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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Month Of Predictionary: Baseball Prospectus Offers Its Projections

Baseball Prospectus recently ran a pair of projections for the upcoming season, the first by Nate Silver using PECOTA. Once more, he sees the AL East coming down to the Yankees (94-68) and Red Sox (93-69), in a very tight race with the Blue Jays (79-83) and Orioles (77-85) not particularly entering into it, with the Devil Rays (69-93) doing what they always do. Silver tells us that PECOTA dislikes the White Sox to repeat -- in fact, it has them as a fourth-place 82-80 team -- and picks the 88-74 Indians to win their weak division, followed by the 84-78 Twins and the 83-79 Tigers, with the 61-101 Royals garnering their fourth 100+ loss season in the last five years.

In the AL West, Silver's number crunching likes the A's as 93-69 -- and then an incredible twelve games behind them, the 81-81 Angels. But Silver hedges his bets:

It shouldn’t be considered a surprise that the A’s rank where they do. Oakland did exactly what it needed to do this winter with the acquisitions of Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas, and the pitching staff projects to be the best in baseball. Vegas has the A’s installed as slight favorites to take the division. But the margin of victory that PECOTA is projecting is rather stunning.

This has mostly to do with the Angels’ offense. No disrespect meant to Tim Salmon, who spawned his way onto my BP-Kings roster, but when you’re seriously talking about making Tim Salmon your everyday designated hitter, your offense has some Issues. In all seriousness, take away Vladimir Guerrero, and the Angels might be outhit by their PCL affiliate. Of course, this projection could underrate the Angels, but only if they get the message and let players like Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales and Dallas McPherson work their way into significant roles this season.

The fact that I think the above will happen -- and the kids will succeed, though not necessarily at first -- is why I'm a little more sanguine on the Angels' offense than his projection.

Moving to the Senior Circuit, PECOTA has this to say about the NL East:

NL East      W     L
Mets        88    74
Phillies    86    76
Braves      85    77
Marlins     71    91
Nationals   70    92
Silver writes
The Mets have probably bought their way to a division title. I don’t mean for that to come across as jaded: this is a franchise that identified exactly what its most pressing needs were, that stood to gain a great deal from fulfilling these needs, and went ahead and closed the loop. That is exactly what big market revenues are supposed to allow you to do, and the Mets did it, while teams like the Cubs flunked the exam.
In the NL Central:

NL Central    W      L
Cardinals    86     76
Cubs         85     77
Brewers      84     78
Astros       81     81
Pirates      79     83
Reds         78     84
The winner comes as no surprise, but the Cards are fading into twilight; Jim Edmonds' recent complaints about his foot and elbow, and his drop-off in production are signs that the team isn't as hale as it was even two years ago, and its outfield no longer as scary. On the NL West:

NL West      W     L
Dodgers     87    75
Giants      80    82
Padres      78    84
D'Backs     77    85
Rockies     74    88
The Dodgers borrow storylines from both the Mets and the Cubs. They’ve spent money wisely in places -- well, in one place -- and they can’t help but be less unlucky, assuming that they’re out from whatever strange hex that Alex Cora or Kazuhisa Ishii put them under last season. I think this projection places too much faith in a full-fledged Eric Gagne comeback. On the other hand, the Dodgers are loaded in the upper minors, which should give them some trading chips even if they don’t get some callups from guys like Chad Billingsley this season.

Every year the BPro crowd has a group experiment voting for the winners of the various divisions. This year, the concensus for the AL West is A's-Angels-Rangers-Mariners, which is what I expected as well. Of the voters, only Kevin Goldstein and Keith Woolner picked the Angels to finish first, while Christina Kahrl (who correctly predicted the Angels to finish first last year) sees them as a third-place team this year, behind both the A's and Rangers, as does Jonah Keri. The other races:
       AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

        AL East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

The real numbers start coming in next week!

This is actually predicting the Blue Jays to be a game WORSE than last year? They lost Halliday for half the season and they now have a better catcher, better hitting 3rd baseman, a solid closer, and another potential frontline starter.

As for the Angels, how is Tim Salmon being the everyday designated hitter a bad thing? In order for that to happen, things actually have to be going reasonably well for the team: GA is either healthy or on the DL, Erstad is either healthy or on the DL (neither being in a state of poor health but can actually play), and Salmon is actually hitting well. Salmon has only had two seasons where he was below league average in OPS and both of those had something to do with shoulder and leg problems.

People might need to start making organizational corrections to these predictions (based on how teams have tended to fare vs. the original prediction).
It's truly astonishing that these projections assume Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas, both malcontents coming off major injuries, will perform just fine for Oakland while they refuse to acknowledge that the Angels' offense will be much better with Kotchman entering his prime (replacing Finley in the lineup), Anderson hopefully healthy, Rivera playing more, and maybe the bonus of a productive Salmon. If McPherson finds his stroke, that's even more offense.

Not to mention quite possibly the best starting rotation in the league. And quite possibly the best bullpen too.

The Angels will finish at least ten games ahead of Oakland, assuming they don't suffer catastrophic injuries.
They think the Blue Jays will be worse because they destroyed thier infield defense, which let pitchers like Gustavo Chacin and Josh Towers look better than they are.

Anonymous - Seriously, 10 games?
10 games does seem a bit much. Somebody made the point the other day that the A's are naturally going to be picked by BP as both organizations share similar views of what will make a good ballclub. The Angels follow a somewhat different path, so natually BP ranks them lower down. It's hard to argue with success, though.

-The other Anon, who's predicting the Angels to win, but by less than 5 games.
hahahah, "at least 10 games". if you want to put your money where your mouth is, i'll take that bet.

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