Dodger fans need take PECOTA rankings with grain of salt

Preseason predictions are like noses – everybody has one. And while some preseason prognostications may seem more accurate and believable than others, the bottom line is that baseball isn’t played on paper.

Late Monday evening, Baseball Prospectus – one of the best sabermetric sites on the world wide web – released their much-anticipated annual PECOTA rankings. Much to the delight of Dodger fans everywhere, PECOTA not only projects that the Dodgers to win the National League West for a record-breaking fourth consecutive season, but it projects that they will do so with the best record in all of baseball at 94-68 – a full seven games ahead of the second place Giants. But while this is unquestionably good news for Dodger fans, it absolutely must be taken with a grain of salt.

PECOTA Rankings

Last season PECOTA, which is an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, projected that the Kansas City Royals would win only 72 games and would finish fourth in the AL Central Division. Not only did the Royals go on to win 95 games – most in the American League – they also ended up winning the 2015 World Series over the New York Mets, who PECOTA projected to win 82 games and finish second in the NL Central Division instead of winning the division with 90 wins.

Although hopeful Dodger fans and even many baseball experts may tend to put more credibility into the PECOTA ranking system than those of others, earlier on Monday USA Today’s Gabe Lacques projected that the Giants would win the NL West with a 90-72 record, two games ahead of the second place Dodgers. And while Lacques is thus far one of very few who has the Giants finishing ahead of the Dodgers, there’s a pretty good chance that he did so because of that emotional “even numbered year” thing than actual sabermetrics – but to each his own.

There is zero doubt that Baseball Prospectus projects the Dodgers to be the best team in baseball in 2016 – even better than the highly rated Chicago Cubs  and their 92-70 PECOTA ranking – because of the exceptional pitching depth that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi have brought to and built into their team. And while they will undoubtedly feel the effects of losing co-ace Zack Greinke to their division rival Arizona Diamondbacks, the two analytics gurus have replaced Greinke with not one but with several guys.

The only thing better than winning the 2015 NL West title was doing so at San Francisco's AT&T Park. (Video capture courtesy of TBS)

The only thing sweeter than winning the 2015 NL West title was doing it at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
(Video capture courtesy of TBS)

Granted, it is highly unlikely that Scott Kazmir or Kenta Maeda or Hyun-jin Ryu or Brett Anderson or Alex Wood or top pitching prospects Julio Urias and Jose De Leon will win the 19 games that Zack Greinke won for the Dodgers in 2015, but it’s equally unlikely that Greinke will do so again himself. That being said, it is very likely that the combination of Clayton Kershaw, Kazmir, Maeda, Ryu and likely starters Anderson and Wood will collectively win more games this season than the combined 16 Dodgers starters did in 2015. It is because of this Friedman and Zaidi-built starting pitching depth that makes the Dodgers’ PECOTA ranking very believable.

But here again, the game of baseball is not played on paper and every Dodger fan needs to remember this – or they may end up having their noses bloodied.


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8 Responses to “Dodger fans need take PECOTA rankings with grain of salt”

  1. Badger3 says:

    16 starters sounds deep to me.

    Would ANYONE bet money on 94 wins? I actually WOULD bet money on the under.

    Yeah, Greinke won’t likely win 19 with Arizona but he certainly could. Those guys can hit. And yeah, Meada and Ryu might both pitch every 5th day and rack up 200 innings each. And, Anderson might and Wood might and Pederson might and Puig might, and Crawford might and Ethier……. we got a lotta might on this club. Do we have will? Yeah, we do. Kershaw.

    I think this club has talent. They had virtually the same talent last year but Mattingky and McGwire couldn’t squeeze out one more playoff win to keep it going. We won’t agree on why, and we won’t agree on the if’s for this year. I still have the under on 92. If it all goes right, we win 92 again and take the West. If some goes right we can qualify for the Wild Card. If less than some goes right, meaning some goes wrong……. there are two improved teams in the West that smell blood.

    • Respect the Rivalry says:

      Kershaw MIGHT need Tommy John Surgery before the season starts. Grienke, Bumgarner, and my brother MIGHT need Tommy John Surgery.
      Queto MIGHT return to elite status. He also MIGHT remain the suspect pitcher he became after he was traded.
      Sara MIGHT be as good as they think he is.
      Carl Crawford MIGHT play 162 games.
      The entire Mets rotation MIGHT quit and go to the NFL as QB’s.
      Reds, Phillies, and Rockies MIGHT win their divisions.
      MIGHT is the operative word at this time of the season, for every player and every team.

  2. OldBrooklynFan says:

    I don’t believe any of these predictions, even though they are based on pretty reliable things. It’s hard to tell how things will end up. It’s amazing how they pick the Royals, not only to not make the postseason but to finish up in last place. If anything I’ll agree with the Mets repeating in the NL East, as it looks like they have the best starting rotation.

    • Respect the Rivalry says:

      If predictions meant anything they wouldn’t need to play the season. It’s just good debate fodder.

      • Bluenose Dodger Bluenose Dodger says:


        I always go into a season expecting to win and have been wrong each year for the past 27 years. Nonetheless predictions and prospect lists simply widen the baseball narrative and that is a good thing.

  3. Snider Fan says:

    How many times have these guys gotten it right? Are they any better than flipping a coin? The Cardinals win only 82 games? If I were a betting man I’d sprain something reaching for my wallet. I don’t believe we’re that much better than the Gints who are that much better than the D-bags. Of course, injuries always play a part but I expect a dogfight in our division.

    If you wonder how projections could be as far off as they were with KC last year, a quick example: a post on another blog led me to look up WAR for several players, and in 2014 Howie Kendrick put up a WAR of 5.3 and Jimmy Rollins 4.0. Last year, they were 1.1 and zero, respectively. Multiply that by eight position players, the rotation and the bullpen and it’s no wonder you can be off by twenty games.

  4. Badger3 says:

    I think it’s safe to say nobody talking about it will get it exactly right. It’s like filling out a March Madness bracket. Less than 1% who do it come close.

    I can only look at our roster and offer a gut feeling about it. I see talent everywhere, but I don’t know I see a definitive plan other than stack that talent, turn it loose and sort it out day to day according to what the computer tells you. I see the same team as last year with some new arms in the rotation. Will those arms replace Greinke? I have my doubts, but somehow the computers used for evaluation say this new staff computes to more wins. Ok. The lineup? Yeah, if Puig, Turner, Kendrick, and Grandal all stay healthy, something none of them did last year, then yeah, I like the potential. Then there is Joc. Does he figure it out? If he doesn’t, we have a problem. And I guess we are figuring Seager plays 162 games because I don’t see a backup shortstop on this team. And Kike. A 24 year old utility guy? Yep. He’s a baller and my guess is we will be glad we have him.

    A lot of questions to be answered. And that is what Spring Training is for.

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