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One of the more fun things to do right before the season starts is to take a deep dive into PECOTA and see what is foreseen for that upcoming summer. Whether it's discussing players who changed PECOTA's mind with one big year, exploring how a uniquely built team projects, or looking at some out-of-the-box projections, PECOTA can provide hours of entertainment. Of course, by the end of the season, going back and seeing just how accurate some of the projections PECOTA spit out is interesting as well.

But since I'm getting a little impatient, I'm not going to wait for the end of the season. I want to know how PECOTA is doing now.

WHO PECOTA HIT ON

Kyle Seager
Projected TAv:
.284
Current TAv: .285

This wasn't as easy a projection as one might think; heading into his age-27 season this summer, Seager was coming off a .304 TAv in 2014, his third full year in the league and his third straight with a strong jump in TAv. Yet PECOTA projected a drop in production when many may have seen 2014 as the beginning of very impressive peak for Seager. He's still a very strong player, but perhaps he's not headed for the elite plane many may have expected after last season.

Albert Pujols
Projected TAv:
.303
Current TAv: .307

While Pujols hasn't been bad since joining the Angels, it may feel like he's been a bit of disappointment in Anaheim due to the impossibly high standard he set during his decade-plus stint in St. Louis. However, PECOTA's projected .303 TAv would be a high for his time in Orange County, and he's actually outdone the projections. And while PECOTA saw a more balanced approach from Pujols and a solid .493 slugging percentage, the future Hall of Famer has rediscovered his power stroke. His .532 SLG is his highest since the .541 he posted in his final season with the Cardinals, and he's already knocked 26 homers, four short of his Angels high of 30. So yes, PECOTA anticipated a nice bounce back from Pujols, but he's doing so in an unexpected fashion.

Danny Salazar
Projected ERA:
3.70
Current ERA: 3.74

PECOTA appeared to like Salazar, but it also projected him for just 13 starts and 74 innings pitched; he's already passed both of those with 16 starts and 98 2/3 innings. But there's no denying PECOTA was a fan of Salazar heading into the season (including a solid 9.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9, both of which Salazar has eclipsed, the latter of which has been his biggest issue when he's struggled); it just didn't see how quickly T.J. House and Zach McAllister would lose their spots in the rotation.

Phil Hughes
Projected ERA:
4.23
Current ERA: 4.32

I'm gonna guess PECOTA isn't the only one who didn't buy Hughes' breakout 2014; what's odd is that PECOTA saw his walks jumping back up from the minuscule 0.7 BB/9 he posted last year, while expecting his strikeouts to remain steady. It was a sound projection, because the walk rate was what appeared to be the outlier, but his eight K/9 from last season was pretty much in line with what he'd delivered in years prior. Of course, that's not what happened. Hughes is once again walking less than a batter per nine, but his strikeout rate has plummeted to what would be a career-low 5.4 K/9. Either way, the end result is the same: Hughes has failed to repeat his 2014 through three months of 2015.

Other hits: Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Pedro Alvarez, Howie Kendrick

WHO PECOTA WHIFFED ON

Bryce Harper
Projected TAv:
.294
Current TAv: .414

Yeah, I'm not going to hate on PECOTA for this one. Five people on the BP Staff, including myself, picked Harper to win the MVP, but I'm not sure any of us expected him to jump to this level of dominance so quickly. Harper has already set career highs in home runs, RBI, and walks, is on pace to do so in his slash stats and walk rate, and will blow past his career high in every other counting stat he hasn't already passed. Let's not mock PECOTA for getting this wrong; let's just bask in the glory that is Bryce Harper.

Mike Zunino
Projected TAv:
.259
Current TAv: .195

PECOTA saw Zunino as a league-average bat, and with the value he brings from framing, he could have been a key part of a Mariners team that had huge expectations coming into the year. As the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, one who many expected to be a fast-rising bat for the Mariners, it wouldn't have been silly to predict Zunino as a breakout candidate for 2015. But, alas, Zunino hasn't even been able to perform at the plate to the so-so level PECOTA envisioned for him, disappointing those who had high hopes for him. So much so that the Mariners may be on the verge of acquiring a replacement.

Source: #Mariners close to trading for a catcher. @FOXSports
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 15, 2015

Lance McCullers
Projected ERA:
5.12
Current ERA: 2.52

Like Harper, I can't blame PECOTA for this one; in fact, this performance is even more unexpected than Harper's. Pretty much everyone agreed that Harper was a future impact star and many said that would start in 2015. But with McCullers, scouts were split on whether he'd even be a starter, and that was still the case when he got the call to the Show. Even when he was up and performing well, both McCullers and Astros manager A.J. Hinch talked about how his changeup would be a work in progress. Well, not only has the change advanced much quicker than expected, but McCullers still possesses a dominant curveball and a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. If he keeps this up for the second half (PECOTA hasn't bought in just yet, with a 3.98 ERA projected for the final three months), then it's doubtful many will be pegging this kid as a reliever.

A.J. Burnett
Projected ERA:
4.14
Current ERA: 2.11

Wait, so PECOTA didn't project a 38-year-old, 16-year vet to best his career-high ERA by over a run? Shocker. Five of Burnett's previous seven seasons saw him post an ERA above 4.00; the only two where he didn't was when he was in Pittsburgh. Perhaps there's something to be said for being comfortable with a certain team or perhaps in the second half Burnett will pitch closer to the 3.55 DRA he's put up. A quick scan of what may not be sustainable points to both a high left-on-base percentage (82 percent) and low HR/FB (5 percent). But unless those go completely south, derailing Burnett's season, and even if the final results end up closer to his current DRA, he still looks to have pulled one over on PECOTA.

Other whiffs: Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel, Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Utley

Now for some quick hits on what PECOTA sees for season stats:

  • With a .339 average, Miguel Cabrera is projected to be the batting champ. He's the only qualified hitter projected to hit over .320. The number of times baseball has had only one qualified hitter bat over .320? Zero. Only twice have we seen only two hitters equal or surpass the .320 mark, in 1968 (Pete Rose and Matty Alou) and 1892 (!!) (Dan Brouthers and Billy Hamilton (no, not that one)). So in a sense PECOTA is likely to be "wrong" about this, but this is another illustration of the strong regression to the mean that any good projection system will do.

  • Speaking of Cabrera, not only will he lead baseball in batting average, but he's the AL leader in all the slash stats with a line of .339/.437/.575, the second time he's accomplished the feat in his career (2013).

  • Teammates Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are projected to lead baseball with 39 home runs each. They'd be the first teammates to be the top two home run hitters in baseball since Willie Mays (52) and Willie McCovey (39) did so in 1965. And it'd be the first time since 1982, when Gorman Thomas (of Harvey's Wallbangers) and the California Angels version of Reggie Jackson each hit 39 as well—that no player reached 40 home runs on the season. Nelson Cruz was the only man to do so last when he hit the number on the nose.

  • Chris Sale currently has a 33.5 percent strikeout rate, which would be the highest ever for anyone not named Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez. Unfortunately, for those of us who love seeing Ks in bunches, Sale is expected to drop to 31.5 percent. Still very impressive, still good enough to lead the league (for starters), and falls neatly in between 1997 Curt Schilling and 1984 Dwight Gooden for 17th all-time.

  • Speaking of impressive strikeout rates, Kenley Jansen is projected to lead all of baseball at 44.6 percent. That would rank fourth all-time behind Aroldis Chapman (52.5 percent in 2014), Craig Kimbrel (50.2 percent in 2012), and Eric Gagne (44.8 percent in 2003). Jansen would join Chapman as the only pitcher to see his name appear twice in the top 10.

  • PECOTA sees a player gunning for the Triple Crown in the NL. The obvious choice would be Harper, who is currently second in batting average (one point behind the leader), second in home runs (one homer behind the leader), and fourth in RBI (down by nine). However, it's Paul Goldschmidt who falls just short of the honor, as PECOTA anticipates that he'll lead the NL with a .316 batting average and 115 RBI, but finish fourth in home runs with 35, two behind Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, and Todd Frazier, who each project to end with 37.

  • And here are some league leaders:

NL

AL

ERA (Starter)

Zack Greinke (2.11)

Sonny Gray (2.39)

ERA (Reliever)

Kenley Jansen (1.61)

Will Harris (1.49)

Strikeouts

Clayton Kershaw (266)

Chris Sale (259)

Innings Pitched

Max Scherzer (225 2/3)

Corey Kluber (223 1/3)

Home Runs

Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Todd Frazier (37)

Mike Trout, Albert Pujols (39)

Batting Average

Paul Goldschmidt (.316)

Miguel Cabrera (.339)

OBP

Paul Goldschmidt (.422)

Miguel Cabrera (.437)

Hits

Dee Gordon (195)

Prince Fielder (180)

Stolen Bases

Billy Hamilton (72)

Jose Altuve (42)