CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Pebble Hunting: Watchi... (02/04)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Overthinking It: Searc... (02/03)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Overthinking It: Where... (02/12)
Next Article >>
Baseball Prospectus Ne... (02/04)

February 4, 2014

Overthinking It

Parsing the PECOTAs

by Ben Lindbergh

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.

a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

The PECOTA projections are here, which means that many of you will spend the day exploring the weighted-means spreadsheet and the Depth Charts in search of surprises and confirmations that it’s okay to crush on the players whose performance you’ve been awaiting all winter. That’s exactly what we do when PECOTA’s keepers deliver the first file to the staff; we just have a head start.

We’ll be offering plenty of PECOTA-related content between now and Opening Day, but today, a quick tour is in order. Here’s a look at a few of the most fascinating projections I’ve seen so far, followed by a look at the players projected to improve or decline most dramatically relative to 2013, the closest comparables for recently retired players, and a summary of the weakest projected positions on 2014 contenders.

These are a few of my favorite projections:

Billy Hamilton, Reds
The most common PECOTA complaint among fans who aren’t familiar with the way projections work is that the totals are too conservative. The best player is projected to be worth 6.8 WARP, the highest forecasted home run total is 36, and so on. We’re reasonably certain that the field will top those marks, but we wouldn’t project any particular player to do it; the one who does often has a little luck on his side, or some other factor that helps him outperform his true talent. And so the projected league leaders for the upcoming year almost always have lower rates and totals than the leaders in the previous season.

Billy Hamilton’s projection doesn’t play by those rules, which is why it makes me so happy. Hamilton is projected for 10.8 BRR. Last season’s projected leader (Coco Crisp) had a 7.0 in the spreadsheet, and last season’s actual leader (Matt Carpenter) finished with 8.4. It’s the same, obviously with steals: Hamilton projects to have 73 stolen bases, 21 more than last year’s leader. And PECOTA thinks he can do that despite a .299 OBP, which means he’ll A-B-G: Always Be Going.

PECOTA also likes Hamilton in the field, projecting him for 14 FRAA and a total of 2.9 WARP (Shin-Soo Choo’s projected WARP: 3.3). Since 1950, there have been only 24 player-seasons with a WARP of at least 2.9 and a TAv under .240. We’ve seen only two since 2000: Willy Taveras in 2006 and Jason Kendall in 2008 (Taveras’ season is a much closer match). Hamilton is on the verge of being one of the best things about baseball.

Joey Gallo, Rangers
Joey Gallo’s player comment in Baseball Prospectus 2014 says he “has as much raw power as anyone in professional baseball.” PECOTA agrees, making Giancarlo Stanton his top comp. If you add an AB/HR column to the spreadsheet and sort it in ascending order, you’ll see Gallo at the top, slated for a dinger every 14.1 at-bats…and a strikeout every 2.6 plate appearance.

Extended over 650 plate appearances, Gallo’s .208/.276/.459 line would translate to 42 home runs (to go with only 60 singles) and 255 strikeouts, 32 more than Mark Reynolds’ all-time single-season record. PECOTA was paying attention when Jason Parks said “the swing-and-miss is 80-grade.”

Obviously, we don’t expect the 20-year-old Gallo, who hasn’t played above A-ball, to make the majors in 2014; his ETA on the Rangers Top 10 list is late 2015, and that’s if he doesn’t implode spectacularly. It’s quite possible that Gallo will be a bust because of the whiffing, which is why he’s only no. 95 on the Top 101 despite his Stanton-esque power tool. But man, I wish his spreadsheet season were real.

In the meantime, have some homers:

Do we have any power prospect lovers in the audience? Oh, you’re also raising your hands. Another note for you, then: Javier Baez and Miguel Sano also appear very close to the top of the AB/HR column.

Mike O’Neill, Cardinals
Here’s one for the powerless prospect fans. Last summer, I spoke to Mike O’Neill and wrote an article about him called “The Plate Discipline-Only Prospect.” I probably exaggerated the “prospect” part. O’Neill, who turns 26 next week, is a 5’9” (listed) left fielder with an incredible eye and next to no power. He’s slapped, scrapped, and walked his way to Triple-A, where he posted a .402 on-base percentage and a .321 slugging percentage in 32 games at the end of last season.

PECOTA projects O’Neill at .270/.373/.340. That’s a 1.10 on-base:slugging ratio. Only six players since the last strike have had an OBP:SLG ratio of 1.10 or higher and an OBP of at least .370 in a minimum of 500 plate appearances:









Walt Weiss







Rickey Henderson







Otis Nixon


Blue Jays





Tom Goodwin







Reggie Willits







Luis Castillo






All of those players had something else going for them: Goodwin and Nixon were speedsters who played center; Henderson you’ve heard of; Castillo was a middle infielder who hit .300 with 20 steals; Weiss was a shortstop (whose complete power outage came with a team that collectively slugged .471). Willits, who was as old in 2007 as O’Neill will be this season, is the closest comp on this list (though J.B. Shuck is the closet on the spreadsheet), but even he had 27 steals. Over 500 plate appearances, O’Neill’s projection calls for four.

Willits was worth 2.4 WARP in ’07, but he made more plate appearances that year than he did the rest of his career. It seems unlikely that O’Neill will ever see as much action as Willits did, but we’ll always have his PECOTA.

Nolan Fontana, a 22-year-old shortstop in the Astros’ system makes O’Neill look like a slugger: PECOTA’s projection for him is .198/.342/.278.

Andrelton Simmons, Braves
PECOTA doesn’t expect Simmons to add to the power he showed in 2013, or have a higher TAv. It doesn’t think he’s an above-average baserunner. Our depth charts currently have him penciled in for fewer plate appearances than he had last year. And still he’s projected for 4.3 WARP. That’s the power of a really great glove. Simmons is projected for 22 FRAA. When you’re that good on defense, you only have to be adequate at the plate to be an impact player. If Simmons exceeds his offensive projection significantly (which isn’t that hard to imagine), he’ll be one of the best players in baseball.

Yuniesky Betancourt
If you sort the spreadsheet in ascending order of WARP, you have to scroll through a bunch of minor leaguers projected for the minimum 250 plate appearances before you get to an actual player. That player is Yuniesky Betancourt, who checks in at -0.5 WARP (in 332 plate appearances) with a .238/.268/.370 line. There’s a neatness to this: Betancourt was the worst-projected potential major leaguer, and now he’s not a major leaguer. Enjoy Orix, Yuni. If you find that you miss the majors, there'll still be someone who's surprisingly willing to pay you to play.

Mariano Rivera
PECOTA projects a 2.68 ERA with 39 saves, 8.1 strikeouts per nine, and 1.7 walks per nine for the Rivera age-44 season we’ll never know. “Rivera intends to dedicate himself to philanthropy and his churches since retiring from baseball,” Wikipedia says. How can he be so selfish?

This is unrelated, but life-affirming: Japhet Amador’s top comp is Walter Young. That makes me more confident in the comparables than anything else could. Another fun Astros fact: if we prorate all of Houston’s position players to 600 plate appearances, George Springer projects to have their highest WARP.

Comps for players who’ve left the league
On Monday’s podcast, Sam Miller and I discussed why we’d miss Yuni: his departure left the sabermetric community without a consensus player punchline. Might his comparables offer a substitute?

Probably not. Betancourt appears among the top three comps for only two active players, neither of whom seems perfectly positioned to take over his crown: Alcides Escobar and Freddy Galvis. Here are the active players most comparable to some notable recent retirees:

The most like Michael Young: Jhonny Peralta

The most like Ryan Theriot: Maicer Izturis, Jemile Weeks

The most like Lance Berkman: Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols

The most like Todd Helton: Billy Butler, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto

The most like Roy Halladay: Cliff Lee

The most like Andy Pettitte: Ryan Dempster, Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett, Hiroki Kuroda, R.A. Dickey

The most like Chris Carpenter: ​Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Tim Hudson

The most like Derek Lowe: Tim Hudson, Hiroki Kuroda, R.A. Dickey

The most like Mariano Rivera:

Risers and Fallers
As one would expect, most of PECOTA’s top WARP improvers are players projected to gain gobs of playing time, which makes comparisons based on rate stats more interesting. The following tables list the hitters and pitchers whose performance is projected to improve or decline the most as measured by TAv and ERA, respectively (minimum 500 PA or 150 IP in both seasons). To download a version of the 2014 PECOTA spreadsheet that includes extra tabs you can use to compare players’ 2014 projections to their 2013 stats (and adjust the playing time minimums as you see fit), click here.

TAv Improvers



2013 TAv

2014 TAv (Proj.)


Starlin Castro





Alcides Escobar





Darwin Barney





Prince Fielder





Josh Hamilton





Anthony Rizzo





Jose Altuve





Nick Markakis





Mike Moustakas





David Freese





Angels, Cubs, and Royals fans have a lot to like about this list.

TAv Decliners



2013 TAv

2014 TAv (Proj.)


Chris Davis





Brandon Moss





Carlos Gomez





Jayson Werth





Freddie Freeman





Josh Donaldson





Shin-Soo Choo





Andrew McCutchen





Daniel Nava

Red Sox




Michael Cuddyer





Chris Johnson





I’m a believer in Davis, so this decline seems somewhat harsh, but even he’s not projected to be bad. Other than Gomez (another player I like), all of the decliners here are still projected to be well above average. They’re just in line for regression from some pretty steep peaks.

ERA Improvers



2013 ERA

2014 ERA (Proj.)


Ian Kennedy





CC Sabathia





Dan Haren





Tim Lincecum





Matt Cain





Edwin Jackson





Yovani Gallardo





Justin Verlander





A.J. Griffin





Joe Saunders





PECOTA is still carrying a torch for Lincecum, which is where it and I differ. Otherwise, I’m on board. PECOTA approves of Josh Byrnes’ trade for Kennedy and foresees a bounceback season from Sabathia and more of the 2013 second-half Haren, as well as some regression in A.J. Griffin’s home run rate.

ERA Inflaters



2013 ERA

2014 ERA (Proj.)


Anibal Sanchez





Shelby Miller





Julio Teheran





Hisashi Iwakuma





Bartolo Colon





John Lackey

Red Sox




Ervin Santana





Jorge De La Rosa





Jeff Locke





Kyle Lohse





Miller was hit harder than his ERA (or even his FIP) indicated last season, which may have had something to do with his postseason disappearance. I’m not surprised to see him here. PECOTA thinks buyers should beware of Santana, and that Locke’s second half of last season was a harbinger of more mediocrity to come.

Projected (near) replacement-level positions
Finally, the most glaring positional weak points PECOTA sees on 2014 contending teams (defining “contending team” loosely):

Tigers, 3B: 0.0 WARP (Nick Castellanos, Steve Lombardozzi, Don Kelly)
PECOTA is not a big believer in Nick Castellanos in 2014, projecting him to be slightly below average at the plate (.265/.307/.396; .251 TAv) and 10 runs below average in the field.

Blue Jays, 2B: 0.2 WARP (Ryan Goins, Brent Morel, Maicer Izturis)
The Blue Jays aren’t the favorites for Stephen Drew’s services, but he’d be a big upgrade for them if they could convince him to stand on the other side of the second-base bag.

Brewers, 1B: 0.2 WARP Mark Reynolds, Juan Francisco, Lyle Overbay)
Replacement level would be about a win and a half better than Brewers first basemen (read: Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez) were last season.

Braves, 3B: 0.4 WARP (Chris Johnson, Tyler Pastornicky)
We saw above that PECOTA expects Johnson to be one of the biggest decliners on offense; take away 25 points of TAv, and the system sees a bad glove and no baserunning ability.

Rangers, 2B: 0.4 WARP (Jurickson Profar, Adam Rosales, Rougned Odor)
PECOTA is pessimistic about Profar’s defense at second. I’d take the over here.

Royals, SS: 0.5 WARP (Alcides Escobar, Pedro Ciriaco)
Escobar is projected to be one of the biggest gainers on offense, and he still can’t escape this list. That’s how bad his hitting was last season.

Diamondbacks, CF: 0.5 WARP (A.J. Pollack, Tony Campana, Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra)
PECOTA thinks Kevin Towers may not have helped his team much in the short term when he traded Adam Eaton in the Mark Trumbo trade. White Sox center fielders, led by Eaton, are projected to total 2.7 WARP.

Diamondbacks, SS: 0.7 WARP (Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings, Cliff Pennington)
PECOTA says Gregorius won’t field and Owings won’t hit. I have my doubts about both projections.

Phillies, RF: 0.6 WARP (Marlon Byrd, John Mayberry)
PECOTA doesn’t buy Byrd’s late-career renaissance.

Yankees, 2B and 3B: 0.7 WARP (Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson; Scott Sizemore, Eduardo Nunez, Kelly Johnson)
PECOTA also projects a total of 1.0 WARP from Yankees shortstops, eight-tenths of it by Brendan Ryan.

Thanks to Andrew Koo for research assistance.

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

Related Content:  PECOTA

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Dave from Pittsburgh

When will the projection systems believe in Cutch? Would it take another 2-3 years of his current level?

Feb 04, 2014 08:26 AM
rating: -3
dREaDS Fan

PECOTA still loves Lincecun. I don't know whether PECOTA factors in fastball velocity like some other projection systems? If it doesn't, wouldn't that help explain its continued Tim crush?

Feb 04, 2014 08:32 AM
rating: 0

Actually, PECOTA is pretty optimistic about all of the Giants' top four starting pitchers:

Cain: 3.0 WARP (0.8 in 2013, 2.8 in 2012, 2.1 in 2011)
Bumgarner: 2.8 WARP (2.6, 1.9, 3.2)
Lincecum: 2.0 WARP (0.8, -0.5, 0.7)
Hudson: 2.0 WARP (1.3, -0.3, 1.1)

In other words, three of the four are projected to do better than their best season in the past three years while Bumgarner is essentially projected to post his three-year average. Cain seems like a good bet to bounce back, although 3.0 seems like a half a run too high.

All that could happen--and as a Giants fan I hope it happens--but I'm not sure that it's completely justified. The Giants presumably are taking a major downgrade defensively in LF (Blanco to Morse) while Scutaro and Pagan are a year older.

At the same time, I'm a little perplexed with respect to Brandon Belt's projection: .264/.345/.431 (2.1 WARP). In comparison, Steamer projects .278/.362/.464 (3.0 WAR) and Oliver .280/.354/.472 (3.2 WAR). I'm just not seeing the basis for the 25 point drop in ISO that PECOTA projects for a 26 year-old who is a very athletic 6'5".

Feb 04, 2014 12:17 PM
rating: 1

Awesome article - thanks, Ben. Although considering Chris Carpenter is retired, perhaps he should be moved to the other side of the ledger on the "comps for players who've left the league"?

Feb 04, 2014 09:35 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

You make a fine point. Done.

Feb 04, 2014 09:48 AM

No weaknesses for the Nats? (Or--they're not a contending team?)

Feb 04, 2014 10:38 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

The Depth Charts and Visual Depth Charts contain the answers you seek.

Feb 04, 2014 10:44 AM

Oh, I like that Visual Depth Chart, thanks. No red or even pink. But, WOW, the NL West! If the projections are anything like reality that is going to be some race, and Snakes take the hindmost (OK, maybe Rox).

Feb 04, 2014 10:51 AM
rating: 0

PECOTA seems to not much like Corey Kluber.

Feb 04, 2014 10:51 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

No one tell Cistulli.

Feb 04, 2014 10:54 AM

Perhaps this is my biggest problem with projections is that they don't really distinguish between seemingly real improvement/decline and an oddity. Especially with pitching

Look at guys like Sabathia or Haren. Do I think they will improve? Absolutely. Do I think Haren will be be a sub 3.50 ERA pitcher? Absolutely not. Will A.J. Griffin will be a top 30 pitcher? I doubt it.

At the same time it thinks Anibal Sanchez and his 12.4% SwgStk rate will regress from ace to #2. I don't see why it would project Miller,Teheran, and Iwakuma to regress from fantastic starters to slightly below average starters.

Would it be possible to utilize things like weighing things like recent SwgStk%,,F-Strike%,Velocity changes..etc. into the projection to make them more accurate?

Feb 04, 2014 14:52 PM
rating: 2

I don't think the current PECOTA factors in sequencing of seasons (that may suggest real improvement or decline). So you get stuff like Mike Olt projected to have a OPS of .738 in the majors this year...

Feb 04, 2014 20:21 PM
rating: 0

Especially the the vast amounts of information you have with BrooksBaseball.

Feb 04, 2014 14:56 PM
rating: 2
BP staff member Harry Pavlidis
BP staff

yes, I actually provide the same data to both Brooks and BP. We intend to use it for projections, and other things, in short order.

One possible example would be accounting for a less regressable GB rate for a guy who just added a sinker, or started throwing it more often. That would trickle thru in a variety of ways.

Feb 04, 2014 20:58 PM

Is there any chance you will be reinstating (either at BrooksBaseball or here) pitch f/x ball/strike data organized by umpire? Umpire queries were a great, unique feature at BB.

Feb 04, 2014 23:39 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Harry Pavlidis
BP staff

That's not currently planned to return, but it may down the road.

Feb 05, 2014 04:21 AM

I don't know that I'm buying into the Simmons hype but it will be interesting to see how close these projections were when all is said and done.

Feb 06, 2014 07:02 AM
rating: 0

Andrelton? It's not hype anymore, he's done it

Feb 07, 2014 03:20 AM
rating: -1
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Pebble Hunting: Watchi... (02/04)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Overthinking It: Searc... (02/03)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Overthinking It: Where... (02/12)
Next Article >>
Baseball Prospectus Ne... (02/04)

Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Better Playing Through Che...
The BP Wayback Machine: The Futures Game Vie...
Fantasy Freestyle: How We Got Here
Fantasy Article Deep League Report: Week 13
Premium Article Field Generals: Under Pressure
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Tuesday, June ...
Premium Article Notes from the Field: July 1, 2015

Baseball Prospectus News: Reintroducing PECO...
Pebble Hunting: Watching the Worst Game of 2...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: What Can Yoon Do for You?
Premium Article Minor League Update: International Winter Le...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Rankings: Shortstops
Fantasy Article Graphical Fantasy Rankings: Shortstops
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Discussion

2014-02-06 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2014-02-05 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2014-02-05 - BP Unfiltered: Classifying Your Photos of Ba...
2014-02-04 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Parsing the PECOTAs
2014-02-04 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2014-02-03 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Searching for Switch-Hitter...
2014-02-03 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...

2014-02-20 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Last Season in Selective Ag...
2014-02-18 - Overthinking It: Quantifying Cano's Lack of ...
2014-02-12 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Where the Remaining Free Ag...
2014-02-04 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Parsing the PECOTAs
2014-02-03 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Searching for Switch-Hitter...
2014-01-29 - Overthinking It: Polling the Industry: Masah...
2014-01-24 - Overthinking It: Internet Commenters Try to ...

2014-04-29 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Three National Leaguers in ...
2014-02-12 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Where the Remaining Free Ag...
2014-02-04 - Baseball Prospectus News: Reintroducing PECO...