Remember PECOTA, the baseball projection system that forecasted the Royals to win 72 games in 2015?
The latest PECOTA projections were released Tuesday, and they show the Royals making modest gains in 2016: They expect the Royals to finish 76-86 and occupy the cellar in the American League Central. So, no, PECOTA — which is the official projection system of Baseball Prospectus — is not too bullish on the Royals’ chances to repeat as World Series champions this season.
The system predicts the Cleveland Indians to win the AL Central with a 92-70 record — the best mark in the American League. PECOTA likes the White Sox to finish second at 82-80 and the Tigers and Twins to finish tied for third at 79-83.
A year ago, of course, the Royals topped the PECOTA projection on Aug. 19, winning their 73rd game with a 4-3 victory over the Reds. Throughout their playoff run, the Royals cited the projection systems as a source of motivation.
“You see what’s being said about you,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said then. “I think more than anything, it disappointed us that people thought this was a fluke. If anything, that drove us more to prove it again this year.”
There are many advanced baseball projection systems, but PECOTA is among the most prominent, and one that has become a staple of preseason previews.
Nate Silver, the statistical guru who has earned plaudits for his political work at FiveThirtyEight.com, created PECOTA for Baseball Prospectus in 2003. Silver, a Tigers fan growing up, named it after former Royals infielder Bill Pecota, one of his favorite ballplayers from his youth.
Now the system named for a Royal appears vexed by the Royals’ roster construction and style of play. A year ago, the number “72” became a funny source of amusement and trivia as the Royals won their first World Series championship in 30 years. The Royals won 95 games during the regular season and bested the New York Mets in five games.
But as the Royals objected to the doubters, the proprietors of PECOTA did attempt to defend their projection. Sam Miller, the editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus, said the Royals were a hard team to decipher in 2015 because many of their core players had not performed well in 2014 or in previous seasons.
In other ways, the Royals appear to possess some type of kryptonite for the PECOTA formula. One year later, the system likes the Royals a little better. But not by much.
“Bottom line: I think we know that this system has a hard time with elite, highly leveraged bullpens, which the Royals have had,” Miller told The Star last year in an email. “(We know) that it probably has a hard time with great defenses, which the Royals have; and that it has a hard time with any team that can outperform its raw stats for whatever reason, which the Royals have done.”