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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

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