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February 2, 2011

BP Unfiltered

A few quick words about PECOTA

by Colin Wyers

Let's not bury the lead: PECOTA spreadsheets will be available on Monday.

We know you're anxious for the release, and there are probably a few of you that will be displeased with any announcement that isn't "today." PECOTA is by far the most anticipated projection system of its kind that I know of, and I just want to say that we don't take that honor lightly. So we want to make sure that when we get PECOTA to you, it is totally worthy of the expectations you have for it.

This will be very nearly the culmination of months of effort for a lot of us here - but it won't be final, of course. PECOTA will continue to update not only through the start of the season, but throughout the season. And these will not be partial updates - we are going to be running the entire PECOTA process and deliver you the same class of PECOTA projections that we've been delivering in the offseason.

But let's not leave you entirely without something to wet your beaks with, shall we? Typically, we offer forecasts of what we think will happen, or at least something that represents the most likely set of outcomes. In this case we offer a forecast simply of what might have been. This is what PECOTA sees Strasburg as having been capable of, before his injury:

STEPHEN STRASBURG Born: 7/20/1988   Age: 22 Bats: R   Throws: R   Height: 6' 4"   Weight: 220  
Breakout: 23%   Improve: 45%   Collapse: 23%   Attrition: 11%   MLB: 87%   Comparables: Mark Prior, Yovani Gallardo, Clayton Kershaw (54)
2011 WAS MLB 22 11 4 0 23 23 1222 97 9 35 140 2.5 10.3 48% .296 1.08 2.42 2.63 5.1

I think something like this is as good an example of any as to why PECOTA captures the imagination. PECOTA, as has been pointed out many times before, is nothing but an algorithm (really a set of them). It is capable of nothing more or less than what it's told to do; it possesses no imagination. But it's capable in a very real sense of powering our imagination - of not just projecting the future, but allowing us to visualize it. The comparables represent a lot of tedious number crunching (measuring Euclidean distance in n-th dimensional space, if you want to be precise).

But the PECOTA does something that surprises us - and tells us that Stephen Strasburg is like no other player more than Mark Prior. And we knew that in our hearts, didn't we? (And no, I didn't provide PECOTA with any special hints in this case - like any proud parent, once our children grow up we have to let them make their own decisions, and this was PECOTA's own decision.) And I think there's a very real power in that.

Expect to hear from me again tomorrow, with another little preview of what PECOTA's saying this year. And I hope you'll join me in, for once, looking forward to a Monday.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

34 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Sweet! How soon until the PFM is running?

Thanks Colin & crew.

Feb 02, 2011 20:16 PM
rating: 7

Looking forward to Monday, Colin!
But, pray tell, what does the "(54)", after Kershaw's name stand for?

Feb 02, 2011 20:24 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

That's the average sim score (expressed with 100 as perfectly similar and 0 as not at all similar) of the player's top comps. In this case, what it's telling us is that Strasburg's comps are of about average strength. (Average for all players PECOTA considers, that is. PECOTA will typically see far more minor leaguers than major leaguers, and MLB regulars will typically have better sim scores than that.)

Feb 02, 2011 20:30 PM
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

One of the new things we added to the book this year.

Feb 02, 2011 20:48 PM

Colin: there ya go, just as Nate did, attributing a persona to PECOTA. PECOTA "makes decisions." We look forward to what this new generation will do.

Feb 02, 2011 21:07 PM
rating: 1

I hope you can provide detail at some point about the process you plan to use to generate in-season projections. That is, how much to weight current season stats vs. pre-season projection in coming up with a rest-of-season projection.

Also, would love to see any work you have done to test how well the current PECOTA algorithm has performed in backtesting -- similar to what Swartz did in his article about SIERA.

Feb 02, 2011 21:54 PM
rating: 2

Any idea when PFM will debut this year?

Feb 02, 2011 23:54 PM
rating: 4
Rowen Bell

As a Gallardo owner/fan, I don't know whether to be elated or frightened with his appearance next to the names of Strasburg and Prior....

Feb 03, 2011 06:50 AM
rating: 0

I guess its better than March but you missed your "earlier than last year" projection.

Still looking forward to it but will have to go through our auction and the beginning of our draft without it :(

Feb 03, 2011 07:27 AM
rating: -1
Marc Normandin

When is your auction/draft?

Feb 03, 2011 07:29 AM
rating: 0

We meet the first weekend in February every year. I know, its annoyingly early. Typically BP has published a weighted-means spreadsheet with a few days to a week to spare.

Feb 03, 2011 12:19 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

As I remember from last year, PECOTA was out around when the annual came out, but had problems with its depth charts and some relief pitcher projections. I'm assuming those are ironed out for this year, so I don't mind if it's released a bit later.

Feb 03, 2011 23:18 PM
rating: 0

My apology in advance for reacting to last year's PECOTA problems.

If Monday's release is intended to have a lot of errors, please label it "Beta" and give us an estimate of when the "Beta" label will be removed. On the other hand, if it is intended to be the real thing with minimal errors, then don't claim afterward that it should have been labeled "Beta" and that subscribers shouldn't have expected it to be accurate.

Feb 03, 2011 07:36 AM
rating: -1

Maybe a tad early to worry? I was handing out pitchforks and torches last year until supplies ran out, but I strongly sense that BP was wounded by the fire and pointy parts and strived mightily to avoid a rerun, as indicated by Colin's involvement.

I'd bet heavily against a 2010 replay. Let's wait until/unless I'm proven wrong to clean the blood off the pitchforks and charge the mound, eh?

Looking forward to the spreadsheet!


Feb 03, 2011 07:49 AM
rating: 2

Oh, I feel that Colin's involvement is a good thing.

On the other hand, last year was supposed to be better due to Clay's increased involvement, and that didn't turn out too well.

Feb 04, 2011 05:30 AM
rating: 0

O don't think that BP ever *intends* to have a lot of errors, even in a BETA run. Anticipate errors, maybe, but intend, never.

Feb 03, 2011 07:56 AM
rating: 2
Jim Humdingding

Good deal, even it's one day to late to settle my Scoresheet team's Andres Torres v. Brett Gardner debate. Looking forward to seeing it.

Feb 03, 2011 07:44 AM
rating: 1

And one day late for me to decide on Seth Smith vs. Andres Torres.

Feb 03, 2011 12:16 PM
rating: 0

It is a bit disappointing for them to be one day too late to help the scoresheet folks -- but I'm sure we will be able to make decisions on our own. CAIRO is out already, and there are some partial ZiPS.

Feb 03, 2011 15:57 PM
rating: -1
Marc Normandin

You can always e-mail the fantasy authors with any questions you have.

Feb 04, 2011 05:12 AM
rating: 0

Maybe a dumb question, but does "PECOTA spreadsheets" also mean PFM will be up and running on Monday?

Feb 03, 2011 08:28 AM
rating: 2

Breaking News: CDC to investigate emerging flu epidemic. Thousands of baseball fans simultaneously fall sick on Monday.

Feb 03, 2011 08:47 AM
rating: 8

and millions of football fans too.....

Feb 03, 2011 11:06 AM
rating: 2

Is eBABIP going to be incorporated into PECOTA?

Feb 03, 2011 10:39 AM
rating: 1

I said that Strasburg was the next Prior when I saw him pitch live in Syracuse in his AAA debut...

Feb 03, 2011 11:00 AM
rating: 0

How are midseason PECOTA updates made? Do they incorporate "strength of schedule". I remember looking at last year's late season updates and seeing very peculiar results. It would be good to have some clarification.

Feb 03, 2011 12:16 PM
rating: 1
Brian Cartwright

I'll have to point out to Tango that Pecota projects Strasburg for a 2.42 ERA (if he would have pitched in 2011) while Oliver says 2.50

Feb 03, 2011 16:33 PM
rating: 1

I started a thread on my blog.

Feb 03, 2011 22:38 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

2.50 ERA coming back from Tommy John surgery would be impressive... but that being said, I think people are more curious about how many innings he'll throw and how many people he walks as he recovers from TJ.

Feb 03, 2011 23:19 PM
rating: -1
dREaDS Fan

Echoing earlier question: when PFM?

Feb 03, 2011 19:28 PM
rating: 1
BP staff member Ben Murphy
BP staff

For those interested, there is another related update regarding PFM:

Feb 04, 2011 08:10 AM

Does Pecota only extend to 2011? Or does it project further into the future?

Feb 08, 2011 07:57 AM
rating: 0
Steve Paulo

So, the Depth Charts and PECOTA Cards have different numbers than the Weighted Means Spreadsheet. Will we see an update to the WMS any time soon? It's been out a month...

Mar 08, 2011 10:01 AM
rating: 0

I actually had the same questions. I am somewhat new around here but I was expecting the Weighted Means and the 50% PECOTA to be somewhat similiar but they are very different. Is my understanding of the purpose of the 2 totally off or is tehre an update in the works?

Mar 23, 2011 15:07 PM
rating: 0
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