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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Extra Innings: Where the PECOTA projections went wrong

Baseball Prospectus’ annual estimates include some hot takes

extra innings-henry blickenstaff

PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. It’s a fancy way of describing a system used by the organization Baseball Prospectus to predict the MLB standings in a given season, which it does every year. Let’s just say I’m not too crazy about the algorithm — and not just because it doesn’t have the Chicago Cubs winning the National League Central. These are, in my opinion, the five most insane PECOTA projections from this year’s iteration. 

Phillies win … 84.4 games

Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies missed Bryce Harper for 36 games and saw two of their best players, Trea Turner and Aaron Nola, seriously underperform expectations. And guess what? They still won 90 games. With the level of talent on the roster, it’s hard for me to imagine this team not taking a step forward, and it’s damn near impossible to see them regressing.

Astros win the AL West by 8 games

PECOTA has the Houston Astros winning 94.3 games and the Texas Rangers winning only 86.3. This is some serious disrespect for the reigning World Series champs. I’m not ready to say the Rangers are unequivocally better than the Astros — I think the two are relatively evenly matched — but it’s a huge stretch to say that the Astros are this much better. This is particularly because the Rangers are returning nearly their entire lineup except for Jordan Montgomery, and since rookie prospect Evan Carter, who showed amazing promise at the end of last season, will get regular playing time.

Orioles as a fourth-place team

In a recent column about the Baltimore Orioles trading for ace Corbin Burnes, I claimed that the trade made the Orioles the clear favorite in a crowded AL East. PECOTA not only disagrees with me, but they have the Orioles winning just 86.4 games, finishing in fourth place and with only a 53.6% chance of making the playoffs. Injuries to starters Kyle Bradish and John Means are worrisome, but this team just won 101 games, and their farm system depth is elite. It’s extremely hard to see this team missing the playoffs.

Yankees with the fourth-highest World Series odds

I understand the New York Yankees got Juan Soto. I do think they’ll be much improved this year. But to give them the fourth-highest World Series odds at 9.5% — behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Atlanta Braves and the Astros — is totally absurd. This team went 82–80 last year. I can think of several teams I’d put at number four before the Yankees. Between Soto, Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole, the Yankees do have three of the best players on the planet, but they’re extremely top-heavy. And with their history of pitching injuries, I’m betting they’ll struggle to cover innings.

Angels winning 74 games?

The Los Angeles Angels haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, they’re coming off back-to-back 73–89 seasons, they lost Shohei Ohtani, and Mike Trout has dealt with injuries for the past three years. So forgive me for being skeptical when PECOTA claims they’ll improve on their win total from 2023. There’s also the variable of morale — this franchise absolutely fumbled six years of having two generational superstars on the same team. This says nothing of playing in a loaded division featuring Houston, Texas AND Seattle.