MLB: Comparing Projected Standings From FanGraphs and PECOTA

Jul 19, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a baseball on the field prior to a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 19, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a baseball on the field prior to a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

What are the similarities and difference in the projected MLB standings when looking at PECOTA and FanGraphs Depth Charts?

The first iteration of projected standings have been released at Baseball Prospectus. Their system is called PECOTA, named after Bill Pecota, a journeyman infielder who spent nine years in the major leagues with three different teams and hit .249/.323/.354 in his career. He spent the majority of his career with the Kansas City Royals. He had his best season in 1991 and was then part of a trade that sent Bret Saberhagen to the New York Mets. His nickname with the Royals was I-29 because he was frequently traveling between Kansas City and their minor league team in Omaha, Nebraska, which was a short drive up Interstate 29 from Kansas City. He retired in 1994. If not for the PECOTA projection system, Bill Pecota would rarely be thought of.

PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. It is Baseball Prospectus’ proprietary system. Each major league player has a projection based on previous statistics, regression to the mean, and a career-path adjustment based on comparable players from the past.

Another sabermetric site, FanGraphs, has their own projected standings. Their standings are currently based on Steamer projections. This system was created by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson, and Peter Rosenbloom. The FanGraphs projected standings will add Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections to the mix when they have been completely released for the 2017 season.

Both of these projection systems will continue to incorporate new information as the season draws near. There are still free agents to be signed and position battles to play out. Their current projections are not set in stone.

Still, it’s fun to look ahead. Pitchers and catcher report next week, so projections are all we have for now. On the following slides, I will look at each division to see how the two systems project each team to do this year. For each division, I’ve included the projected win totals for each team, along with their projected runs scored and runs allowed. The odds for each team are shown in parenthesis and come from VegasInsider.com. These are the odds for each team to win the pennant. We’ll start with the AL East

 Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is creeping up on its 100th birthday. Credit: Greg M. Cooper

Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is creeping up on its 100th birthday. Credit: Greg M. Cooper. MLB. 

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

(W=wins, RS=Runs Scored, RA=Runs Allowed)

Vegas odds to win the pennant in parenthesis

 

PECOTA

90 W, 750 RS, 663 RA—Boston Red Sox (5/2)

84 W, 722 RS, 690 RA—Tampa Bay Rays (50/1)

81 W, 767 RS, 763 RA—Toronto Blue Jays (10/1)

81 W, 737 RS, 732 RA—New York Yankees (10/1)

73 W, 727 RS, 813 RA—Baltimore Orioles (20/1)

 

FANGRAPHS

92 W, 802 RS, 692 RA—Boston Red Sox (5/2)

83 W, 778 RS, 753 RA—Toronto Blue Jays (10/1)

83 W, 765 RS, 745 RA—New York Yankees (10/1)

82 W, 713 RS, 701 RA—Tampa Bay Rays (50/1)

79 W, 787 RS, 810 RA—Baltimore Orioles (20/1)

 

Biggest difference in wins: Baltimore Orioles, 6 wins

Biggest difference in runs scored: Baltimore Orioles, 60 runs

Biggest difference in runs allowed: Boston Red Sox 29 runs

Smallest difference in wins: Tie—Boston/Tampa Bay/Toronto/New York, 2 wins

Smallest difference in runs scored: Tampa Bay, 9 runs

Smallest difference in runs allowed: Baltimore Orioles, 3 runs

 

PECOTA and FanGraphs see the AL East shaping up similarly. The Red Sox are on a tier of their own at the top with 90-plus wins, then the Rays, Jays, and Yankees in the middle with between 81 and 84 wins. The Orioles are at the bottom. FanGraphs has the O’s with 79 wins compared to PECOTA’s prediction of 73. This six-win difference is the biggest in the division between the two systems.

The Orioles won 89 games last season. The big difference between last season and this season is that the Orioles allowed 715 runs last year and both projection systems see them allowing almost 100 more runs. The six-win difference between the two systems can be explained by FanGraphs projecting the Orioles’ offense to score 787 runs and PECOTA projection them to score 727. They scored 744 runs last year.

The Vegas odds to win the pennant agree that the Red Sox are the class of the division. They have the second best odds in all of baseball (5/2), behind only the Chicago Cubs (9/5). Both systems have the Rays as competitive for a wild card spot, but Vegas does not agree with this assessment. At 50/1, they have the worst odds to win the pennant of any team in the division.

Tampa Bay has the most surprising projection of any team in the AL East. They only won 68 games last year but are projected to win 84 by PECOTA and 82 by FanGraphs. One thing to consider is that their runs scored and runs allowed last season suggest they should have finished 76-86 (using the Bill James Pythagorean expectation formula). Their 68 wins was eight fewer than expected. If you consider the Rays to be a 76-win team last season, then their projection for 84 and 82 wins doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

 

 

The Cleveland Indians sign slugger <a rel=

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

(W=wins, RS=Runs Scored, RA=Runs Allowed)

Vegas odds to win the pennant in parenthesis

PECOTA

92 W, 798 RS, 687 RA—Cleveland Indians (3/1)

80 W, 734 RS, 746 RA—Minnesota Twins (65/1)

78 W, 741 RS, 770 RA—Detroit Tigers (15/1)

76 W, 701 RS, 754 RA—Chicago White Sox (50/1)

71 W, 681 RS, 779 RA—Kansas City Royals (20/1)

 

FANGRAPHS

91 W, 776 RS, 680 RA—Cleveland Indians (3/1)

82 W, 773 RS, 758 RA—Detroit Tigers (15/1)

77 W, 726 RS, 760 RA—Kansas City Royals (20/1)

74 W, 745 RS, 815 RA—Minnesota Twins (65/1)

70 W, 703 RS, 807 RA—Chicago White Sox (50/1)

 

Biggest difference in wins: Tie—Minnesota/Chicago/Kansas City, 6 wins

Biggest difference in runs scored: Kansas City Royals, 45 runs

Biggest difference in runs allowed: Minnesota Twins, 69 runs

 

Smallest difference in wins: Cleveland Indians, 1 win

Smallest difference in runs scored: Chicago White Sox, 2 runs

Smallest difference in runs scored: Cleveland Indians, 7 runs

 

Once again, we have one team projected to finish with a comfortable lead atop the division. In this case, it’s the Cleveland Indians, last year’s AL champions. Cleveland won 94 games last season, so their projections for 92 and 91 wins seem perfectly reasonable.

The AL Central is the division with the biggest discrepancy between PECOTA and FanGraphs. Three teams have projections that are different by six wins. The big shocker here is the PECOTA projection of 80 wins for the Minnesota Twins. FanGraphs has the Twins winning 74 games, which is still a considerable improvement over last year’s 59-win team.

Based on runs scored and runs allowed, last year’s Twins “should” have been 64-98, which is still a long way from the 80 wins PECOTA is projecting. The big difference is a significant improvement in runs allowed. The Twins allowed the second-most runs in baseball last year (889). PECOTA is projecting the Twins to allow 746 runs. That’s almost a full run per game difference and is the equivalent of around 14 wins.

The Vegas odds to win the pennant definitely do not agree with PECOTA on the Twins. They have the worst odds in the divisions, sitting at 65/1, which is even worse than the rebuilding White Sox (50/1). It should be mentioned that the Kansas City Royals have greatly exceeded expectations the last four years. Vegas has them at 20/1 odds to win the pennant this year, which suggests they are a third place team in the AL Central, behind Cleveland and Detroit.

 

Apr 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; General view of Minute Maid Park before a game between the Houston Astros and the Detroit Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; General view of Minute Maid Park before a game between the Houston Astros and the Detroit Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. MLB. 

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

(W=wins, RS=Runs Scored, RA=Runs Allowed)

Vegas odds to win the pennant in parenthesis

PECOTA

93 W, 768 RS, 647 RA—Houston Astros (7/1)

87 W, 770 RS, 713 RA—Seattle Mariners (15/1)

84 W, 766 RS, 730 RA—Texas Rangers (12/1)

78 W, 720 RS, 749 RA—Los Angeles Angels (40/1)

75 W, 676 RS, 737 RA—Oakland Athletics (60/1)

 

FANGRAPHS

90 W, 794 RS, 708 RA—Houston Astros (7/1)

84 W, 739 RS, 714 RA—Los Angeles Angels (40/1)

83 W, 740 RS, 721 RA—Seattle Mariners (15/1)

83 W, 781 RS, 760 RA—Texas Rangers (12/1)

77 W, 723 RS, 758 RA—Oakland Athletics (60/1)

 

Biggest difference in wins: Los Angeles Angels, 6 wins

Biggest difference in runs scored: Oakland Athletics, 47 runs

Biggest difference in runs allowed: Houston Astros, 61 runs

 

Smallest difference in wins: Texas Rangers, 1 win

Smallest difference in runs scored: Texas Rangers, 15 runs

Smallest difference in runs scored: Seattle Mariners, 8 runs

Once again, both systems have the same team at the top of the division—the Houston Astros. PECOTA likes the Astros just a bit more than FanGraphs. The main difference is that PECOTA sees the Astros allowing 61 fewer runs.

The Texas Rangers led the American League with 95 wins last year. They are projected for 84 and 83 wins by PECOTA and FanGraphs, respectively. The regression can be explained by the Rangers vastly outperforming their run differential last year. Based on their runs scored and allowed, they “should” have been an 82-80 team. They were 36-11 in one-run games, which is not likely to be repeated. In games decided by more than one run they were just slightly better than .500 (59-56).

The team that PECOTA and FanGraphs disagreed on the most in this division is the Los Angeles Angels. PECOTA pegs them to win 78 games, while FanGraphs sees them as an 84-win team, which would be a 10-win increase over last year. Of course, their runs scored and runs allowed suggested they played more like an 80-82 team last year, so picking them to win 78 (PECOTA) or 84 (FanGraphs) doesn’t seem so crazy. In this case, Vegas agrees more with PECOTA than FanGraphs. The Angels are 40/1 to win the AL West.

Both systems agree that the Oakland Athletics are the basement-dwellers. Vegas concurs, giving them 60/1 odds, which is worse than the rebuilding White Sox. There’s no word on the odds that the Athletics will get a ballpark anytime soon.

 

Apr 8, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; General view of Citi Field before the New York Mets home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 8, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; General view of Citi Field before the New York Mets home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports. MLB. 

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

(W=wins, RS=Runs Scored, RA=Runs Allowed)

Vegas odds to win the pennant in parenthesis

PECOTA

88 W, 716 RS, 649 RA—New York Mets (15/2)

87 W, 744 RS, 685 RA—Washington Nationals (5/1)

77 W, 684 RS, 718 RA—Miami Marlins (30/1)

76 W, 662 RS, 705 RA—Atlanta Braves (60/1)

74 W, 665 RS, 731 RA—Philadelphia Phillies (60/1)

 

FANGRAPHS

90 W, 766 RS, 679 RA—Washington Nationals (5/1)

84 W, 705 RS, 679 RA—New York Mets (15/2)

79 W, 710 RS, 729 RA—Miami Marlins (30/1)

74 W, 667 RS, 734 RA—Atlanta Braves (60/1)

71 W, 671 RS, 678 RA—Philadelphia Phillies (60/1)

 

Biggest difference in wins: New York Mets, 4 wins

Biggest difference in runs scored: Miami Marlins, 26 runs

Biggest difference in runs allowed: Philadelphia Phillies, 53 runs

 

Smallest difference in wins: Tie—Miami/Atlanta, 2 wins

Smallest difference in runs scored: Atlanta Braves, 5 runs

Smallest difference in runs scored: Washington Nationals 6 runs

 

We finally have some disagreement at the top of the standings! PECOTA has the Mets winning the NL East and FanGraphs projects the National to take the division. Vegas has the Nationals as the slight favorite. Both teams are on a tier above the rest of the division.

The Nationals won the division last year and had the second-most wins in the National League, with 95. They are projected to win 87 by PECOTA and 90 by FanGraphs. The big difference this year looks to be runs allowed. The Nats allowed just 612 runs last year, which was the second-fewest in baseball after the Cubs. This year, they are projected to allow 685 runs by PECOTA and 679 by FanGraphs. That increase accounts for 6 or 7 fewer wins.

After the Nationals and Mets, the rest of the division is projected to finish in the same order by both systems. The Marlins look like a third place team, followed by the Braves and the Phillies. Vegas sees it similarly, with the Marlins sitting at 30/1 and the Braves and Phillies both being 60/1 longshots.

 

 

MLB.com's top prospects includes <a rel=

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

(W=wins, RS=Runs Scored, RA=Runs Allowed)

Vegas odds to win the pennant in parenthesis

PECOTA

91 W, 767 RS, 668 RA—Chicago Cubs (9/5)

81 W, 726 RS, 730 RA—Pittsburgh Pirates (25/1)

76 W, 708 RS, 756 RA—St. Louis Cardinals (12/1)

76 W, 717 RS, 768 RA—Milwaukee Brewers (100/1)

74 W, 730 RS, 802 RA—Cincinnati Reds (100/1)

 

FANGRAPHS

94 W, 766 RS, 646 RA—Chicago Cubs (9/5)

84 W, 719 RS, 692 RA—St. Louis Cardinals (12/1)

82 W, 714 RS, 703 RA—Pittsburgh Pirates (25/1)

70 W, 679 RS, 789 RA—Cincinnati Reds (100/1)

68 W, 682 RS, 812 RA—Milwaukee Brewers (100/1)

 

Biggest difference in wins: Tie—St. Louis/Milwaukee, 8 wins

Biggest difference in runs scored: Cincinnati Reds, 51 runs

Biggest difference in runs allowed: St. Louis Cardinals, 64 runs

 

Smallest difference in wins: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1 win

Smallest difference in runs scored: Chicago Cubs, 1 run

Smallest difference in runs scored: Cincinnati Reds, 13 runs

 

The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs are the clear favorites in the NL Central. Both projection systems project them to win the division by 10 games. That being said, neither system projects the Cubs to come close to their 103 wins last year. FanGraphs has the better projection and they are still nine wins short of last year’s total.

The 2016 Cubs scored 808 runs and allowed 556. Their expected record was 108-54, but they finished 103-58, so they actually “should” have won even more games than they did. This year, the projections expect the Cubs to score around 40 fewer runs and allow 90 to 110 more runs. I would guess Cubs’ fans will strongly disagree with these projections.

Two teams in this division have an eight-win difference in their projections from PECOTA and FanGraphs. PECOTA “hates” the Cardinals and “loves” the Brewers when compared to FanGraphs. I put hates and loves in quotes because PECOTA is not human and does not have the capacity to hate or love. The Cardinals won 86 games last year (and 100 the year before), so it’s shocking to see them projected to win just 76 games. The Cardinals haven’t won that few games since 1999. In this case, the FanGraphs projection of 84 wins seems much more reasonable.

The Brewers and Reds are both 100/1 shots in Vegas and are both projected to finish at the bottom of the division, but PECOTA has the Brewers with 76 wins. That’s the same as the Cardinals. FanGraphs has the Brewers winning just 68 games. The difference comes on both sides of the ball. FanGraphs projects the Brewers to score 35 fewer runs than PECOTA projects and to allow 44 more runs than PECOTA projects.

 

Apr 12, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of Dodger Stadium before the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 12, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of Dodger Stadium before the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports. MLB. 

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

(W=wins, RS=Runs Scored, RA=Runs Allowed)

Vegas odds to win the pennant in parenthesis

PECOTA

98 W, 761 RS, 597 RA—Los Angeles Dodgers (6/1)

86 W, 703 RS, 653 RA—San Francisco Giants (6/1)

78 W, 708 RS, 740 RA—Arizona Diamondbacks (60/1)

76 W, 731 RS, 788 RA—Colorado Rockies (25/1)

70 W, 660 RS, 773 RA—San Diego Padres (100/1)

 

FANGRAPHS

95 W, 742 RS, 612 RA—Los Angeles Dodgers (6/1)

87 W, 695 RS, 637 RA—San Francisco Giants (6/1)

79 W, 778 RS, 797 RA—Colorado Rockies (25/1)

77 W, 697 RS, 732 RA—Arizona Diamondbacks (60/1)

66 W, 632 RS, 774 RA—San Diego Padres (100/1)

 

Biggest difference in wins: San Diego Padres, 4 wins

Biggest difference in runs scored: Colorado Rockies, 47 runs

Biggest difference in runs allowed: San Francisco Giants 16 runs

 

Smallest difference in wins: Tie—San Francisco/Arizona, 1 win

Smallest difference in runs scored: San Francisco Giants, 8 runs

Smallest difference in runs scored: San Diego Padres, 1 run

PECOTA projects the Dodgers to finish with the best record in baseball. They won 91 games last year and are projected by PECOTA to win 98 this year. The difference is a projected increase of 36 more runs scored on offense and 41 fewer runs allowed on defense. Their projected 597 runs allowed is the best in baseball. FanGraphs also has the Dodgers with the most wins in baseball, but with a slightly more reasonable 95 wins. Both systems have the Giants finishing well behind the Dodgers but comfortably in the wild card race.

The team with the biggest difference in projected wins in this division is San Diego. PECOTA has the Padres with 70 wins, which is still six games behind the fourth-place Rockies. FanGraphs has the Padres projected to win 66 games, which would give them the worst record in baseball. Vegas agrees that the Padres will be bad. They are one of three National League teams with 100/1 odds.

The Rockies are a popular pre-season pick to be competitive, but neither system expects them to finish at .500. They may win more games than last year’s 75, but it doesn’t look like they’ll win all that many more. The Diamondbacks are expected to be much better in preventing runs. They allowed 890 runs last year. PECOTA has them projected to allow 740 and FanGraphs projects them to allow 732, which would be a marked improvement.

Sep 30, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a baseball prior to a game between the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 30, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a baseball prior to a game between the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports. MLB. 

PECOTA CONTENDING TEAMS

American League

93-69 Houston Astros—AL West winner

92-70 Cleveland Indians—AL Central winner

90-72 Boston Red Sox—AL East winner

87-75 Seattle Mariners

84-78 Texas Rangers

84-78 Tampa Bay Rays

81-81 Toronto Blue Jays

81-81 New York Yankees

PECOTA sees a small gap between the three division winners and the top wild card team, which is the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have a projected three-game cushion over the Rangers and Rays, with the Blue Jays and Yankees a few games behind them. Every other team is projected to be under .500.

National League

98-64 Los Angeles Dodgers—NL West winner

91-71 Chicago Cubs—NL Central winner

88-74 New York Mets—NL East winner

87-75 Washington Nationals

86-76 San Francisco Giants

81-81 Pittsburgh Pirates

The Mets and Nationals look to battle it out in the NL East, but the Dodgers and Cubs are projected to cruise to division titles. The wild card battle looks like it’s in the hands of the Giants and the loser of the Nationals/Mets quest for the NL East.

FANGRAPHS CONTENDING TEAMS

American League

92-70 Boston Red Sox—AL East winner

91-71 Cleveland Indians—AL Central winner

90-72 Houston Astros—AL West winner

84-78 Los Angeles Angels

83-79 Seattle Mariners

83-79 Texas Rangers

83-79 Toronto Blue Jays

83-79 New York Yankees

82-80 Tampa Bay Rays

82-80 Detroit Tigers

FanGraphs is projecting a six-win gap between the worst division winner and the best wild card team. The while card looks like a free-for-all, with seven teams projected to win between 82 and 84 games.

National League

95-67 Los Angeles Dodgers—NL West winner

94-68 Chicago Cubs—NL Central winner

90-72 Washington Nationals—NL East winner

87-75 San Francisco Giants

84-78 New York Mets

84-78 St. Louis Cardinals

82-80 Pittsburgh Pirates

FanGraphs sees more team in play for the wild card spots in the National League. The Giants look like a cut above the others, but FanGraphs is projecting the Mets, Cardinals, and Pirates to fight it out for that last wild card spot.

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