Baseball Prospectus released the first run of their 2010 PECOTA numbers this week, which makes for much fun in the stat-centric baseball community. PECOTA differentiates itself from many of the other predictors by finding pools of comparable players to make their predictions. While the numbers are premium content (and can also be found in the printed annual), I will share a few of the items that jumped out at me about the Tigers.
The system puts the Tigers at 78-84 which is 3rd place in the AL Central behind the division leading Twins (83-79) and the second place White Sox (80-82). The Tigers run prevention is pegged at 2nd in the division at 776 runs allowed; the White Sox are first at 751. But an offense full of questions from young and old players alike is expected to be the division’s worst.
At an individual level the system predicted two pairs of players to be remarkably similar. On the pitching side of things Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are expected to be nearly identical. Scherzer gets a slight edge in ERA (.12 runs better) and strikeout rate while Verlander gets the edge in walk rate and home run rate, but these differences are remarkably small.
On the offensive side of things, Alex Avila and Gerald Laird are projected to be equivalent players offensively. They are within 5 points of BA, 2 points of OBP and 1 point of SLG of each other. Before discrediting the system altogether keep in mind a couple things. First, Avila of course shined in his brief stint with the Tigers, but those numbers were better than what he’d posted as a minor leaguer and shouldn’t be used as his benchmark going forward. Second, there is very little data to draw from in predicting Avila, and there isn’t a great collection of similar players to project from. Avila’s similarity score is 37, which is quite low.
Of course predictions are just predictions. Things will deviate, but there is some solid methodology behind many of the numbers. BP’s defensive metrics aren’t their strong suit and the Tigers could have some more upside on the run prevention end of things. But a slightly below .500 record does “feel” right for this team right now. So does a shot at the division if a few things fall the Tigers way (Jackson/Sizemore/Robertson/Bonderman/left field). Such is life in the AL Central.