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March 31, 2011

Between The Numbers

Projected Standings and Actual Performance

by Matt Swartz

I decided to take off work for my day job tomorrow for a religious holiday. Yes, I belong to the Church of Baseball—how can I be asked to work on a day like tomorrow? Tomorrow is a time to focus on the important things in life, and for me, this is a mixture of baseball and its statistics. It’s a time to finally watch nine men stroll out onto green grass and officially move the baseline of the expectations that my colleagues at Baseball Prospectus and I have been zeroing in on since the Giants ran on to the field to celebrate their 2010 World Championship. With the release of our final version of the PECOTA-Projected Standings on the Depth Charts page for 2011, I am reminded of an article that I wrote last September called Sabermetric Teams and Sabermetric Scouting. In that piece, I discussed how teams have done as compared with their projected standings over the past five years.

My most interesting finding was that teams that were perceived by Baseball Prospectus Staff to incorporate more from sabermetrics into their front office’s decision-making tended to under-perform their PECOTA-projected records. This was interesting, because it suggested the importance of contextualizing what statistics suggest, and even Major League Baseball clubs miss the same information that our analysts miss as well. However, these sabermetrically inclined teams also fared better overall relative to clubs with similar payrolls that were less sabermetrically inclined, which also highlights the importance of listening to what analysts like us have to say!

Interestingly, the correlation between teams over-performing their projections in 2005-09 and their over-performance in 2010 was a shockingly high 0.43, meaning that PECOTA’s limits are similar each year. With that in mind, compare projected records from this year’s Depth Charts with the past five years’ over-performance.

Performance versus Projection

AL East

Projected W-L 2006-10

Actual W-L 2006-10

Exceeded 2006-10

Projected W-L 2011

Red Sox

93-69

92-70

-0.8

96-66

Yankees

95-67

96-66

1.0

93-69

Rays

84-80

80-82

-3.2

86-76

Orioles

74-88

67-95

-6.2

81-81

Blue Jays

76-86

83-79

6.8

73-89

AL Central

Projected W-L 2005-10

Actual W-L 2005-10

Over-Projection 2005-10

Projected W-L 2011

Twins

81-81

89-73

7.6

83-79

White Sox

77-85

83-79

6.4

82-80

Tigers

84-78

85-77

1.2

82-80

Indians

87-75

78-85

-9.4

74-88

Royals

70-92

68-94

-2.2

67-95

AL West

Projected W-L 2005-10

Actual W-L 2005-10

Over-Projection 2005-10

Projected W-L 2011

Rangers

77-85

82-80

5.0

85-77

Athletics

84-78

80-82

-3.8

83-79

Angels

83-79

92-70

9.4

75-87

Mariners

77-85

75-87

-2.2

71-91

NL East

Projected W-L 2005-10

Actual W-L 2005-10

Over-Projection 2005-10

Projected W-L 2011

Phillies

87-75

91-71

3.8

89-73

Braves

85-77

82-80

-2.6

87-75

Marlins

74-88

80-82

5.6

85-77

Mets

88-74

85-77

-3.4

80-82

Nationals

72-90

66-96

-5.6

71-91

NL Central

Projected W-L 2005-10

Actual W-L 2005-10

Over-Projection 2005-10

Projected W-L 2011

Cardinals

83-79

85-77

2.4

86-76

Brewers

84-78

81-81

-3.0

85-77

Reds

77-85

79-83

2.0

82-80

Cubs

87-75

82-80

-5.8

79-83

Pirates

72-90

64-98

-8.2

71-91

Astros

77-85

78-84

1.8

65-97

NL West

Projected W-L 2005-10

Actual W-L 2005-10

Over-Projection 2005-10

Projected W-L 2011

Giants

77-85

80-82

2.6

92-70

Dodgers

86-76

86-76

-0.2

86-76

Rockies

78-84

83-79

4.4

85-77

Padres

77-85

81-81

3.8

78-84

Diamondbacks

84-78

77-85

-7.8

76-86

In the American League East, we have the Orioles projected eight games ahead of the Blue Jays, but history suggests that those two teams might belong closer together. Never count out the White Sox or the Angels either. These two teams that tend to elude PECOTA as well. Of course, even our less than rosy Indians projection this year will be too high, if history repeats itself.

In the National League East, watch out for the Marlins, who have beat their projected records by 5.6 wins per year over the last five years and are projected to finish only four games behind the Phillies. On the other hand, the Nationals might be in line for another high draft pick to supplement their recent top selections. Pirates fans have been excited to see their squad projected out of the cellar for the first time in years, but the Pirates have historically fallen 8.2 wins short of where we project them…which is right about where we have them now.

What our Depth Charts do is provide a baseline—an unbiased, quantitative assessment of what a team’s true talent level is. However, it is important to compare this to how teams have exceeded our expectations in the past, and get a more complete picture of what to expect as a new season begins! Happy holiday!

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

6 comments have been left for this article.

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