Tuesday, February 9, 2021

PECOTA Projecting a Three-Peat


Today marked the unveiling of PECOTA’s standings projection from Baseball Prospectus. For the Minnesota Twins, things are looking great as the system sees 91 wins and a third straight AL Central division title. There are definitely some noteworthy revelations, however.


Of course, as Twins fans, the hometown club appearing atop the division once again is the most exciting development. 91 wins seems conservative in a division that should really be a two-team race, but PECOTA doesn’t see the breakdown working quite like that. Despite all of the fanfare, the projection system has the Chicago White Sox finishing third in the division and winning just 83 games.


From my vantage point, the White Sox coming in anywhere lower than second seems like quite the shock. Cleveland dealt away Francisco Lindor, should do the same with Jose Ramirez, and despite a stellar pitching staff, have little else to hang their hats on. The White Sox certainly could be primed for some regression though. They burst onto the scene a year ago, but the season was just a 60-game sample size. Looking back to the 2017 Twins, there was a Postseason appearance prior to a backwards slide that then set them up for the current run.


Trying to make some sense of what PECOTA may be seeing, I looked at the added WAR for Minnesota and Chicago through the lens of ZiPS from Fangraphs. Chicago has added just 6.5 fWAR while the Twins tacked on a tally of 7.2 fWAR. That’s largely a reflection of where both clubs added. The White Sox needed help in the outfield but responded with just Adam Eaton and Adam Engel. Lance Lynn is a solid addition if he keeps down the path of recent success, but even as good as Liam Hendriks is, Alex Colome was already stellar a year ago and a single reliever has just minimal impact. Both Nelson Cruz and Andrelton Simmons are seen as substantial additions for Minnesota, while J.A. Happ should be considered a steadying presence.


Even without the distaste for Chicago clouding my view, I still find it hard to believe that club will finish below Cleveland. I’ve written in this space that I’d hardly be shocked if the Royals end up third in the division, and for now I’m going to stick to that. Projection systems or otherwise, you can bet the South Side fanbase won’t take kindly to what will be viewed as disrespect.


One other area of note within PECOTA is the projection for the NL Central. That division is expected to be a dumpster fire, and the Milwaukee Brewers are slated to win it with just 88 wins. It’s worth making a note of considering the Central will serve as the interleague foe for Minnesota in 2021. Despite the regionalized schedule a year ago, the Twins face the same grouping of opponents in the National League. Being able to face off against a division that’s largely not trying should only provide additional opportunity to add tallies in the win column.


We’ll have to take a look back on these standings come October when the dust settles. Right now, though, another Twins division title and some shade towards the South Side is more than good with me.