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February 19, 2009

PECOTA Projected Standings

Pegging the 2009 Season

by Clay Davenport

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Now that the depth charts are out, we have a chance to do a first run of the Playoff Odds chart. The Playoff Odds chart-and I am aware that, strictly speaking, they aren't presented as odds-is a system that we run during the season. We use the team's record and the actual schedule to play out the rest of the season.

In this case, we're playing the entire season from day one, and we're using the depth-chart projections to set the team's strength (though since the depth charts also use a strength-of-schedule adjustment to calculate the records you see, I had to temporarily undo that). We can set a win percentage for each game, and by essentially rolling dice in the computer, we can determine who wins or loses each game. We can do that for an entire season, or a dozen seasons, or a million seasons-and yes, our usual number is a cool million. We can and do play around with the team's strength, knowing that it's ultimately just an estimate, and that the real team may turn out to be better (or worse) than we think.

It turns out that everyone has a chance. The odds for some of them are very long-four of the teams have only a single-digit chance of making the postseason-but nobody starts from zero:

                        Div.     Wild    Total
NL East      W      L   Title %  Card %  Postseason %
Mets       92.2   69.8   39.1    11.8    50.9
Phillies   87.1   74.9   23.9    10.7    34.7
Braves     87.0   75.0   23.7    10.7    34.4
Nationals  78.5   83.5    9.5     5.5    15.0
Marlins    71.6   90.4    3.8     2.5     6.3

The Mets are once again the favorites in the NL East... and how has that worked out the past two years? We all know the answer, but hey, now Francisco Rodriguez is here to save the day! It's no surprise that the defending World Champion Phillies would be a solid contender, but the Braves? Even with an unsettled outfield, the Braves do quite well-but then PECOTA always seems to have a mostly unrequited man-crush on Javier Vazquez. We're looking at a huge improvement for the Nationals (59-102 last season), but there's just too much in front of them.

Last year the PECOTA starting standings came out with the same order as this-with win totals of 94, 86, 85, 72, and 71. The Mets and Phils were fairly close, with the Mets at 89 and Philly at 92; the other three teams all missed by 13 (the Braves and Nationals down 13, the Marlins up).

                        Div.     Wild    Total
NL Central   W      L   Title %  Card %  Postseason %
Cubs       95.3   66.7   52.0    10.0    62.0
Brewers    86.4   75.6   22.9    10.4    33.3
Cardinals  80.1   81.9   11.6     6.5    18.1
Reds       79.4   82.6   10.4     6.1    16.4
Astros     66.6   95.4    1.9     1.2     3.1
Pirates    64.5   97.5    1.3     0.8     2.1

The Cubs came through the process with the best record in the NL (made easier by having the easiest-rated schedule in the majors), and they also carry the best chance to make the playoffs at a tick under 62 percent. The Brewers, last year's wild-card team, have a good chance of repeating, projected in a tight race with the Phillies and Braves. That leaves us with two teams, the Reds and the Cardinals, right around .500, and two teams who figure to be left far in the background, the Astros and Pirates. The latter two are the least-likely playoff teams in baseball, a product both of their badness and the Cubs' strength.

Last year, PECOTA picked the Cubs to win the division, and they did, and the Brewers to win the NL Wild Card, which they did. We had the Cubs at 91 (actual 97) and Brewers at 88 (real 90). The Reds were pegged at 80 (they wound up winning 74), followed by the Cardinals at 75-they overachieved at 86. The Pirates (projected 73) and Astros (72) brought up the rear, andwhile the Pirates came close with 67 wins, and the Astros' 86 wins was a big surprise.

                        Div.     Wild    Total
NL West      W      L   Title %  Card %  Postseason %
D'backs    91.6   70.4   46.7     6.9    53.6
Dodgers    83.7   78.3   22.5     6.4    28.9
Giants     77.9   84.1   12.1     4.1    16.3
Rockies    77.1   84.9   11.0     3.7    14.7
Padres     74.0   88.0    7.6     2.6    10.3

The Diamondbacks look like they have a clear advantage in the NL West, but not quite enough to claim a 50 percent chance at taking the division. The Dodgers are reasonably strong, a step ahead of the pack behind them. The Giants and Padres feature two of the worst offenses in baseball, which helps hold them back.

A year ago, we picked the Dodgers to lead the division with 87, and they won the division with 84. After that we had Arizona at 86 (actually 82), Colorado at 82 (74), San Diego at 78 (a disappointing 63), and the Giants with 71 (they actually had 72).

                        Div.     Wild    Total
AL East      W      L   Title %  Card %  Postseason %
Red Sox    98.0   64.0   38.9    24.0    62.0
Yankees    95.9   66.1   32.1    24.5    56.5
Rays       91.3   70.7   20.3    21.1    41.4
Blue Jays  81.2   80.8    6.4    10.1    16.5
Orioles    73.9   88.1    2.3     4.5     6.8

This is the powerhouse division; they very nearly rated as having the three most likely playoff teams in the AL, even though only two of them can make it. An Eastern team took the AL Wild Card in a staggering 84 percent of the simulations; even the Orioles earn a higher wild-card chance than any team in the other two divisions. All that playing against each other comes at a cost, however, as each team is losing 3-4 games against an average strength of schedule.

Last year the disparity between the East and the other divisions wasn't expected to be so large. The Yankees were projected at 97, and only came home with 89. Boston was supposed to be second with 91, and they were second with 95. By our own lights, Tampa Bay was a mild surprise (projected 88, actually 97) en route to their winning the division. Toronto (expected 78, actual 86) and Baltimore (said 66, got 68) fell in behind.

                        Div.     Wild    Total
AL Central   W      L   Title %  Card %  Postseason %
Indians    83.0   79.0   32.3     2.6    34.8
Twins      79.4   82.6   22.6     2.2    24.8
Tigers     78.3   83.7   20.2     2.1    22.2
Royals     74.7   87.3   13.8     1.5    15.3
White Sox  73.0   89.0   11.2     1.2    12.4

This is the majors' most compact division, with only 10 games separating the top from the bottom and nobody deserving a nod as a clear favorite-a purely random draw would give every team here a 20 percent chance at the division, and the Indians are the only team to go more than 50 percent off of that mark.

This was a terrible division for us and for PECOTA last year. Cleveland and Detroit were supposed to be very strong, and were projected for 92 and 91 wins; instead the Indians only won 81, and the Tigers' 74 wins gave them the worst miss on their projection (-17 in the win column) in the majors. The White Sox and Twins were supposed to have had 77 and 73 wins, and both finished the scheduled regular season with 88 wins for another pair of double-digit misses. The Royals were at least close (72 versus an actual 75).

                        Div.     Wild    Total
AL West      W      L   Title %  Card %  Postseason %
Angels     84.3   77.7   42.1     2.2    44.3
Athletics  82.3   79.7   35.4     2.3    37.6
Rangers    71.9   90.1   12.5     1.0    13.5
Mariners   70.0   92.0   10.1     0.8    10.9

The A's and Angels earn a clear nod as near co-favorites out west; right now we've got the Angels as slight favorites, though it was the other way around before they signed Bobby Abreu. The Rangers' pitching has a chance to remind people of the Philadelphia teams of the '30s, when the Phillies featured pitchers nicknamed Boom-Boom, Line Drive, and Losing Pitcher.

We thought the Angels would take the division last year with 87 wins, but they wound up with 100. Oakland fell a little short of expectations (only 75, instead of the 80 we called), the Mariners were dreadful (61 wins, instead of 75), and the Rangers were mild overachievers (pulling 79 out of an expected 73).

All in all, last year's expected standings were off by an average of about 8.5 games (simple average). While I certainly hope we can do better than that this year, some of the errors are the result of injuries, trades, and signings that haven't happened yet. Something like, oh, say... signing Manny Ramirez, perhaps? Single events like that can make a rather noticeable difference in the expected standings.

But that's a story for another day.

Related Content:  Surprise Teams

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

BP Comment Quick Links


Can't wait to hear Ozzie's comments - too bad BP couldn't link in what representatives from organizations have to say about each of their respective projections. This particular projection has become very mainstream.

Feb 19, 2009 11:18 AM
rating: 0
Jack G

No way in hell the Sox win 98 unless John Henry has a team photo locked in his attic getting older.

Feb 19, 2009 11:18 AM
rating: -3
Sky Kalkman

Certainly sounds a bit high to me, too. But they really have no weaknesses other than catcher. Ellsbury and Lowrie should improve, Bay's underrated, the bullpen is stacked, and the rotation both has studs and is deep -- with a couple prospects primed for breakout seasons.

Feb 19, 2009 12:15 PM
rating: 0

I don't think it's that far fetched. The Red Sox starting staff is much more prepared for injury than that of the Yankees or the Rays. Their starting pitchers include:

Masterson (if they need to)

Their offense is pretty good too.

Feb 19, 2009 12:42 PM
rating: 0
Sky Kalkman

Oh, I agree. It's just really tough to PROJECT a team to win 98 games, especially in a division as tough as the AL East. That's saying the team is just as likely to win, say, 102 games as it is 93 games (I'm aware win distributions skew towards the mean).

The depth is nice, yes, but the Yanks and Rays could very well sport the 2nd and 3rd deepest rotations, with Hughes/Kennedy and Niemann/Davis/Howell (assuming Price in rotation ahead of Niemann.)

Feb 20, 2009 18:59 PM
rating: 0
Bill N

I hope the Nationals can take a whiff of that PECOTA and allow Manny Acta to keep his job.

Feb 19, 2009 11:24 AM
rating: 0

I'll take the under on Boston and the over on whichever Western team Manny signs with.

Feb 19, 2009 11:47 AM
rating: 0

I dont think the PECOTA for the Braves last year was THAT far off...is there is way to predict your top 2 SP going down, top 3 bull pen arms going down, as well as francour tanking.

Also, they lost I think 26 games on the road by 1 run IN A ROW..at some point it is just unlucky and there is no clear explanation for such things. The Braves actually had a really good run differential for most of the year.

Feb 19, 2009 12:12 PM
rating: 0
Sky Kalkman

Going by run differential, PECOTA was much closer.

Feb 20, 2009 19:00 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Eric Seidman
BP staff

All I want to know is whether or not Denny Neagle or Omar Daal won the matchup shown in the newspaper picture.

Feb 19, 2009 12:27 PM


Not a bad game, either.

Feb 19, 2009 12:40 PM
rating: 0

Twins winning 79? No way...more like 88.

Feb 19, 2009 12:33 PM
rating: -3

Why does it hate the Marlins so much? I don't get that one.

Feb 19, 2009 12:35 PM
rating: 1

yeah, really.

How in the hell does anyone finish behind the AAA Nats?

Feb 19, 2009 12:37 PM
rating: -2

Its tough for PECOTA to predict what the young pitchers are going to do. The Marlins make PECOTA look bad every year and this year is going to be no different.

Feb 19, 2009 23:15 PM
rating: 0
Jeff P

I think it's more than just that -- if you have two young players with identical PECOTAs splitting playing time at a position, PECOTA is going to give each of them half the playing time at their 50% projections. But what's more likely to happen is that one hits his 70% projection, another hits the 30% projection, and the 70% player gets more playing time. It's selection bias on the part of the manager.

Now multiply that by about 40, and you get the Marlins.

Feb 22, 2009 21:25 PM
rating: 0

I wonder where Manny would have the biggest impact? I'm guessing Atlanta or an AL Central team.

Feb 19, 2009 12:56 PM
rating: 0

Any chance of running the simulation with Manny as a Dodger and Manny as a Giant or is that too complex?

Feb 19, 2009 13:21 PM
rating: 1

Instead of team strengths based are PECOTA weighted means, how about extending the simulations to include the probabilities of underachievement and overachievement and showing percentiles for team win totals?

Feb 19, 2009 13:22 PM
rating: 1
Al Skorupa

Hmmm... Well, working on the assumption that these projected standings are run off a database using the weighted means (when will that be updated, btw??)... what if the projections were done using the 40th percentile and 60th percentile for every player? Or 30 and 70, etc...

That would give a great look at team "upside." I realize you wouldnt want to run those every day all season, but a one team pre-season run would sure be fun and informative.

Feb 19, 2009 15:15 PM
rating: 1

What is the chance that the Rangers will have a top 10 pitcher in the majors by 2012?
3 years from now, the following Pitchers could be in the majors and owned by the Rangers:

Scott Feldman, 29
Eric Hurley, 24
Luis Mendoza, 28
Brandon McCarthy, 28
Tommy Hunter, 25
Michael Schlact, 26
Omar Poveda, 26
Neftali Feliz, 24
Blake Beavan, 23
Michael Main, 23
Wilfredo Boscan, 22
Niel Ramirez, 22
Matt Harrison, 26
Zach Phillips, 25
Kasey Kiker, 24
Derek Holland, 25
Martin Perez, 21

that's 17 pitchers all under the age of 30, most of them under the age of 27.

Feb 19, 2009 13:47 PM
rating: 0

Nolan Ryan has some odd plans for them.....but I'm one of the few people who thinks it might work.

Feb 19, 2009 14:07 PM
rating: 0

Does this projection take into account that the Rangers could pull some good pitchers up half way this year? If so they would exceed this projection in my opinion. They exceeded last year's projection with similar hitting talents. Once the pitching is more staunch they are in the heat of the race.

Feb 19, 2009 14:01 PM
rating: -1

Here's a list of players who skewed the pre-season standings last year.

Carlos Quentin
John Danks
Denard Span
The entire Twins Rotation
Josh Hamilton
Mark DeRosa
Ryan Ludwick
Mike Aviles
The Rays bullpen

Travis Hafner
Victor Martinez
The Indians bullpen
The Tigers bullpen
Justin Verlander
Jeff Francoeur
Dusty Baker (for breaking Aaron Harang)
Corey Patterson

Feb 19, 2009 14:05 PM
rating: 3

The biggest skew with the Twins was how lucky they were with RISP. That one isn't likely to repeat and that is a mediocre offense.

Feb 19, 2009 15:14 PM
rating: 7
Al Skorupa

A very mediocre offense.

One made worse by Gardenhire mad desire to bat two speedy .310 OBP players 1-2.

Feb 19, 2009 15:18 PM
rating: 1

Once the Metrodome gets knocked down they'll struggle heavily, and I cannot wait for that day.

Feb 19, 2009 17:19 PM
rating: 0

You'll be waiting for longer than you think. The Vikings will be playing in the 'Dome for the indefinite future.

Feb 19, 2009 20:47 PM
rating: 1
Sky Kalkman

And the pitchers will look even better...

Feb 20, 2009 19:02 PM
rating: 0
Jesse Wigtil

The possibility that the AL's four winningest teams could come from the same division, while only two of them would make the playoffs, is greatly displeasing.

Feb 19, 2009 17:51 PM
rating: 1

Their 4 best teams came from the same division last year - only weakness of schedule gave a better record to the Angels.

Remember last season's adjusted standings. The 5 best teams in baseball were the Red Sox, Rays, Cubs, Jays, and Yankees - in that order.

Feb 19, 2009 19:04 PM
rating: 1

Well this clearly isn't true - the Angels luck helped their record, but strength of schedule did not give them a 14 game edge over the Blue Jays.

I'll say as well - the Angels went 30-16 against the AL East. Not saying that team was anywhere as good as their record, but let's look at it for the correct reasons.

Feb 20, 2009 07:26 AM
rating: 0

We know PECOTA hates Ichiro, but now it seems to be underrating the Mariner's run prevention. Ignoring last year's awful defense, perhaps? Ignoring platooning?

Feb 19, 2009 19:03 PM
rating: 1
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