PECOTA 2018: Everything you need to know from the latest MLB projections
PECOTA foresees four superteams, four awful teams, and a bunch of interesting baseball
Although it doesn't feel like pitchers and catchers should be reporting anytime soon, that is indeed what will occur in the coming week. This, then, is also the time of the year when projection systems are rolled out across the internet, often to great debate as everyone tries to figure out just who will win what once regular-season play begins in late March.
True to form, Baseball Prospectus released on Wednesday its forecasted standings courtesy of PECOTA, the community's best-known projection system. While BP has dropped the "deadly accurate" tag previously associated with PECOTA, the system remains well regarded. As such, let's take a look at some of the most interesting team and individual projections.
Do note that this is for entertainment purposes as much as anything, and that no one is suggesting projection systems are perfect and/or infallible.
Superteams are super
Before Dave Cameron left FanGraphs to join the San Diego Padres front office, he theorized that the slow offseason has been caused in part because teams are conceding to the "superteams." Whether or not that's true, PECOTA does see four teams as being heads above the rest of the league -- notable, since projection systems are built with regression in mind.
The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers are each projected to win 99 games, while the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees check in at 97 and 96 victories. No other team is slated to win 90 or more games, though the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, and Arizona Diamondbacks are all pegged for the upper-80s.
That, for better or worse, is basically the playoff picture, according to PECOTA.
The race to the bottom is fierce
On the flip side, PECOTA also sees four teams finishing with fewer than 70 wins: the Miami Marlins and Kansas City Royals (66 apiece), the Detroit Tigers (68), and the Baltimore Orioles (69). It's worth noting PECOTA is almost always lower on the Royals and Orioles than it should be, due at least partially to their bullpen-heavy builds. Even so, it seems unlikely that those teams as currently constructed will cause PECOTA to look foolish as the summer unfolds.
Ohtani looks good
PECOTA sees Ohtani posting a rotation-best 3.45 ERA and being worth nearly three Wins Above Replacement Player. Not impressed? You should be -- that mark would be good for the 19th-highest among pitchers. What's more is that Ohtani is expected to produce a fair amount with his bat, too. PECOTA has Ohtani hitting .269/.332/.460 -- marks good for more than a half win in about 200 plate appearances, and a good deal better than those expected from Albert Pujols.
Alas, the much-improved Angels are slated to finish third in the American League West record with an 80-82 record.
Other items of note
- Ohtani's teammate, Mike Trout, is projected to lead all hitters in WARP. No surprise there. What is surprising is that Nationals shortstop Trea Turner is slotted in at third, behind Buster Posey. Turner is expected to gain 19 runs through his baserunning and defense. We'll see if he can stay on the field and make good on that projection.
- The Astros and Yankees are loaded. Houston has four of the top 15 hitters in baseball: Carlos Correa (seventh), George Springer (10th), Jose Altuve (14th), and Alex Bregman (15th). The Yankees, meanwhile, have three of the top 17: Gary Sanchez (ninth), Aaron Judge (16th), and Giancarlo Stanton (17th). There's good reason why many will be predicting a rematch between those clubs in the American League Championship Series.
- Beyond Turner, the most surprising individual projection belongs to Austin Barnes, the Dodgers catcher who is ranked as the third-best at the position, behind Posey and Sanchez. Much of Barnes' value stems from his .352 on-base percentage and 15 runs of defense. Yasmani Grandal also projects well, meaning the Dodgers are well-off behind the dish.
- There aren't as many surprises on the pitching side of things. Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer are expected to be the top four in the game. Robbie Ray, pegged for eighth, is probably the most shocking inclusion in the top-10.
So, that's baseball in 2018 according to PECOTA. Should be a fun year.
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