Like most baseball fans who spend much of their day on the computer, we're obsessed with Baseball Prospectus, and particularly their PECOTA forecasts. Invented by Nate Silver in 2003, it is generally considered the most accurate prediction machine in sports. The BP folks are constantly tweaking the formula, and, eventually, we assume it will become self-aware and enslave the human race. Well, this year's PECOTA cards came out yesterday, and they've got some pretty wacky prognostications.
Below, we highlight the 10 most fascinating PECOTA predictions, with a focus on our local nines, of course. As a teaser: PECOTA doesn't see either New York team making the playoffs.
1. The best team in baseball will be the Tampa Bay Rays, who will go 96–66. Only three teams will win more than 90 games. Unfortunately for the Yankees, all three of them are in the AL East. PECOTA sees the Red Sox at 95–67, and the Yankees at 93–69.
2. The Mets will finish 77–85, good enough for fourth place in the NL East. The Phillies will win the division at 88–74, with the Braves in second. The third place team is not the Marlins, but the Nationals, who will go 82–80.
3. The other division winners:
AL Central: Minnesota (82–80)
AL West: Oakland (87–75)
NL Central: St. Louis (89–73)
NL West: Los Angeles (87–75)
The wild-card teams are Boston and Arizona/Atlanta (both at 85–77).
4. The AL West standings are particularly unusual:
Los Angeles of Anaheim (76–86)
5. The worst regular in the Yankees lineup will not be Brett Gardner — it will be Jorge Posada. Here's how PECOTA sees Posada's line: eleven homers, 47 RBIs, .270 average, 400 plate appearances. Gardner comes off all right: five homers, 36 steals, .361 OBP, higher than Robinson Cano.
6. The Yankees will nevertheless score the most runs in baseball, by a large margin. The pitching will be OK, but it's still the reason the Yankees finish behind the Sox and Rays. PECOTA is not kind to veterans, which is why it sees such a mediocre season from Andy Pettitte, pegging him as the Yankees' worst starter by a large margin. The rotation, in order of predicted ERA: CC Sabathia, Javier Vazquez, Joba Chamberlain, A.J. Burnett, Pettitte. Also: Mariano Rivera will notch his second ever 3.00-or-higher ERA.
7. PECOTA puts Joba in the rotation, obviously, and keeps Phil Hughes in the bullpen. Oddly, it sees him as the Yankees' fifth-best reliever this year, behind Rivera, David Robertson, Jonathan Albaladejo, and Alfredo Aceves.
8. The Jason Bay signing is going to be a disaster for the Mets. His counting stats will be decent — 27 homers, 94 RBIs — but his defensive deficiencies and his low OBP (lower than Gardner's, if you can believe that) will make him dramatically overpaid in the first year of his contract, before he starts the downward slope.
9. Jose Reyes will be healthy, but the Mets will still be lousy. Reyes makes a projected 640 plate appearances, hits thirteen homers, and steals 45 bases. The Mets lineup, one through four, is solid, but after Bay, the drop-off is dramatic. The best VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) from spots 5–8 is posted by Luis Castillo. Also, the third-best pitcher will be Kelvin Escobar.
10. The following teams will have a better record than the Chicago Cubs: Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington.
We finish with our own prediction: If the Yankees really don't make the playoffs next season, Johnny Damon is going to make a lot of money next December.