Spring training camps are opening across baseball which means the optimism portion the baseball cycle will be in full force. Personally, it's my favorite time on the baseball calendar because players are loose, the weather is warming and storylines are fresh.
It's interesting though around these times to look for a dispassionate, unbiased projection of how a team or player will perform. The 2020 PECOTA MLB standings projections are out from Baseball Prospectus and have the Phillies going 77-85. This quickly caught the attention of many Phillies fans.
PECOTA is not the opinion of one person or a group of people. It's a statistical system that projects player and team performance. There is a reminder on the BP website that PECOTA does not “pick” a team to “win” any particular number of games. Rather, it identifies an estimated range of games a team might win and tells you the average of that fairly wide range.
1) Major-league equivalencies, to allow for minor-league stats to project how a player will perform in the majors;
2) Baseline forecasts, which use weighted averages and regression to the mean to produce an estimate of a player's true talent level;
3) A career-path adjustment, which incorporates information about how comparable players' stats changed over time.
Like any projection, you take it in but take it with a grain of salt. In 2019, PECOTA was at least eight games off with half of the league — the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Twins, Royals, Tigers, Astros, Angels, Rangers, Athletics, Braves, Marlins, Pirates, Dodgers and Rockies.
The 2019 projections for teams like the Brewers, Mets and White Sox were spot on.
Here's how it has the NL East shaking out:
1. Mets: 88 wins — 48% chance to win division — 75% chance to make playoffs
2. Nationals: 87 wins — 38% chance to win division — 69% chance to make playoffs
3. Braves: 83 wins — 12% chance to win division — 38% chance to make playoffs
4. Phillies: 77 wins — 2% chance to win division — 9% chance to make playoffs
5. Marlins: 71 wins — 0.2% chance to win division — 1% chance to make playoffs
"I think we're better than that," Phillies GM Matt Klentak said Thursday morning in Clearwater when asked about the 77-win projection.
In reality, the Phillies have better than a 2 percent chance to win the NL East. PECOTA is not advertising itself as the Holy Grail but there are certain factors that are simply immeasurable. It cannot project the improvement from Gabe Kapler and Chris Young to Joe Girardi and Bryan Price because things like leadership and tutelage and adjustments are unquantifiable. It cannot predict a slew of bullpen injuries to any team like the 2019 Phillies faced, or the freak ACL tear for Andrew McCutchen.
I threw out a Twitter poll last night asking fans for their 2020 Phillies win total. Results below. I'd describe this as cautious optimism from the fanbase, though I'm always curious how different these results would be if the respondents were only baseball fans outside Philadelphia.
Give me your 2020 Phillies win total.— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) February 11, 2020