First Pitch: Here is Why Projection Systems Will Be Low on the Pirates For the 2015 Season

Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections, and the results weren’t favorable for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They had an 80-82 projected record, finishing third in the NL Central, behind the Cardinals and the Cubs. That projected record has actually changed today, moving to 81-81 after the Travis Snider trade (and the Pirates improving in projections after trading Snider away is a totally different subject that I plan to write about soon).

The projections for the Pirates are disappointing after two straight playoff appearances. That doesn’t mean the projections are telling the entire story. I’m not here to criticize the PECOTA projections or say that they’re worthless. They definitely provide some value, and give an idea of what to expect in most cases. You just need to dig deeper and realize some of the limitations with those projections.

Last year, PECOTA projected the Pirates at 78-84, following their first playoff appearance in 20 years. The Pirates obviously did much better than those projections, finishing with 88 wins. Even before the final results came out, it appeared the projections were missing one key thing: the way the Pirates managed to get the best results out of their reclamation pitching projects.

The Pirates have developed a pattern the last few years. They’ve focused on catchers with strong pitch framing and defensive skills, which has helped to lower some walk rates. They’ve focused on defensive shifts. They have targeted ground ball heavy pitchers, or made adjustments with pitchers to have them throwing a two-seam fastball more often, aimed at getting more ground balls. That plays into the defensive shifts.

A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez are all examples of the same success story. They all had some of the worst numbers, from an ERA standpoint, in the game prior to joining the Pirates, while also having some horrible control numbers. After joining the Pirates, the control improved, and their end results were fantastic. In some cases, that didn’t look legit. Volquez had a FIP that was closer to a number four starter, but an ERA that was closer to a number two starter. I’d have to believe part of that was due to outside factors, such as the shifts and framing. Some luck had to be involved too, so that Volquez could benefit from this a bit more than other starters in the rotation.

The PECOTA projections last year were down on the rotation. It looks to be the same story this year. The Pirates are projected for 687 runs scored this year, compared to 682 last year. The biggest difference is they are projected to give up 692 runs this year, after giving up 631 last year.

The rotation looks very similar to last year. The key difference is that Edinson Volquez has been replaced by A.J. Burnett. Both guys had similar FIP numbers for most of the season last year, with Volquez seeing his ERA benefit more due to the team he was playing for. So that shouldn’t be a big difference.

The bullpen struggled last year, but came together in a big way at the end of the season, and was one of the best in baseball in September. The biggest difference between that September bullpen and the current one is that Justin Wilson has been replaced by Antonio Bastardo. The other changes to the final spots are usually minimal, and wouldn’t help contribute to an increase in 60 runs.

Keep in mind that the 631 runs allowed last year included some struggles from Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole in the first half, and a horrible bullpen performance, outside of Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Jared Hughes, during that time. You could argue that the pitching will be better this year, although 631 seems like a conservative number.

So why are the Pirates projected for 61 additional runs in 2015?

Digging deeper into the projections, the individual player projections tell the story. Specifically there are the numbers for A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton, and Vance Worley. All three have a negative WARP, and all three have an ERA in the 4.20-4.55 range. That makes sense in terms of projections, since projections reflect historical results. The problem is that the projections and the historical results don’t tell the story about these players right now.

Let’s start with Burnett. He’s projected for a 4.30 ERA. Last year he had a 4.59 ERA. His xFIP has been 3.69 for his career, and was 3.95 last year. If you only looked at his 2014 season, and assumed he’d put up the same numbers going forward, then the PECOTA projection might make sense. But if you look at what he did with the Pirates in 2012-13, you’ll see a different story. He posted his best two seasons in the last seven years while with the Pirates. That included his two lowest walk rates, his best strikeout season, the only two years with an ERA below 4.04, and his two best ground ball ratios since 2005 (which was the only year he generated more ground balls).

Low walk rates. High ground ball rates. More strikeouts. Strong overall numbers.

Then there’s Charlie Morton, who is a very polarizing topic in Pittsburgh. The PECOTA projections give Morton a 4.55 ERA, which lines up with his career 4.50 ERA. He also has a career xFIP of 4.11. Those career numbers happen to be very misleading, since Morton is a totally different pitcher now than he was pre-2011. In fact, just looking at the last two years, he has a 3.52 ERA and a 3.74 xFIP. He has posted his best two strikeout numbers of his career. His walk rates have been lower than his career average. And he continues to post extreme ground ball rates, which didn’t exist pre-2011.

Low walk rates. High ground ball rates. More strikeouts. Strong overall numbers.

Finally, you’ve got Vance Worley, who is projected to have a 4.20 ERA. Worley had good numbers in his first few years in the majors, but suffered an injury in 2012. When he returned in 2013, the injury caused him to change his mechanics, and the results were a disaster. The Pirates got him for nothing last Spring, and proceeded to fix his mechanics, reverting them back to where he was when he had success early in his career, along with the other usual changes they make with pitchers. The results? His lowest walk rate ever, his highest ground ball rate ever, an increase in strikeouts compared to where he was with the Twins, and his best ERA and xFIP combo of his career.

Do I need to repeat the growing trend?

There are things that a projection system can’t pick up. For as much as we’ve learned about catcher pitch framing (and Baseball Prospectus has been a leader in this analysis), I don’t think we can project the impact of a good pitch framer on an individual pitcher’s projections. The Pirates have focused heavily on pitch framing, and that’s probably a reason why their pitchers consistently post some of their best strikeout numbers and some of their lowest walk rates. The PECOTA projections seem low on all three of the above pitchers in walks and strikeouts, compared to their recent seasons with the Pirates. At best, the PECOTA projections match the results from these players in their time with the Pirates.

Likewise, I don’t think the impact of shifting can be found in the projections. Recent mechanical adjustments also aren’t represented. The Pirates have combined adjustments with defensive shifting. Their approach has led to some of the best ground ball rates of each pitcher’s career, which combined with the shifting helps lead to much better overall results.

That’s why the Pirates are going to be showing underwhelming results in most projection systems. It’s because the Pirates have found success with a specific approach that the projections don’t recognize. This doesn’t mean the projections don’t have value. It just means you need to combine the projections with further analysis to fill the gaps that they miss, rather than taking them at face value.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #7 – Alen Hanson. The number six prospect is tomorrow, followed by the top five next week. The entire top 50 in the Pirates’ system is exclusive to the 2015 Prospect Guide, along with 200+ reports on every prospect in the system.

**More Praise For Alen Hanson

**Five Pirates Make Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospect List

**Austin Meadows Named Eighth Best Outfield Prospect

**Jake Elmore Sent Outright to Indianapolis

  • Liriano and Burnett #1 & 2 in walks issued in the NL last year. Hopefully they will both improve. I definitely expect Burnett to a little.

  • The Pirates had one of the highest numbers of runners left in scoring position last year. I also noticed that Mercer was intentionally walked more often than McCutchen. Are these runners being left on base mostly by the pitchers. With all the runs left on the table it would seem that the Pirates had a disproportionate amount of runners left in scoring position.

  • I’m generally not a fan of selectively looking into a macro-level projection and pointing out where the projections are potentially incorrect about an individual team but some interesting points are definitely raised. I agree with most of the points, (they are mentally convenient for a Pirates’s fan,) Burnett’s projection probably has a significant aging affect, Morton some regression factored in because he usually has under-performed his FIP.

    It also should be noted that using Steamer projections and filtering them through Fangraph’s BaseRuns has the Pirates as 85-77 team, 4th best in the NL, a game behind the Cardinals and one ahead of the Cubs.

    • I found it interesting that based on Pythagorean record, the cardinals outperformed their third order record by seven games last season, while the pirates underperformed theirs. Sequencing might have cost the bucs the division last year.

  • So, if my math is right…. PECOTA is expecting the Pirates to be 3 games better than they were predicting them last year. And their prediction was off by 10 games…. And, therefore, the Pirates should finish 3 games better than last year’s total of 88, which puts them at 91 wins!!!

    YES!!!!

    • Now THAT is the way to stand PECOTA on it’s head implied ! As much as I trust the numbers, the fact they have the Nats projected to win fewer games, AFTER adding Scherzer, is beyond me.

      • Mean projection. if you take the 75th percentile its is well over 90 wins. You have to build injuries, under/over performance, age all into your model.

    • Where is this info. I would think the Cards took a little step back, the Cubs will be lucky to finish .500. They had 2 top pitchers last year and ended up trading them because they were so far behind. With management change and additional pitchers I give them 80-82 at best. I’m thinking 88-92 wins for the Pirates, and 84-86 for the Cards (wayno’s warranty has run out), the Pirates will make up for the wins from the Cubs from a downgrade of Cincy and the Brew crew.

  • Nats add Scherzer and win five less games. Angels leading the AL with only 90 wins…oh, and Bucs dropping to below .500…

    I realize numbers are fun to play with, but the real game is played on the field.

    • The Nats are definitely an interesting projection. Here’s is my take.

      Tanner Roark was obnoxiously good last year and 1) won’t be in the rotation and 2) won’t be that good again. Since BP is projecting just over 3 WAR for Scherzer, he really is just a more-legit version of the pitcher that Roark was last year.

      I think they’re a little low on Scherzer and the team too. But when you factor in the glitchy good performance it got from Roark last year and the fact that he’ll just be in the bullpen and will likely not be as good as last year, that at least accounts for some of the reduction from last year’s win total instead of an addition to last year’s win total.

    • Sabermetrics cannot see the field of play.

      • I wouldn’t necessarily lump these projections with all of sabermetrics. Statistics techniques, which these projections are, aren’t necessarily sabermetrics. Or at least aren’t synonymous.

        But the “Cannot see the field” thing is exactly the idea that Tim was proposing in the article.

        It hasn’t caught on yet that Morton and Worley aren’t as bad as they once were. It probably doesn’t know that Burnett was pitching through a hernia.

        There are times where you have to use your brain/eyes over what the projections say. I don’t think any good stats person should argue otherwise. Kluber will be better than a 4.07 ERA. i’d bet on those three pirates pitchers beating those projections too. Well… at least Morton and Burnett. Worley is a coin flip.

        the projections are just good starting points to take a look at the mlb landscape when there’s nothing better to do in January.

      • The problem with projections is that they accumulate many data points to create the model, but then apply them to just a few players without any real way to know who will ‘put it all together’ or will fall apart.

        • what do you mean by “apply them to just a few players”?

          and yeah of course it has no idea when a Josh Harrison, who would have had minimal reason for thinking he would become an MVP candidate, would become an MVP candidate. But i doubt and scouts saw that either. The Pirates themselves seemed surprised themselves.

        • IOW, the athletes natural progression, or regression, is immeasurable by sabermetrics. But it made sense to me that the 2013 club would win >90, by the upsides of the players. Potential improvement (upside) is not quantifiable.

          The intangibles are not predictable. Kang’s difference? Marte’s improvement? Gregory’s breakout? Cervelli’s full season? Our overall improvement at 1B, over Ike and Gabby?

          Another thing we can “see”, is that we compare to other NL clubs very positively. Top OF. Top pen. Near top starters. Above avg. bench. Top pitching depth. Again, unquantifiable by computers.

          • ” the athletes natural progression, or regression, is immeasurable by sabermetrics” not true.
            “Top OF. Top pen. Near top starters. Above avg. bench. Top pitching depth. Again, unquantifiable by computers.” Not true.

            all of the things you state are things that most projection systems would bring into account. They’ve tracked how players age. How homers age. how steals age. how slg ages. how just about everything ages. and then subdivide that aging into other categories like aging by… i dunno.. body type, by pitch velocity, by anything.

            There are players that break out all the time. Most break outs happen when the player has shown that he has the potential to break out, and therefore should show up in the data that leads to making projections.

            Sure, random breakouts like Harrison would not be predicted by systems. but it wasn’t predicted by scouts or anyone else either.

          • Tetrapharmakos
            January 30, 2015 11:16 am

            “IOW, the athletes natural progression, or regression, is immeasurable by sabermetrics.”

            Aging curves are actually pretty well understood by sabermetrics:

            http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?%20articleid=4464

            http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/component-changes-in-new-hitter-aging-curves/

            • NONE of the following was predictable….Or predicted…..By saber analysis . . .

              Giants vs Royals in World Series.

              Pirates’ average of 90 wins over past two seasons.

              Over the past several seasons, comebacks by Worley, Martin, Liriano, Grilly, Melancon, Volquez, Mercer in 2nd half.

              Pirates winning more than 90 in 2015 🙂

              • Tetrapharmakos
                January 30, 2015 11:40 am

                No, but that isn’t how statistical probabilities work. The fact that you flipped a coin and got heads 4 times in a row doesn’t mean that the coin is broken, or that a 50/50 probability is mathematically incorrect. It merely illustrates that sampled data is distributed over spread over a variety of outcomes with differing probabilities.

              • I’ll give you Worley, as he was totally scouting – and – mechanics change based. He essentially became a different player than what he was with the Twins.

                But there were definitely reasons to believe in every other player you list based on underlying stats. And by watching them and knowing there was more talent there.

                And an important concept of things like projections is that they’re all about the most probable thing to happen. Of course you’re more likely to roll a 1-4 on a die than your are a 5-6. but it doesn’t mean that you never roll a 5 or a 6. Same with projections. I’m sure it would have favored the better teams in the postseason, but definitely wouldn’t say that the Giants and Royals had no chance. After all, the worst team in baseball still wins like 40% of the time! the best teams only win like 60% of the time. the randomness is awesome!

                Projections try to answer the question of “who is actually the best,” and not “what will precisely happen.” There’s a big difference.

          • In my opinion, there’s just too much variability to account for. I don’t have anything against the new math of baseball…there’s a lot of good to be found in it…and the Pirates have utilized it well to become contenders. However, some of its most vocal adherents seem to believe they’ll eventually crack the theory of everything if they try hard enough.

            Let’s not forget, the only World Series team Billy Beane had anything to do with was the ’89 A’s…as a player.

            • Tetrapharmakos
              January 30, 2015 12:04 pm

              “However, some of its most vocal adherents seem to believe they’ll eventually crack the theory of everything if they try hard enough.”

              Nobody thinks that. The people who spend the time and effort analyzing baseball, almost without exception, love the game and are not trying to replace drama of athletic competition with mathematical equations. They just want to better understand and appreciate that competition. Thus, it would be entirely counterproductive to make “a theory of everything” that would render all competition trivial.

              But have no fear because a theory of everything – even if such a thing could be found – would not ruin the game, because the point that seems to get missed all the time is that these projection systems are assigning probability functions to outcomes, which means that even if you had a complete and perfect understanding of the system (like a perfectly weighted coin) that doesn’t mean you can actually anticipate the outcome. You still have to flip the coin; you still have to play the game.

              Baseball is complicated, and we certainly do not have perfect knowledge of the system, but we do have a lot of data, so it is possible to use those inputs to assign probabilities to particular outcomes. It was incredibly unlikely that Jay-Hay would put up All-Star caliber season last year, given his history, but it did happen. Doesn’t mean that everybody who didn’t bet their house on it was foolish. And you know, given the entire history of baseball, it is unlikely that he will put up another All-Star caliber season this year. But…and this is a big but…given last year, it is far more likely that he puts up an All-Star caliber season this season, than it was for him to do it last season. We have better information now, so we update our probabilities. Baseball history is long, so we should still heed the warnings that players of his age that come out of nowhere are unlikely to maintain last seasons performance. Again, thinking of the coin. Flipping 5 heads in a row might mean the coin isn’t fair, but we have a long history with coins, so it is more likely than not that it is not that the coin is defective, but rather that 5 heads in a row was just a fluke.

            • lonleylibertarian
              January 30, 2015 4:34 pm

              I am not sure what your point is – the A’s have been able to contend for the last 5+ years with a low payroll – THAT is what Money Ball is about…

              Winning the WS has little to do with sabermetrics – it is a lottery – the goal of advanced analytics is to get you TO the playoffs or keep you in contention longer.

              Do you or anyone else thing the Royals and the Giants were the two best teams in Baseball? – both of them could easily have missed the playoffs.

  • I seriously question the usefulness of sabermetric projections.

    As has been stated, these players are not the guys of two and three seasons ago. It makes no sense to integrate data (of years ago) that negates the prevailing factors now – my only question is: Will the payer continue to perform at the current level, improve or decline?

    I needn’t use sabermetrics to see the same sport I’ve followed for 50 years.

    For example, in the past two seasons I predicted above 90 win seasons (in the JAL win prediction contest). I simply saw the growth of the team from 71 to 79 wins, and projected the continued improvement. So, I see no reason for this team to regress….

    For this season, my simple analysis shows the following should remain at least as good as 2014: Harrison, McCutchen, Walker. They all are capable of reproducing their career years of 2014 (as in, McCutchen will again be an MVP candidate).

    Improvements can be expected of Mercer, Alvarez, Marte, and Polanco. Catching is a wild card, but I believe Cervelli will have a breakout season, and perform comparable to the value of Martin of 2014.

    I see improvement with Cole and Worley. They project to continue to mature. Liriano and Burnett will slot as dependable numbers 2 and 3 pitchers, respectively.

    The pen will continue its better play of late 2014, as the problems of 2014 are gone (Grilli, Frieri, Wilson).

    Improved bench play will allow each position to perform at least to the level of 2014. Rodriguez, Hart, Kang and whomever are surely an improvement over Bames, Tabata, Ike Davis, Lambo, Nix and Morel.

    So, I’m in for another 90 plus win season.

    Simple. 🙂

    • You seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how projections are generated. These are not predictions, but rather regressed mean values with confidence intervals on either side. No team projects to win 90+ games as a mean outcome, that just isn’t realistic when you factor in normal regression due to age/injury/over/under performance. I am not a big Pecota guy, but Zips and Steamer are going to beat your guesses every year. The idea that fans can project the future better than numbers has been tested repeatedly and the fans always lose. I’m all for the rah-rah preseason predictions, but you have to see that what you wrote is almost exclusively best case scenario. Nobody gets worse, everybody gets better stuff.

      • PS – not trying to be a jerk, just hoping to explain why we should trust the projections for individual players more than our preconceived notions.

        • Somehow, my 50+ years of watching this game proved more accurate in my predictions for the past two seasons, than all of the massaging of numbers.

          🙂

          • Tetrapharmakos
            January 30, 2015 10:44 am

            Yeah, but you are talking about a sample of 2. As an exercise, project all 30 teams. Post them here and we will compare your projections to PECOTA at the end of the season. I’m confident that you would get crushed.

            • Me too, I agree with your Tetraph! But I will not do that, but thanks for asking !

              I’m only posting on what I see, and follow, my hometown team.

              You know, human reasoning.

              • Tetrapharmakos
                January 30, 2015 11:12 am

                That is fair. I said it elsewhere, but it is probably worth repeating here, being close to a team can provide real insight, but it does come with the risk of having you judgement clouded by emotion. I can come up with all sorts of reasons why I think the Pirates will out perform their projects (and I suspect fans of the other 29 teams can, too!). And I agree with the sentiment that PECOTA is undervaluing the Pirates, but I think these mathematical/objective projection systems can shed some light on the team, if only as Tim points out in the article, to show where/when/how the team is capable of squeezing extra value from its players. Anyways, I hope your projections are right and PECOTA’s are wrong.

              • There are entire branches of academics and disciplines devoted to studying the fallacy and errors of human reasoning.

                • YES, Andrew.

                  That’s part of what makes us human. AND, the game of baseball.

                  Human.

                  • So maybe there is utility in measures that remove these human errors and fallacies, and provide objective data upon which to better inform our opinions and insights?

                • There is also no way to quantify any number of life variables that can effect the anticipated performance of a human man based on his track record… Psychology , I think is the discipline that most closely encompasses the human element that can’t be measured .

          • I’m guessing you are using selective memory. Did you predict Pedro Alvarez dropping completely off the board? Howabout Grilli tanking? Or maybe Wandy collapsing? I imagine you predicted that Harrison would go from the 25th man to a 5 win season? It should also be noted the projection systems had the Pirates improving as well over previous projections, what differs is the win prediction. At any rate, you can pick any 25 players you want and predict their 2015 seasons and you will lose. It has been tested over and over again. Here is one such piece of evidence – http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/you-should-trust-the-projections/

            The two things can happily co-exist. You can trust the projections as an unbiased view and still think that the team/players will over perform.

            BTW, its not data massaging, its data analysis. There is no bias in a projection computer to try and construct a narrative of any kind.

            • Also, again this is not a prediction of wins, but a mean projection. If you want predictions use the Vegas betting line which I bet will be 86ish

          • After all that correcting you received…. taking Lambo’s numbers and rounding them up to 600 at-bats still sounds like a fancy projection…. It all still sounds like fluffed up projection.

            Nothing will ever trump the eye test and the smell test of someone who knows what they are looking at and smelling.
            Continue trusting your old man gut, sir.. As you stated, it got ya this far .

        • Jal, I look at sabermatrics this way.. for player/teams they provide a baseline for an expectation.. if you understand how the baseline is established and have relevant information as to why the baseline is incorrect then I would go with your new projection. . without additional relevant info the baseline is best.. as far as the buccos it could be viewed that our pitcher/defense will limit runs scored against as a unit, more then the sum of the parts predicts..

    • I agree with your sentiment and most of your assessment.

      Where I disagree…I think Cervelli will be adequate or better, but has no chance of being on par with Martin’s 2014. However, I also don’t think Pedro will be as bad as he was last season. So, a better Pedro and a good Cervelli does come close to equalling Martin and last season’s Alvarez.

      I like the rotation, but see Burnett as the wild card. Yes, he was injured last season, but he’s 38, Even a rebound from injury might not be able to make up for the increase in age. However, I’m on the Morton bandwagon and see him as a good number 3. What I do like is the Pirates depth at SP.

    • Really, this team is built to win 90+ games, year-in-and-year-out. The only question is: Will they?

      The franchise has proven players at every starting position, with upsides at LF, RF, 3B, SS and 1B. The league’s best player resides in CF. They have arguably the league’s best outfield; for at least the next three seasons.

      The franchise is stacked with pitching, both starters and the capability to build above average pens.

      Lastly, this F/O knows the game. They have proven to be above average in every aspect of player development and player acquisition.

  • There was a cool comment in the FG NL central preview yesterday about the Bucs – “Meet the new floor, same as the old ceiling”.

  • Tetrapharmakos
    January 30, 2015 9:16 am

    While I agree with all that you are saying, I can’t help but feel that fans of the 29 other clubs all have a similar story as to why their team is being undervalued by the projection systems. For what it is worth, converting batted ball data to run values and Pythagorean record Tony Blengino had the ’14 Bucs as the best team in the NL Central (by a pretty considerable margin) and has similarly glowing expectations going into ’15.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/pre-spring-divisional-outlook-nl-central/

    • Dave Parker's Unfiltered Camel
      January 30, 2015 9:42 am

      Good stuff. I think the issue for most people here, is that the projections have been off by a wide margin.

      • Tetrapharmakos
        January 30, 2015 10:08 am

        Sure. And it is reasonable/useful to ask if there are a systematic errors leading to the projections overvaluing/undervaluing certain types of teams/performance – and I think Tim has raised some good examples as to why one might conclude, yes – but this sort of post hoc analysis does run a serious risk of overfitting the data. Projection systems are useful/interesting only because they apply the exact same reasoning to all 30 teams. Take away that objectivity though and all you have left is boatload of hunches. Some times being close to a team can provide real insight; sometimes being close to a team can cloud one’s judgement with emotion. Maybe, we as fans can better predict the Pirates record (maybe not) but I suspect that we would fair a lot worse compared to the projection systems if we also had to project the other 29 teams, too. And that is the last point really, when projecting all 30 teams, it is actually not unreasonable for a system to miss on some teams by 10+ games. There is probably a 5-10 variance in outcomes based on unpredictable luck alone (BABIP, sequencing, injuries, etc). So the fact that the Pirates have out performed their PETCOTA projections by a considerable margin the last two years might be evidence of a systematic problem with the model, or it could be an unusual, but not unexpected product of random variance.

      • Off topic…That may be the single greatest profile/avatar/pic that has ever been or ever will be ! ! !

        You sir, are most certainly a beautiful human being ! I have no doubt !

        DAVE PARKER FOR HOF !!! Already, Please ! !

  • i’m not so sure that the Pirates’ ground ball system and defensive shifts and pitch framing would really close the gap with the Cardinals.

    They have ground ball pitchers too. They have Yadier Molina. They’re smart, so i assume they shift.

    I think the 2nd half of the article is definitely the bigger reason for optimism for the Pirates. The individual studies of burnett, worley, and morton.

    Curious if PECOTA “knows” Burnett played with a hernia last year. i bet it would “know” if he had spent time on the DL with it. But i’m betting his issues went undocumented in the PECOTA calculation. (i know ZIPs takes injuries into account. not sure if PECOTA does)

    Worley and Morton have definitely made significant adjustments in their careers. Worley’s only been adjusted for a short amount of time, so it makes sense it’d be low on him. Morton’s been adjusted for a few years now, but he’s been injured so often that it must not have caught on yet.

    PECOTA also has Cy Young winner Corey Kluber at 4.08 ERA, 0.7 WAR. Another player who only has a year and a half of being good, but he’s adjusted.

  • I remember when it used to be necessary to have a track record of being accurate in predicting to be taken seriously. Apparently that is no longer the case.

  • In 2013 I projected 92-70 and the Bucs went 94-68. In 2014 I projected 90-72 and the Bucs went 88-74. For 2015 I am projecting 95-67. If I am within 2 games either way again that will mean 93 or 97 wins. I am sure we would all take that.
    Personally I could care less what PECOTA projects and I find it ridiculous that they project the Cubs to finish ahead of the Bucs.
    Lots can happen but I do not think the Cubs will contend in 2015.

  • Interesting that pecota is low on Pittsburgh again. Steamer has the pirates one win behind the cardinals, so essentially dead even. I think these systems do a good job at projecting how a player would perform based on their age curve and previous players who were similar, but there are, as you said, things they can’t account for such as mechanical changes and team philosophies. It’s also important to note that this is a mean projection, so they are really saying they expect the bucs to be in the 74-86 win range.

  • Tim: I am sure the rest of the explanation about projections is spot-on, but I read as much as I needed when you stated that their projection for the Pirates prior to 2014 was 78-84 and we won 88. I am positive that the projection prior to 2013 was even worse and the team was able to overcome that projection with 93 wins. Somewhere in all of this there has to be a reflection on their track record – at least with the Pirates of 2013 and 2014, they have not even been in the ballpark. The team cannot get too big headed about 2 consecutive trips to the Playoffs when you have folks like PECOTA predicting doom and gloom.

  • Scott Kliesen
    January 30, 2015 5:33 am

    Be interesting how PECOTA scored in 2014 on average. A 14 win miss is substantial to say the least. Have to believe on average they’re within a few games.

    One reason for sure it will be hard for Pirates, and other top NLC teams, to reach last year’s win total is improvements by Cubs. The best way to make up for this is to garner a couple more wins from each of the other NLC teams this season than last. Something which is very doable.

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