None of us ever thought that PECOTA's 72-win projection for the Royals would go quietly—it's just too rich to ignore when writing about Kansas City's two-game lead in the World Series. About a month ago, I performed a review on that projection for Fox Sports' JABO. It went like this:
There was something about the number 72 that seemed perfectly appropriate, an echo from Baseball Prospectus history. Our forecasting system PECOTA's most famous projection, if a projection can ever be really famous, came in 2007, when Nate Silver'Â€Â™s machine spit out a 72 for the Chicago White Sox. They were coming off a 90-win season, which had itself followed a World Series title. Oh, did people fume –Â€Â“ a Chicago Tribune response was so angry it earned a Fire Joe Morgan fisking, while Kenny Williams snarked that the projection was "Â€Âœa good sign for us because usually they're wrong about everything regarding our dealings."Â€Â And then the White Sox won … 72 games.
So on the night before we released our PECOTA projections at Baseball Prospectus this winter, and I saw with terror that we had put a 72 on the Royals. PECOTA keeper Rob McQuown and I went over every detail of that projection to make sure it wasn'Â€Â™t a mistake, and I was also amused. Maybe we'Â€Â™d hit another 72?
Nah. The Royals passed 72 in mid-August and are on pace to win 95. Once again, a 72 has become one of our most famous projections — Â€Â”drawing, once again, snark from team execs, this time justified. What happened? Let's perform an autopsy.
There are three foundations to a projection system:
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