Making Sense of the 2016 Projections

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles

Credit: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images North America

Underachievers

St Louis Cardinals/Pittsburgh Pirates
2015 Record: 100-62/98-64
PECOTA Projection: 82-80/83-79
Fangraphs Projection: 84-78/84-78

Considering both teams sit in the National League Central, grouping both the Cardinals and Pirates together for this discussion makes sense. After finishing among the top three in the NL Central last season, at 100 and 98 wins respectively, both teams sit well below their 2015 win totals. The interesting thing here is that both Fangraphs and PECOTA have both teams profiling as much worse than last year. It is true that both teams lost some players from last season, but both teams are still pretty good on paper.

The Cardinals lost both John Lackey and Jason Heyward to division rivals, but the Cardinals Devil Magic should still play some significant dividends next year. It’s really hard to imagine the Cardinals finishing 17 or 18 games worse than they did in 2015. Especially considering the team has not finished below 86 wins, or even below .500, since 2007. That is a pretty significant period of success, and one that should not be slowed this year despite some causes for concern.

It looks to be a similar story for the Pirates. After finishing in the top Wild Card position last season, and losing in the Wild Card game to the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates still look to be a lot better than the projections would suggest. The team did lose key contributors in J.A. Happ and A.J. Burnett in the pitching staff, as well as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez in the lineup, but the team made some good additions, and should get a good deal of help from the farm system in the form of Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow if needed. It’s hard to imagine the Pirates falling by 14 or 15 wins after such a strong string of success over the last several years.

Arizona Diamondbacks
2015 Record: 79-83
PECOTA Projection: 78-84
Fangraphs Projection: 79-83

Despite an offseason flurry of moves, including the signing of Zack Greinke and the acquisitions of Shelby Miller and Jean Segura, among other moves, the D’backs still look to be the third-best team in the National League West according to the projections. Even worse, the projection systems don’t even register the D’backs as a .500 team. Given how good the team’s offense was in 2015, and the additions made in the rotation, this seems to be a really harsh evaluation all around.

Even with question marks surrounding several parts of the roster, it’s still hard to imagine the D’backs not fairing better than .500 given their additions. With a poor pitching staff and shaky bullpen last season, the D’backs were able to win 79 games. The addition of Greinke alone should put the team over .500, with the other additions providing added value on top of that. It may be hard for the Diamondbacks offense to maintain the output, especially with the loss of Ender Inciarte, but as a whole the team looks much better than last year’s edition. The Diamondbacks certainly seem poised to exceed expectations in 2016.

Kansas City Royals
2015 Record: 95-67
PECOTA Projection: 76-86
Fangraphs Projection: 79-83

As has become customary, the Kansas City Royals are once again loathed by the various projections systems. It seems to be a now yearly occurrence that the Royals are expected to way underachieve the most plausible scenario. Realistically, any writer worth a damn could dedicate a whole 2,000 word article to the general hatred shown towards the Royals by various projection systems year in and year out. After defying the projections significantly in each of the last three seasons, including back-to-back World Series appearances that came out of nowhere according to these projections, the Royals are once again poised for a significant drop according to both systems mentioned. While Fangraphs also has the team under .500, PECOTA has the team reaching an even further depth, at only 76 wins. That record would be worse than the Padres and Brewers and just a shade better than the Athletics and Angels. Unbelievable right? Right?

The same thing that can be said about the Royals that can be said about almost every other team mentioned here: PECOTA favors pitching. And few teams have more questionable starting pitching staffs than the Kansas City Royals. Even so, the team still boasts one of the strongest bullpens in baseball, and also should produce enough offensively to get by just fine. It should be yet another year of the Royals exceeding expectations and, more importantly, projections.

Honorable Mentions

Texas Rangers
2015 Record: 88-74
PECOTA Projection: 80-82
Fangraphs Projection: 82-80

Despite surging to the American League West crown in 2015, the Rangers look rather bad according to the PECOTA projections (and Fangraphs as well for that matter). Even with the return of Yu Darvish, which should make the Rangers even better, they are still expected to underachieve. The Astros may be the cream of the crop in the AL West, but the Rangers shouldn’t be far behind in 2016.

Baltimore Orioles
2015 Record: 81-81
PECOTA Projection: 72-90
Fangraphs Projection: 78-84

Many have been doubtful about the Orioles’ offseason moves and where the team would end up next season, but PECOTA is especially down on the Orioles. Despite retaining Darren O’Day and Chris Davis, the Orioles profile much worse next year. The Orioles pitching staff is the biggest question mark, and PECOTA takes that very seriously.

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