Phillies 2020 PECOTA win projection is just 77 games

Phillies 2020 PECOTA win projection is just 77 games

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.

The criteria:

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.

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Former Phillie Ben Lively shares his quarantine experience in South Korea

Former Phillie Ben Lively shares his quarantine experience in South Korea

This wasn't how Ben Lively envisioned his first full year in South Korea.

The former Phillie is now living in Daegu, where the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea began and quickly spread. After 14 days by himself looking at the same four walls, Lively is finally able to practice again today. 

"I'm just ready to get out of my apartment. It's been 14 days straight," Lively told NBC10's John Clark. "So far it's been ... now I know what to do when I'm bored by myself in an apartment for two weeks.

"We had spring training in Okinawa, Japan, then we actually got sent back to America for like a week and a half. We came back and the next day they followed the Korean law saying that all foreign travelers have to be quarantined 14 days just to go outside. 

"If you got caught outside, there was a chance you could be deported. Wouldn't be good."

Tuesday was Lively's last day under quarantine. He was given a COVID-19 test the second day he was back in South Korea (March 26) and was re-tested this week. He says all of his teammates foreign to Korea tested negative.

Lively's Korean teammates have not been tested, per his knowledge. "I think the only time they test a person that has been here is when they have symptoms," he said.

South Korea has seemingly done a better job of containing coronavirus than any country in the world. As of April 8, the country has seen 10,384 reported cases and 200 total deaths. The number of new cases per day has ranged between 47 and 152 since March 12, according to Worldometer.

Opening day for the Korea Baseball Organization was supposed to be March 28, two days after MLB's opening day. Instead, the KBO is just opening practices back up to its foreign players and hopes to open its season by early May.

"The facilities we have at our field, there's going to be no pedestrians or fans, and they clean it every day," Lively said. "You don't necessarily have to wear a mask there, it's just going to be our team, small group of people. When you're going around though you've definitely got to wear a mask."

On Tuesday, an ESPN report outlined an ambitious potential plan by MLB to play regular-season games in empty stadiums in Arizona by late-May or early-June. The commissioner's office released a statement later in the day saying that numerous options are under consideration.

In South Korea, teams still plan to travel as of now.

"We don't have anything like that here. We're gonna travel, go city to city," Lively said. "It's definitely slowing down here, there's barely any new cases here now. They have it on pretty good lockdown over here. We still have no idea what the plan is after the games, whether we go back to the hotel or keep traveling back and forth."

Lively is eager to compete and carve out his role. He spent three seasons in the majors, pitching 112⅓ of his 120 innings with the Phillies. He made 15 starts for the 2017 Phils and went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA.

The Phillies acquired him on New Year's Eve 2015 from the Reds for Marlon Byrd. In Lively's first year in the Phillies' system, he went 18-5 with a 2.69 ERA, splitting time between Double A and Triple A. He was let go by the Phillies late in the 2018 season and went to the Royals and Diamondbacks before his release in Arizona last August.

In Korea, Lively is teammates with former Phillie David Buchanan, who pitched here in 2014 and 2015. Buchanan lives a building over from Lively.

"Buchanan had a plan for his wife and kid to come over here the first week we started," Lively said. "I can see how tough it is on him. ... I tell everyone it still feels like a movie, can't really grasp what's going on still."

The rest of the baseball world is watching Korea to see how the KBO fares in its attempt to bring baseball back by May.

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Phillies' Andrew McCutchen's relatable facemask story is amazing, and helpful

Phillies' Andrew McCutchen's relatable facemask story is amazing, and helpful

We say it often, but right now pro athletes really are just like us: learning how to deal with social distancing strategies and facemask recommendations.

Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen is working on getting healthy in case the Major League Baseball season begins this spring, but he also needs to hit the store now and then for everyday supplies. 

After Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf advised all Pennsylvania residents to wear facemasks in public to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, McCutchen threw together a "bootleg" facemask to protect himself and those around him, but he was feeling a little... embarrassed by how DIY the mask was.

That is, until he saw what everyone else was wearing:

Between the acting, the wardrobe changes, and the sound effects, that's some Oscar-worthy work from McCutchen. 

(Will he start challenging Matisse Thybulle for the title of Content King?)

Outside of giving us a laugh, McCutchen also makes a good point and sends an important message: We're all dealing with this different world as one team.

While you might think putting on a facemask looks funny, or is a little uncomfortable, you're certainly not alone - even baseball stars are dealing with it - so let's tackle this, together.

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