Today, Baseball Prospectus released their famous PECOTA projection system. PECOTA stands for “Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm”, which is a really fancy way of saying that they project how well players will perform in the following year. The core principle behind PECOTA is that they use probabilities to make their projections. So when they say Giancarlo Stanton will hit 39 home runs, that just means that 39 home runs is the most likely outcome based on their probabilities, but that there is a chance he good hit fewer or more.
In addition to player projections, PECOTA also projects team performance. Although we all know that it is basically impossible to predict baseball, these projected standings are fun to look at, and can tell us something about perception vs. reality.
Oct 12, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia reacts after getting out of a bases loaded situation in the 8th inning against the Baltimore Orioles during game five of the 2012 ALDS at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
In the case of the AL East, the perception of the 2013 season doesn’t come close to PECOTA’s projections. PECOTA projects the Yankees to win the AL East. Not just that, it projects them to win the division by a whopping six games. The Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays are all bunched up in 2nd-4th, but the Yankees are projected to be one of the best teams in baseball.
Again, these are very rough projections, and PECOTA is often fairly extreme and controversial. Don’t take this as evidence that the Yankees are actually one of the best teams in baseball, or that they are a shoe-in to win the division. However, the reality of the situation may be that the Bombers are much closer to the rest of the division than it seems.
Who knows what will happen next year? I don’t, and neither does PECOTA. But make no mistake about it – nothing is written right now. It will be an exciting AL East race, and it could turn out any number of ways. I can’t wait to see what happens. Go baseball.