Earlier this week the fine folks over at Baseball Prospectus released the 2021 PECOTA projections. You need to have a subscription there to download the spreadsheet with all of the projected numbers, but we’re going to talk about a few of the things that stood out among the treasure trove of data and information.
PECOTA, like other projection systems, looks at a players past performance and attempts to use that information to project what a player will perform like in the future. Each projection system does things a little differently, but all of the best ones using aging curves, past performances of both the player in question as well as players that have performed similarly in the past to try and decide how this player will perform. What is a little more fun about the PECOTA projections is that they give you the various outcomes. The other systems just give you the 50% outcomes – which are the most likely ones to happen.
Let’s take a look at an example of one player’s various outcomes.
As you can see, the difference is extreme. When we start talking about the projections, we’re always going to see the 50% ones, and not the less likely ones at the extremes. Essentially, the ones at the far ends are “everything goes wrong” or “everything goes right” based on the players history, age, and how other comparable players performed in a season of the same upcoming age for the player we’re looking at. Looking at the extremes can be fun. And it can also be useful in the sense that, hey, sometimes everything does go just right for a guy.
Let’s take a look at a few of the more interesting things from the projections. Home runs. Everyone likes them. They are the best way to score runs, which as it turns out, you need to actually do if you want to win baseball games. The middle of the Reds lineup seems to have good pop. Eugenio Suárez, Mike Moustakas, and Nick Castellanos project for a combined 98 home runs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that no other regular projects to even hit 20 home runs. Fun side note, Michael Lorenzen, projected as an every day outfielder, has a projected line that includes 16 home runs in 145 games.
On the pitching side of things, PECOTA does see a bit of a step backwards for the staff as a whole. That’s not surprising given that the team lost the Cy Young Award winner in Trevor Bauer, and moved closer Raisel Iglesias in trade. Among the projected starters, only Luis Castillo is projected for an ERA under 4.00. Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo both project quite similarly, but the small differences in the favor of Castillo in hits, home runs, walks, and strikeouts add up to a difference in projected ERA of 0.79.
The bullpen didn’t have a single player projected with an ERA under 4.00 by PECOTA until they signed Sean Doolittle, who has the Reds new lefty reliever projected for a 3.24 ERA in the 2021 season. I’ll go out on a limb and say that, by-and-large, I think the projections for the Cincinnati pitchers is high on the ERA outputs for most of the guys. It’s a tough sell to me that Sonny Gray, Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims, and Tejay Antone are going to post ERA’s of 4.00 or higher.
A lot of what the PECOTA projections suggest is that the Cincinnati Reds are a relatively mediocre team as currently constructed. The division, though it’s gotten a bit stronger in the last week than it was previously, still isn’t very good and it still doesn’t project to be all that good. Things can, and probably will change before the season begins. The Reds are still looking for a shortstop to add. Other free agents are still out there who could wind up in the division that could swing things a win or two in a direction for someone.