We’re two days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, and today was the day that Baseball Prospectus released their annual PECOTA projections for the 2016 season.
In a way, I sort of understand why these projections become the most popular conversation topic of the day for baseball fans. For one, it’s because baseball Twitter is filled with pictures and videos of players stretching and playing catch. Yes, it’s exciting that baseball is about to get underway, but there really isn’t a whole lot happening yet. Not everyone has shown up to camp at this point, and we’re still two weeks away from when they actually start playing spring training games.
Another reason why they’re so popular to talk about is because they’re kind of ridiculous. They’re ridiculous in the sense that they give fans of who teams who suck a little hope before reality sets in.
Take last year for example. The Red Sox had the second worst team ERA in the American League. That wasn’t really a shocker, considering they had no ace, and really had a bunch of threes, which turned out to be a bunch of number fives. Well, PECOTA picked them to win the American League East last year. Aside from Clay Buchholz going down in July, it’s not like the Red Sox were decimated with injuries. They just kinda sucked. And most of us knew that they were going to suck, and that’s why I’m kind of puzzled as to how the PECOTA projections didn’t know that, when it seemed obvious last spring when they came out.
Probably the biggest swing and miss by the PECOTA projections last year was that they had the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals finishing fourth and losing 90 games. They, of course, ended up back in the World Series in 2015 and won the whole thing.
This year, PECOTA has it out for the Royals yet again, projecting them to lose 86 games and finish in last place. Will that actually happen? I’d be willing to bet heavily against that. Their biggest loss of the offseason was Johnny Cueto, who wasn’t even good for them in his time there, positing a 4.76 ERA in 81.1 innings. They’ve replaced Cueto’s innings with Ian Kennedy, who is about what Cueto was for them. The addition of Kennedy allows Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura to slide up and fill out the top of the rotation. After Cueto, Alex Gordon was their biggest free agent, who they re-signed for another four years. With virtually the same team back in the fold, the Royals seem to be the kind of team who thrives off of projections like these.
Everything checks out in the National League with PECOTA projecting the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers to win their divisions, so the biggest swing and miss on their projections in 2016 once again resides in the American League. Put aside the fact that they’re way off on the Royals again, they have the Tampa Bay Rays winning the American League East, with the Red Sox as the runner-up and the Toronto Blue Jays in third.
What were the key offseason additions for the Rays that are going to make them leapfrog from fourth place over the division’s juggernaut in Toronto? Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Steve Pearce, Logan Morrison and Hank Conger are all nice complimentary pieces, but where was their big splash to separate themselves from the pack? There wasn’t one. They added a handful of nice players and a dugout mascot. In my opinion, this is still the Blue Jays’ division to lose, and I just don’t see the Rays in the conversation with the additions that they’ve made, or the lack thereof.