We’ve come to expect a few things in early February.
The groundhog. The Super Bowl. The dismal prediction for the Royals season from PECOTA, the baseball projection system.
Well, the numbers aren’t kind to the Royals again.
Baseball Prospectus forecasts a 71-win season* for the Royals in 2017 and a last-place finish in the American League Central. That’s the fewest victories in the American League, second in all of baseball to the San Diego Padres (68). And it’s a distant fifth-place finish in the Central, six games behind the rebuilding Chicago White Sox.
*UPDATE: This is an increase of 69 from hours earlier on Tuesday, because of what was described as a bug in how runs scored and runs allowed calculated team wins. The overall win-loss total for all Major League Baseball teams went from 2386-2474 to 2431-2429, an increase of 45 wins overall.
A year ago, the PECOTA projection was right about one thing in the American League Central: The Indians were picked to win the division and that they did. However, the Royals exceeded their projection of a 76-86 record and a last-place finish in the Central.
Instead, the Royals were 81-81 and third in the division. That continued a trend of (depending on your view) overachieving Royals seasons or wrong predictions.
In 2015, the PECOTA system forecast the then-defending American League champion Royals to win 72 games. Instead, the Royals rolled to a 95-67 record and, of course, won the World Series that season.
In 2014, the Royals were projected to finish 79-83. They won 89 games, were a wild-card team and advanced to the World Series.
In 2013, PECOTA projected a 76-win season for the Royals, but they beat that by 10 games (86-76).
PECOTA was the brainchild of Nate Silver, who is well-known for his work at FiveThirtyEight.com. It was created in 2003 and named after former Royals infielder Bill Pecota.
UPDATE: USA Today also released its predictions for the 2017, and they were much kinder to the Royals: An 83-79 record and third-place finish in the AL Central (behind the Indians and Tigers).
Part of the what they wrote about the Royals: “... they’re playing to keep together a team loaded with pending free agents.”