career high OBP is .366) and they re looking for Gordon to basically repeat his 2008 season.
Overall, they have the Royals down for a .346 OBP and a .424 slugging percentage. Those are both big increases from 2009 when they posted a .318 OBP and a .405 slugging percentage. Objectively, I ask you to look at this lineup compared to last year s and tell me if you think they ve improved that much. I ll go ahead and call my shot right now and say they ll be within five points of both stats. They re not going to improve their OBP by 28 points. Not with Yuniesky Betancourt and Jason Kendall anchoring the bottom of the order. That s insane.
How about the pitching? Would you be interested to know they project a 4.82 ERA and 1.51 WHIP for Gil Meche? Or more alarmingly, a 4.01 ERA and 1.35 WHIP for Zack Greinke?
Are you kidding?
If Greinke has an ERA over 3.50, I ll be so depressed I won t be able to get out of bed. That s a helluva regression.
But hang on. Do you know what PECOTA projected for Greinke in 2009? A 4.01 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP! Whew!
OK. This isn t meant to bash PECOTA. All projections have their hits and misses. This is mostly for fun and fantasy baseball players anyway. The BP crew does a nice job getting this info out and standing behind what they do. I can respect that, even if I don t put much stock in it. The offensive numbers they are projecting for 2010 just seem way too high to be realistic. Again, I’m only looking at the league as a whole and the Royals as individuals. There just seem to be some elevated OBP numbers for nearly everyone on the Royals.
Personally, I ve moved on to CHONE for my projections. Of all the projections I revisit, they seem to be closest to the mark with the greatest frequency. For 2010, they have Greinke at a 3.33 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Yeah, I like that one better.