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Oct. 18, 2017 - Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

Max Rosenfeld

Happy PECOTA Day!

For diehard fans, PECOTA projections are the perfect foray into baseball season. So, in taking a look at each division, what should we take away from this year’s PECOTA projections?

Happy PECOTA day, baseball nerds! It’s officially that time of year–PECOTA, the highly regarded computer projection system developed by Baseball Prospectushas released their preseason predictions. The system gives us exact anticipated win-loss totals for the upcoming season and is typically pretty accurate, having correctly predicted all six of the 2017 division winners. The system even saw the demise of teams such as the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals and predicted the Los Angeles Dodgers to be the best team in baseball.

For diehard fans, PECOTA projections are the perfect foray into baseball season. By no means are they the end all be all, but the projections can certainly give us a better understanding of what to expect from teams heading into the new campaign. So, in taking a look at each division, what should we take away from this year’s PECOTA projections?

American League East

New York Yankees

96-66

Boston Red Sox

87-75

Tampa Bay Rays

84-78

Toronto Blue Jays

78-84

Baltimore Orioles

69-93

Predictably, PECOTA views the Yankees as the class of the East. Adding the reigning NL MVP to a team that came within one win of the World Series will certainly contribute to the notion that the Evil Empire has officially returned. It doesn’t hurt that the rest of the division hasn’t done too much to improve, either–especially considering Boston’s reluctance to add a big-time bat such as J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer.

Still, the Sox are projected to win 87 games and place as the top Wild Card in the American League. Interestingly, the system believes that Boston will square off with the Rays in that Wild Card game, which would have three teams from the East qualifying for the postseason, even in a year in which the division is considered “down.” PECOTA has been known to favor the Rays, an analytically inclined organization, in years past.

American League Central

Cleveland Indians

97-65

Minnesota Twins

81-81

Chicago White Sox

73-89

Detroit Tigers

68-94

Kansas City Royals

66-96

No surprises here. In the Central, it’s the Indians and everybody else. The Tribe return most of the crew that brought them to the World Series in 2016 and won the most in games in the American League in 2017 before falling to the Yankees in the ALDS. Despite Minnesota’s appearance in the Wild Card game a year ago, PECOTA does not view the Twins as a serious threat to Cleveland because of their lack of starting pitching.

The Royals seem to take on the brunt of PECOTA’s Central projections. Kansas City is preparing itself to lose much of the core that won them a World Series in 2015 and does not typically hit for much power, a trait that PECOTA usually favors.

American League West

Houston Astros

99-63

Seattle Mariners

83-97

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

80-82

Oakland Athletics

77-85

Texas Rangers

77-85

Kings stay kings in the West, according to PECOTA. The Astros have not only separated themselves from the rest of the division but likely from the rest of baseball by retaining the best offense in the game and adding All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole.

However, the rest of the division was not inclined to sit back and relax this offseason. The West was perhaps the busiest division in baseball this winter, seeing the Mariners add second baseman (and now center fielder) Dee Gordon and the Angels acquiring Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, shortstop Zack Cozart, and outfielder Justin Upton.

But PECOTA does not think it was enough. No team in the West is projected to qualify for the postseason, which would be especially devastating to the Mariners, who now hold the longest postseason drought in North American sports, and the Angels, who hope to woo Mike Trout prior to the end of his contract. The time is now for these teams, and it appears as if starting pitching will decide whether or not they are good enough.

National League East

Washington Nationals

89-73

New York Mets

81-81

Philadelphia Phillies

78-84

Atlanta Braves

76-86

Miami Marlins

66-96

Pretty run of the mill stuff as far as the NL East goes. The Nationals are clearly the best team in the division and should win it comfortably, though PECOTA sees the Mets as their greatest competition. The Mets will rely heavily on veteran everyday players and oft-injured starting pitchers, which hurts their case to seriously contend with Washington.

PECOTA seems to think that the Phillies and Braves still a year or two away from truly competing with the rest of the National League, though it would come as a surprise to no one if either team was able to hang in the Wild Card race into September.

The Marlins, understandably, are seen as the worst team in baseball following Derek Jeter’s complete roster overhaul. Miami is going for the same tanking strategy that paid off for the Astros and Chicago Cubs in recent years. Jeter’s legacy as an executive depends on the success of this plan.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

89-73

St. Louis Cardinals

84-78

Milwaukee Brewers

83-79

Pittsburgh Pirates

78-84

Cincinnati Reds

74-88

Just a few seasons ago, the Central was a division that saw its third-place team win 97 (!) games. The Central is now far from where it used to be.  But each of the last three National League pennants has been clinched at Wrigley Field, and the Cardinals are a proud organization that will not accept failure for another season, as indicated by their trade for All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna. It’s going to take a lot to upend the Cubs as division champions, but as the Brewers proved a year ago, it is not impossible to hang in the race.

National League West

Los Angeles Dodgers

99-63

Arizona Diamondbacks

86-76

San Francisco Giants

84-78

Colorado Rockies

78-84

San Diego Padres

73-89

PECOTA thinks that the Dodgers will be the only team in the National League to win 90 games or more, pegging LA for 99 victories. It then sees the Diamondbacks, despite the expected loss of J.D. Martinez, to win 86 games and qualify as the number one Wild Card team. PECOTA also projects 84 wins for the new-look Giants, which would have them in a virtual tie for the second Wild Card with the Cardinals. It appears as though the system does not feel strongly about Colorado’s chances to make the postseason for the second straight year.

The West is likely the best division in baseball, highlighted by the reigning pennant winners and a club that has won three of the last seven World Series championships. This success should continue in 2018 barring any major setbacks. In a crowded National League, almost any team in the middle area of PECOTA’s projections will have a chance to make the playoffs. It will come down to mid-season moves, injuries, and a whole lot of luck.

Rejoice, baseball fans. Spring is just about here.

Main Photo: Oct. 18, 2017 – Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

Max is a student at Saint Joseph's University where he is a Communication Studies major. He is a contributing writer for Baseknock MLB and the host of the Payoff Pitch Podcast, which airs every Tuesday morning.

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