PECOTA hates the AL Central

Baseball Prospectus has posted the first iterations of the 2009 PECOTA numbers and have forecasted the divisions based on projected playing time and roster construction. Because we care about the Tigers around these parts I jumped immediately to the AL Central:

CLE   84-79
MIN   79-83
DET   78-84
KAN   75-87
CHI   74-88

Wow. So the division is kind of up for grabs. Cleveland has a clear, but not insurmountable, edge (which seems correct intuitively also) and then a giant hodge-podge. As for being down on the division, it could be worse. The AL West is going to the A’s with 82 wins. The AL East has 4 teams at .500 or above, and the rest of the AL has 2.

As an aside, I realize that PECOTA harbors no animus towards specific players and/or teams. It is a sophisticated and yet emotionally devoid mathematical projection system. Neither it nor its creator have agendas.

The individual projections are subscriber only, but I will say that the system thinks Zach Miner will be a better pitcher than Armando Galarraga or Edwin Jackson. (And I don’t think that’s unreasonable)


  1. Mark in Chicago

    February 10, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Interesting that PECOTA took the A’s over the Angels, who aren’t even projected to finish above .500.

  2. Chris in Dallas

    February 10, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Yeah, that is kind of interesting on the face of it. The A’s did make some pretty substantial upgrades though (Holliday, Giambi) while the Angels…well, not so much. If they sign Manny that might flip it around. They need a bat.

    PECOTA’s usually pretty sound, though its made mistakes (cf. 2008 Detroit Tigers – it had them pegged at what, 92 wins?). I’m not sure I see the White Sox finishing last, or the Twins finishing second. But I agree with the general idea that the AL Central is going to be up for grabs. I honestly don’t get why Cleveland is the de facto favorite. I guess you have to pick somebody

  3. Mark in Chicago

    February 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I am surprised also to see Minny in 2nd, since a large part of their offense last year was generated because they hit something north of .300 with RISP as a team, something that won’t happen again.

    Chicago last? Interesting, but I tend to agree with you, Chris. They will hit a ton of HR, and their pitching could be decent (although I am not sold at all on Gavin Floyd. His peripherals were terrible last year, it’s only a matter of time before that evens out. John Danks looks like the real deal, though.) I guess PECOTA is anticipating a big dropoff in production from Thome, Konerko, Dye, which is not unreasonable. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers Quentin puts up.

  4. Chris in Dallas

    February 10, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I’m guessing Quentin will probably be a monster if he can stay healthy. He lost a lot of development time in Arizona plus the final month of ’08 in Chicago due to injury so his health is not a given. I don’t think Konerko drops off any. Why, you ask? He hasn’t been a productive hitter since 2006 so I’d say he’s already dropped off the map. Dye’s a more interesting case. He seems to do well every other year lately. 2006 – MVP candidate. 2007 – 105 OPS+. 2008 – 34 dingers and a 126 OPS+. I think Thome will be Thome. The three true outcomes will be out in full force with him.

    Gavin Floyd was about as lucky as Armando Galarraga, so I think he’ll regress. How much he regresses will have a lot to do with the White Sox success in my view. I’m with you on Danks – he seems to be the Real Deal Holyfield. Vasquez is gone, so they’re going to have to have someone fill in the maddeningly inconsistent starter role. Buehrle should do what he always does. So yeah, there’s probably some questions with their pitching (but name me a team who doesn’t have those questions). I’ll call them a .500 club.

  5. Mark in Chicago

    February 10, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Agree with you on most counts. 120 games of Quentin + 42 of replacement level is still going to be better production in LF than many teams. Thome won’t stay healthy either and I’ll be surprised if he is anywhere near his numbers from last year. He’s gettin’ old…

  6. Dave BW

    February 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    yeah, these projections look about right. It seems PECOTA has (wisely) started giving the Twins the benefit of the doubt, regardless off the skill of their players. The Metrodome must die.

    RE: Quentin… his injury is probably going to sap his power a bit this year — which is not to say he won’t still be a great offensive player.

    PECOTA has the A’s projected to win the West with 82 wins. LA really really should have made Teixeira a better offer.

  7. greg

    February 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    I’m having difficulty understanding everyone touting the Indians this year. I don’t get it. After Cliff Lee, the kindest thing I can say is that their rotation is filled with huuuge question marks, and that’s being kind. Carmona, Reyes, Pavano, and the best among a host of soft tossers. That doesn’t look like a contending rotation by any stretch of the imagination. Unless both Hafner and Vmart can get some new PED’s that aren’t testable yet, you can’t expect much offensive production from them. Asdrubal is going to be good, but when? This year? Maybe, maybe not. Peralta is a butcher at SS and extends a lot of innings for opposing teams.

    If Asdrubal starts to put things together, and IF Hafner returns to form, and if VMart stops his ‘Juan Pierre with no speed’ imitation, and IF Pavano stays healthy and regains his 2003 form, and IF Carmona bounces back from his atrocious season, and IF Reyes elbow troubles are past him AND he finally puts it together, IF Shoppach can repeat his power output from last year, IF Wood stays healthy….on and on the list goes.

    Yes, if everything falls into place perfectly then I can see it, but that’s not what I’m looking for in a favorite. Honestly the 2006 Tigers looked more like contenders preseason 2006 than the Indians do now.

  8. Vince in MN

    February 11, 2009 at 1:22 am

    I don’t know that we can put much stock in these projections (at least the W-L), since it appears that the differences in quality between the two leagues isn’t taken into consideration. AL is only +6 wins over NL and based on results from the last 2-3 years I think it is safe to expect it to be much higher. I can’t remember off hand from last year, but it must have been at least +60 out of the 270 games played. Because of the unbalanced IL schedule this will have a major impact on the final standings in each division. The hitting and pitching projections look to be more believable. Is there a link to last year’s PECOTA predictions? – it would be interesting to compare the results.

  9. Chris in Dallas

    February 11, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    greg: Maybe we should call them the Cleveland Ifs. They could finally remove the racially insensitive Chief Wahoo and replace him with a question mark. Seriously, though, I agree with your assesment. Offensively, the only guy you can count on with any degree of certainty is Sizemore. There’s also no way Cliff Lee repeats his ridiculous 2008 season.

  10. Dave T.

    February 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    This just goes to show how winnable the division is and how with maybe a bigger splash with the free agents the Tigers could have really pulled away.
    Any word on Bemiel?

  11. Greg

    February 11, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Why does this have the Indians playing 163 games?

  12. Chris

    February 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    It’s good to see the Tigers did a lot better in ’09 than they did in ’08…. improvement

  13. Rick G

    February 12, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Q: Why does this have the Indians playing 163 games?
    A: Typo on Billfer’s part, it really should be 83-79, not 84-79

    Here are my OOMA projections for the AL Central:

    MIN 86-76
    CHI 84-78
    CLE 78-84
    DET 76-86
    KAN 73-89

  14. Chris in Dallas

    February 12, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I think the Tigers will go 162-0. 🙂

  15. David

    February 12, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    I highly doubt we will finish below .500. I HIGHLY DOUBT IT.

    EVEN with Leyland and Sheff sucking in their respective areas.

    If health isn’t too much of an issue on our team (which is a sizeable IF) then we should be easy favorites even after last year

    If certain players who tend to get injured (Guillen/Bonderman/Zumaya) are down for most of ’09 then it may not be fun…

    Still while looking at any other Central’s roster I am not too worried and think that our team, while uninjured, is the strongest.

    Spring training 12 DAYS!!!

  16. Dave BW

    February 13, 2009 at 12:25 am

    I feel good about this team. Judging from the perceptions of other teams’ fans, they’ll be coming in completely under the radar — and that’s how the Tigers like to roll!

  17. Mr X

    February 13, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I’m expecting the worst, but thinking that they can have one of the better teams in baseball. If players stay healthy and have just average career seasons, they’ll be a 90 win team. They just need the players to do what they normally do when healthy. How impossible does that sound? I think some of these players owe us fans big time. Guys like Willis, Sheff, Robertson, ect are getting paid like All-Stars, so I expect them to perform significantly better than they did last year.
    If a guy like Cliff Lee can turn his craptacular career into gold in just a few months, I would think that someone as established as Dontrell Willis could possibly be great again. So I’m not counting him out. I hope he can be our best pitcher. He’s just one of our many comeback player of the year candidates though. I know our luck, so I’m expecting the worst though.

  18. ron

    February 13, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    The division is up for grabs as opposed to last year when we were a lock. Watch out for K.C.

  19. Dave T.

    February 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Honestly, if the Tigers just hold their own against the teams in their own division the whole thing gets a lot closer.
    Tigers have done really well against the NL and the AL East and West in the past years.
    Take a few loses away from the Tigers and give them to the Indians, ChiSox, Twins and KC and you have a 5-way jumble for the best (and worst) team.

  20. Chris Y.

    February 14, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I just don’t see 4 sub-.500 teams in this division. This is not the NL West.

    I’ll agree, I don’t see much separation right now, and the division is up for grabs, but at least two teams will separate from the pack by mid-summer.

    My guess: Chicago and Detroit. Indians hang around a bit early, but weak rotation will wear down the rest of the staff.

    Worst year in a decade for Minny.

  21. Chauncey

    February 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I agree- I don’t think this division will be nearly as bad as PECOTA thinks. The Tigers resemble the rest of the division- theres a lot of potential for several teams in this division to be legitimate contenders, but also a lot of potential for every team in this division to finish in last place. Every team has a ton of If’s in this division, just like the Tigers, and if those questions turn out to be positives (like Willis, Verlander, Rodney, Zumaya returning to form), then the Tigers could be the favorites. We all know that the Tigers have as much talent as anyone in this division, but we also all know how that went last year.

    I also couldn’t agree more about Cleveland- if the Tigers best starter going into the year was Cliff Lee, then I’d be expecting last place- outside of Lee and Carmona, do they even have anyone that even has a history of any success in the last 3 or 4 years in their rotation. How can a team that is going to rely on Pavano in the starting rotation be taken seriously? I know the Tigers have a lot of question marks as well, but at least they have a solid lineup and starters that have proven themselves at one time or another- Cleveland doesn’t look to have either.

    I just have a hard time believing the wheels could come undone as bad as they did last year for the Tigers- from injuries, to under performances, to being fat and lazy, whatever- the Tigers had about everything go wrong that could go wrong last year, and yet still made a run at briefly until the bullpen collapsed entirely in July. They seem to be coming to camp with a genuinely different attitude that resembles 2006 much more than last year and its just really hard to believe stuff like what happened last year will happen to nearly that degree again.

  22. Grim

    February 17, 2009 at 11:16 am

    You can’t look at all these rosters and tell me that there will be just a 10 win difference between the first and last place teams. While I’m sometimes dazzled by the accuracy of PECOTA in determining overall trends and even it’s ability to outshine baseball writers in picking the division races, I think that it levels the playing field (pun inintended) a bit much when talking about the spread between the best and worst.