It’s PECOTA Day! Or, at least, it’s the day after PECOTA Day. I got sidetracked yesterday and, well, here we are. But Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections, and we are obligated to discuss them. That’s okay because I really, really like talking about this stuff for some reason. Projections are so much fun, y’all.
It felt like Wednesday was the day that everyone argued about projection systems, so here’s my piece: Yeah, they’re not accurate, but neither are you. Everyone’s complaining about “oh, the computers have been wrong before!” as if people aren’t quantifiably more wrong. The difference between a computer and you is that you’re a meat computer that’s been programmed by your life experiences. The other computers have been programmed by fallible human beings with raw data. Your meat computer includes the time Stan Dalgey pushed you down the stairs in seventh grade, whereas the real computers include nothing but park-adjusted numbers.
Your meat computer sucks, really. So I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about the actual computers being wrong. We know this is all just a guess! This is just the best one that we have.
And according to the actual computers, here are the best teams in the National League:
Okay, so the stupid Dodgers are still in a different league, and that’s depressing. But are you seeing how many games are separating the Giants and the second-best team in the NL projections? Five. There are five games separating them. And that’s before the Giants add a 95-mph-throwing Tim Lincecum who is going to vogelsing a song to you, and just you, as he wins you over again.
What’s more important is that these predictions have the Giants playing the Cardinals in a game to see who plays the Diamondbacks to see which team makes the real postseason. That sounds stressful. I’m in.
But beyond the projections, there are other takeaways from the PECOTA projections:
The Giants’ rotation looks really, really top heavy
And that’s a good thing. Baseball Prospectus noted this front three in their article about projections to watch, and it seems like a big deal. Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija all have solid projections. The kinds of projections where they prevent runs and throw so many innings that the Giants’ bullpen doesn’t have to make unnecessary appearances. Which is probably a good thing.
Even better is that BP likes Chris Stratton as much as the Giants do, and the only reason he’s not ranking higher on the ol’ WARP scale is because he’s never thrown a lot of innings before, so his value would be a little muted if he threw only 120 innings. But the projections suggest that Stratton and his spin rate would be more effective than you might think.
The lineup is ... good?
I’m very much into this analysis, if only because it matches my back-of-the-envelope analysis. If you combine Steven Duggar and Austin Jackson into one center fielder, everyone in the starting lineup is worth a win or more. That’s even with PECOTA hating Brandon Crawford’s ability to rebound as a hitter and assuming that Evan Longoria is basically David Bell now.
I’m very, very interested in the idea that Duggar is a league-average hitter now, too. If he can pull a 2015 Matt Duffy, these wacky hi-jinks might work after all.
Hunter Pence hasn’t been left for dead
He’s projected to hit .261/.316/.411, which isn’t great. No, no sir, it isn’t great. But he’s projected to be a net positive for the Giants, and that’s just ducky with me. I want to root for Pence this year. I want him to hit .330/.400/.540, if we’re being honest, but I’ll take a solid season with contributions down in the batting order.
It’s not like Austin Slater projects to hit much better, so ...
The Giants still don’t have a 20-home run hitter
Oh, come on. PNC Park is just as hard on right-handers as AT&T, so I’m calling shenanigans. Andrew McCutchen hits 23, I’m calling it right now.
When it comes to Total Average, a one-stop shop for BP’s hitter evaluations, Andrew McCutchen is the Giants’ best hitter
The Giants, by Total Average:
It’s not a sunny, perfect projection, but there are things to like. McCutchen still being excellent is one of them.
Also, I just remembered that the Giants have Andrew McCutchen, and that’s really, really weird.
Kelby Tomlinson should be on the bench
When it comes to defensive flexibility, an ability to post at least a league-average OBP, and speed, Tomlinson is probably more qualified to handle a utility infielder job than most of the people the Giants could possibly dredge up.
As a card-carrying member of Team Specs, this is of interest to me.
Miguel Gomez is projected to be more valuable than Pablo Sandoval
Yeah, this checks out.
The bullpen is going to be sketchy again
I’m a little skeptical about the ERAs that PECOTA is projecting for some of these players. Hunter Strickland’s career FIP is 3.15. His career ERA is 2.64, which is exactly what he posted last year. His career ERA+ is 152, and his K/BB ratio is 3.00. And yet he’s going to be basically replacement-level?
Eh. Not sure about that. But the overall point that the Giants’ bullpen is going to be a concern again makes sense. They need someone like Roberto Gomez or Reyes Moronta or Joan Gregorio to break through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man and start throwing some awe-inspiring relief innings. Other teams get those kinds of breakthrough performances every year. The Giants used to get them (see: Santiago Casilla, when he was good).
It’s time for another one.
That’s just my opinion.
Anyway, the PECOTA projections were yet another exercise in this offseason of “I don’t know, maybe this can actually work?” I’m not, like, ETERNALLY JAZZED about the 2018 Giants. But when I see a projection of 84 wins and a chance at October baseball, I’m into it.
Because, friends, last year was a spider in the pants. I will take a not-spider in the pants, even if that means a moth in the pants. It’s a sliding scale, and I’m appreciative of the projection systems for giving me hope. PECOTA is doing just that.