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Projection season: Phillies and PECOTA

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BP’s annual projection system got a tuneup and here are some thoughts about what they spit out

Chicago Cubs v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Baseball Prospectus has finally released all of its components of their projection system. PECOTA, aptly named, has spit out what it thinks the teams will do this year, both individually by player and on a more macro level by team. It wouldn’t be fair to them to simply post the spreadsheet here since it’s one of the things that drives their subscriptions, so instead what I’ll do is post some of the more interesting parts. Let’s start with the team’s overall projected record.

Whew.

A 77-85 record? This was the first thing that jumped out at me. This record just seems rather low, taking away a lot of the optimism that is surrounding the team, even this early in spring. Some might argue that the record is justifiable seeing that the team needed to end impact pitching and only came away with adding Zack Wheeler. So, in order to find out why the projection looks this way, we’d have to dig a little deep to see if there is a specific reason for why they are projected to do so poorly. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

PECOTA isn’t much of a fan of the team’s defense

Of the team’s regular players, PECOTA only sees J.T. Realmuto as being significantly above average in the coming season, projecting him for 10 fielding runs above average (FRAA). The only one who even comes close to him in that department is Scott Kingery with 3 FRAA, but even that number is saying he’ll be a centerfielder, something we can be relatively sure won’t be the case to begin the season. Those defensive gains Bryce Harper made last year, going from -12.1 FRAA in his final season in Washington to 3.4 in 2019? Yeah, PECOTA doesn’t believe in it, saying he’ll be worth -7 FRAA. It’s not out of the ordinary that Harper could be slightly below average in this department, but he’ll be just entering what should be his prime years, so this feels a bit low. As for the rest of the team, there isn’t much to get excited about. Most players project to be at average or just below it, something that PECOTA could be taking into account in how it thinks the team will do.

PECOTA really, REALLY doesn’t like the pitching either...

This is the part that is worrisome, something that has only heightened the fanbase’s fear when it comes to the offseason. Only two pitchers, Aaron Nola (3.7) and Zack Wheeler (2.4), are projected to be have above 2 WARP. All others will fall below 1 WARP for the season.

That’s....a problem.

All offseason, there have been factions of the fanbase that have pleaded, prodded and begged for the team to abandon the luxury tax and go out and buy some more players. With the team holding a steadfast line at this line of thinking, these projections only serve to fan the flames of disappoint that some people have been feeling about they have performed in the offseason. Whether that disappointment is justified remains to be seen, but of the rest of the starting rotation performs close to these projections and only adds a combined (1.6 WARP between Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez), they are going to be in real trouble.

...but hey! The offense might be good!

Six of the eight potential starters are projected to have a DRC+ (Deserved Runs Created) of 95 or higher, something that I would take any day of the week. It’s the usual suspects too - Harper, Realmuto, Hoskins, Larry McCutchen, Segura and Gregorius - that are expected to do the damage. This doesn’t seem at all out of the realm of possibility either considering these are all 50th percentile projections. If one or two of these players goes off and hits their 70th, 80th, or, dare we dream, 90th percentile projections, we’re talking MVP votes, friends.

And yet Scott Kingery must have really angered someone at BP. His projected DRC+ is 78, which is not what you’re looking for from a supposed cornerstone of the franchise. You have to go to his 99th percentile before he would crack a 100 DRC+. Pardon me if I seem optimisic, but that original 78 DRC+ projection is just ludicrous.

These are just some of the highlights of PECOTA. They’re always fun to look at, but you’ll have to take them with a grain of salt. Let’s just all hope there is a season of 70th percentiles being scratched and we’ll all be happy campers.