PECOTA Likes Dodgers, Loves Grandal

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Sep 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal (9) hits an RBI sacrifice fly against the Colorado Rockies in the second inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal (9) hits an RBI sacrifice fly against the Colorado Rockies in the second inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /
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PECOTA is just a projection and we shouldn’t take it too seriously, but the system likes the Dodgers a lot and has a surprise MVP candidate.

Baseball is really the least logical sport out there and is often impossible to predict. Yet, every season, multiple outlets try to do so. The reigning World Series champions have been projected to finish under .500 in most projection systems, so these projection systems should always be met with a bit of skepticism, but once again, a projection system LOVES the Dodgers.

This time, it’s PECOTA. PECOTA, unlike USA Today, who released their own projections yesterday, has at least a little bit of science behind it. They don’t just go with their gut, they try to predict how players will age and progress/regress based on precedents and trends.

Here’s a definition of PECOTA, from Baseball Prospectus:

"Stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. PECOTA is BP’s proprietary system that projects player performance based on comparison with historical player-seasons. There are three elements to PECOTA:1) Major-league equivalencies, to allow us to use minor-league stats to project how a player will perform in the majors;2) Baseline forecasts, which use weighted averages and regression to the mean to produce an estimate of a player’s true talent level;3) A career-path adjustment, which incorporates information about how comparable players’ stats changed over time."

So according to PECOTA, the Dodgers will have the best record. Not in the West, in all of baseball. SIGN ME UP.

The Dodgers, with a projected 94-68 record, sit comfortably over the Giants (87-75). For the second consecutive season, the team that made the big moves in the offseason disappoints, as the Diamondbacks finish 78-84, only a game ahead of last years’ offseason champions, the Padres. In the rest of the NL, the Dodgers take the top seed, the Cubs win the Central with a 92-70 record, the Mets go 90-72, and the Giants and Nationals would face off in the wild card game, each with 87-75 records.

Pitching is the key in this projection, as PECOTA projects the Dodgers to allow a league-low 592 runs. The Dodgers, Giants and Mets are the only teams in baseball projected to allow fewer than 600 runs. The Dodgers’ projected 712 runs are the second-most in the National League (well behind the Cubs’ 744) and the ninth-most in all of baseball (good luck AL East, with four teams projected over 700 runs).

Team projections are often wrong and there’s a lot of factors in baseball that can’t be quantified by computers, but it’s still worth knowing that A LOT of systems like the Dodgers. I wasn’t originally going to write about these projections until this tweet was retweeted onto my timeline.

Here’s the link to the article where Young takes part in explaining some of the projections. Young explains that PECOTA has Yasmani Grandal third in WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player), only behind Buster Posey and Paul Goldschmidt, ahead of Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto and Bryce Harper.

PECOTA is pretty conservative on Grandal offensively, as Young explains he’s projected to hit under .250. His projected TAv (True Average, adjusted for ballpark and league average) of .279 puts him “alongside Michael Brantley, Kyle Seager and Christian Yelich“. Good company to be in, but definitely not MVP-worthy.

Young explains that Grandal’s defense, mostly his pitch framing, is what takes him from good to MVP-level. Pitch framing stats are still imperfect, but statcorner had Grandal as the third-best framer in baseball last season, only behind Francisco Cervelli and Tyler Flowers.

Grandal was on his way to establishing himself as one of the best catchers in baseball last year. The framing speaks for itself, and in the first half Grandal slashed .282/.401/.526. For reference, Posey hit .311 last year, but his .379 OBP and .470 slugging percentage are both pretty distantly behind Grandal’s first half. Grandal’s .162/.280/.218 second half made him borderline unplayable, but that can probably partly be explained by a nagging shoulder injury that led to offseason surgery. It might be best for him to get a few more days off or be used a bit at first base when Adrian Gonzalez needs a day off, allowing A.J. Ellis (and hopefully Austin Barnes) the chance to get some time behind the plate. If healthy, Grandal could very well turn into a force on offense as well as a great defensive catcher.

Next: Dodgers Bounceback Candidate: Yasiel Puig

Again, projections are just educated guesses and there isn’t a track record for accuracy, but it’s always good to see what neutral sites and systems without any sort of agenda thinks. It’s also a nice reminder that while this offseason wasn’t ideal, the Dodgers did a pretty good job solidifying the team after losing Zack Greinke. Obviously, nothing really matters until the games start and the Dodgers start winning or losing, but it’s fun to look at these projections and see how the Dodgers stack up.

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