Making Sense of the 2016 Projections

Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians

Credit: Jason Miller / Getty Images North America

Overachievers

Tampa Bay Rays
2015 Record: 80-82
PECOTA Projection: 91-71
Fangraphs Projection: 82-80

Out of all the projections in this year’s PECOTA projections, the Tampa Bay Rays may be the most surprising. Despite many feeling like they profile as the fourth- or fifth-best team in the American League East, PECOTA has the Rays not only finishing in first place in the division, but also as the second-best team in the American League and the fourth-best team in all of baseball. For the sake of comparison, the Fangraphs projection has the Rays at around .500, 82-80 to be specific.

While the two systems use different formulas to arrive at their individual projections, a nine-win difference is rather significant. Even with the additions of Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, not to mention a hopefully healthy pitching staff, the Rays don’t look like a 90-plus win team on paper. Obviously there is room to overachieve, especially with such a strong pitching staff, but it seems rather difficult to expect the Rays to make an 11-game improvement from last season. The Rays have surprised before, but this seems like wishful thinking.

Cleveland Indians
2015 Record: 81-80
PECOTA Projection: 92-70
Fangraphs Projection: 84-78

I would say the Indians’ projection is more surprising than that of the Rays, but for a variety of reasons, it actually isn’t. It seems like almost every year, the Indians are picked to make the playoffs or win the World Series, and yet the team always ends up nowhere close to the playoffs. The same story played out last season, when the Indians finished with only 81 wins, despite being picked by many to make the postseason or even the World Series. After making few significant additions this offseason, the Indians are once again in a similar position in the preseason projections, as they are projected for 92 wins, a ten-game lead over the second place team in AL Central. For comparison, Fangraphs has the Indians sitting at 84 wins, just an eight-game difference compared to the 11-game difference for the Rays.

Last year the Indians had a fantastic pitching staff, but were unable to generate enough runs to win more frequently than they lost. Following a quiet offseason, the Indians look to be in the same boat going into this season. With an outfield of Abraham Almonte, Lonnie Chisenhall and Rajai Davis going into Opening Day, the Indians don’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence offensively. The addition of Mike Napoli should help, but losing Michael Brantley for the first several months of the season may hold the Indians back. Pitching is a big part of a championship team, but the offense needs to be there as well. And the Indians may not have enough.

Honorable Mentions

Milwaukee Brewers
2015 Record: 68-94
PECOTA Projection: 77-85
Fangraphs Projection: 69-93

Despite profiling as one of the worst teams in baseball according to many projecting next season’s win-loss records, the PECOTA projections have the Brewers sitting near .500, eight games better than the Fangraphs projections.

San Diego Padres
2015 Record: 74-88
PECOTA Projection: 77-85
Fangraphs Projection: 74-88

After taking some steps toward rebuilding this offseason, many projected the Padres to be no more than a 70-win team, with 73 or 74 being best possible outcome. Even so, the PECOTA projections sits at 77 wins for the Padres team, despite several flaws throughout the team’s roster.

San Francisco Giants
2015 Record: 84-78
PECOTA Projection: 87-75
Fangraphs Projection: 85-77

The differences between the two projections may be slight, but the Giants may have a little bit of even year magic in them once again.

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