It’s PECOTA day at Baseball Prospectus, as the site unveils its annual projection system. It’ll take a good long while to deconstruct everything in there, but I’d like to take a quick crack at it and put some things on your radar. When you’ve got some time, you should really dig in. It’s fascinating stuff.
Up front, I’ll note that projection systems are definitionally conservative toward the mean, and, in my experience, that’s especially been true for PECOTA. You don’t see absolutely enormous projections, and you usually also don’t see abysmal regressions projected, either. Players who are projected for 3+ WARP (that’s BP’s version of WAR) are expected to be really good players. Your context on that: Bryce Harper is projected for 5.1 WARP. Mike Trout is at 7.3.
All right, on to some things …
- The Cubs, overall, are projected for 92 wins, which strikes me as really fair projection. Given how difficult baseball is to predict, and given that you can’t assume outliers in an on-paper projection, 92 wins is a lot of wins. When things actually sort out over the course of the season, I could easily see the Cubs winning many more games than that. But 92 feels like a pretty good over/under line.
- It’s not the highest win total in baseball, though. That honor belongs to the team I keep trying to tell people looks really strong on paper: the Dodgers, at 94 wins. How do they get there? Like I’ve said: crazy depth. Money helps on that front, but so does an excellent big-league-ready prospect pool. (It doesn’t hurt that PECOTA thinks Yasmani Grandal (5.9) will be worth more than Clayton Kershaw (5.1), though …. )
- The Cubs are tied with the Indians – yes, the Indians – for the second best record, behind the Dodgers. PECOTA adores the Indians’ pitching staff, both the rotation and the bullpen. Understandable.
- The Cardinals project for just 82 wins (which is a defensible projection, but I don’t see that), and the Pirates for just 79 wins, two better than the Brewers (love ya PECOTA, but that’s not defensible – something is broken there). (UPDATE: Yup, looks like something was broken. The Pirates have been bumped up to a more defensible 83 wins.)
- As for the Cubs, specifically, Kris Bryant projects as the best overall player (4.8 WARP), with all of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester worth roughly the same (3.6 to 3.8 WARP). Given the conservatism in the projections, I take that as a good bit of love for everyone in that group except Arrieta. On his front, given how good we know he can be, I take that instead as caution, and not quite yet buying in on his next level performance. For what it’s worth, Arrieta was worth 4.7 WARP in 2014, and 7.4 WARP in 2015. If he’s healthy, I’m very much buying that he’s a next level guy.
- The rest of the pitching staff lands about where you’d expect it, and I don’t immediately see any big surprises.
- You probably noticed that I didn’t mention Jason Heyward in that group above – that’s because he’s a clear tier down from them, which is really strange. PECOTA is projecting him well below his career averages offensively for some reason, and must not be buying that he’ll be any good in center field. At 2.6 WARP, I’ll take the over. By a lot.
- PECOTA thinks Tommy La Stella could be a really nice bench player, with a .269/.342/.380 line.
- I could go on, but I don’t want to just regurgitate everything that’s there in the projections. Check ’em out, and let’s discuss.