The 2014 PECOTA projections have been released and are now available at Baseball Prospectus. PECOTA was originally developed by someone named Nate Silver, who doesn't seem to be doing baseball work anymore (anyone know what ever happened to that guy?). PECOTA operates as a player-projection system, but those player projections are then used to create BP's projected standings.
The Indians are projected to finish 79-83, tied for 2nd in the AL Central with the Royals, 9 games behind the Tigers and 8 games behind the Angel's, BP's somewhat surprising projection for the second Wild Card spot. The Red Sox and Rays are tied at the top of the American League, while the Astros are at the bottom.
The Indians are projected to score 710 runs; they scored 745 runs in 2013, so PECOTA expects a moderate decline. The 710 runs rank 8th among the 15 AL teams, right in the middle. The Tribe projected to allow 726 runs, after allowing 662 in 2013. That's a much larger projected decline, which shouldn't be especially surprising, given the loss of Ubaldo Jimenez (probably), Scott Kazmir, and Joe Smith. The 726 runs allowed rank 10th among the 15 AL teams.
I knew the Indians wouldn't be forecast to match the 92 wins they had last year or the 90 wins their run differential would say they should have had in 2013. I knew there'd be a decline, but thought they'd be projected for 82 to 84 wins, so seeing them below .500 is disappointing.
Here's a taste of the player projections:
Justin Masterson with a 3.82 ERA, which makes him one of only two potential Tribe starters with a figure below 4.00. The other: Shaun Marcum, who PECOTA has throwing only 72 innings, but with a 3.63 ERA. For those curious, Ubaldo Jimenez is projected for a 3.61 ERA, so PECTOA would say the Indians should splurge and bring him back. Scott Kazmir is projected for a 4.51 ERA, so PECOTA would day the Indians were right to let him go.
The top 5 in OPS:
- Carlos Santana: .807 (597 PA)
- Nick Swisher: .776 (594 PA)
- Jason Kipnis: .757 (621 PA)
- Yan Gomes: .753 OPS (304 PA)
- Lonnie Chisenhall: .742 OPS (292 PA)
So, the forecast calls for another year of Carlos Santana being the Tribe's best hitter (and I'm calling another year of Carlos Santana being under-appreciated by many fans). Santana and Swisher are both projected for 20 home runs, those most of anyone on the team. Kipnis' projections would be a steep decline for his 2013 production, and he's my pick for most-likely-to-perform his PECOTA numbers. Gomes' numbers are a big drop too, but that wouldn't surprise me, and those would still be very solid numbers for a great defensive catcher (though I hope he gets far more than 304 PA). Those numbers for Chisenhall would be a big improvement over his 2013, and I'd be happy with them.
PECOTA also gives rates each player a Breakout Rate and Collapse Rate. These rates are the percent chance that a player's production will improve upon the weighted averages of his recent seasons by at least 20% (Breakout), or decline by at least 25% (Collapse). The Tribe's top Breakout Rate among players expected to make the 25-man roster at some point in 2014 belongs to Carlos Carrasco (44%). The largest Collapse Rates tend to belong to relievers, but among 2013's starters, Corey Kluber has the highest figure (28%).
There's so much more to dig through, and you can see it all by becoming a Baseball Prospectus subscriber and/or buying a copy of the brand new Baseball Prospectus Annual, coedited this year by Sam Miller and Jason Wojciechowski. The book features nearly 600 pages of player projections/comments and insightful essays on each of the 30 teams (the Indians entry this year was written by Susan Petrone of It's Pronounced "Lajaway") and more general baseball topics. There are a handful of baseball books I buy every offseason, but BP's might be the best.
Projections are not certainties; the Indians were not projected to win 92 games last year, but they did, and every year has teams that outperform their projection substantially (and ones that underperform too). Some teams have more players breakout at once than could be expected, while others suffer numerous injuries. Other forms of luck and misjudgments throw things off along the way as well. Still, given PECOTA's strong overall performance through the years, it's disappointing that its forecast for the Indians isn't rosier.