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PECOTA projections predict possible playoff berth for Padres

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Baseball Prospectus' projection system, PECOTA, has the Padres getting 83 wins, which is 5th best in the National League and therefore good enough for a wild card spot.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The first projection system I had ever heard of was PECOTA. Nate Silver came up with the system for Baseball Prospectus long before he went into projecting political elections. It still lives today, in much more accessible forms. One of the most accessible is how it is used to project teams. In my previous post about Steamer projections and simple regressions, I was trying to extrapolate what the team would do from the individual players. As many pointed out there are many caveats to take into consideration with that. The beauty with these team projections is that they take many of those into account before coming up with the final numbers. In the end, it is still a projection so it can only serve as a talking point or a way to balance expectations for the coming season.

The good news for this projection is that Padres efforts seem to pay off some. When the numbers are churned the Padres end up with 83 wins and 5th best record in the National League, which in today's game means a wild card spot. Here's how the Padres line up in the NL West:

NL West W L RS RA AVG OBP SLG TAv FRAA
Los Angeles Dodgers 97 65 709 564 0.253 0.315 0.400 0.269 4.9
San Francisco Giants 84 78 639 613 0.254 0.310 0.372 0.259 -9.2
San Diego Padres 83 79 625 606 0.241 0.301 0.385 0.262 0.9
Arizona D-backs 74 88 638 704 0.249 0.298 0.400 0.254 10.1
Colorado Rockies 72 90 751 849 0.269 0.319 0.434 0.258 -1.9

As you can see, it is the Giants who slot in one spot ahead of the Padres in line for the first wild card spot. That would set up a show down in San Francisco. The Giants' individual projections ($) are behind a paywall, but I can still discuss a few things them. Angel Pagan is projected to have a nice 2.4 WAR season, but with 640 PAs. He hasn't been able to stay healthy enough to do that since 2012. Matt Cain is also projected to do well, but he has been neither healthy or that good since 2012. So, while PECOTA projects a dog fight for 2nd place in the division I wouldn't count on it based on some fishiness with the Giants.

But let's talk some about the Padres' individual projections ($) because that is who we really care about and because they have some fun things to talk about compared to Steamer or simple regression. The first thing that stood out to me were the projections for the OFs. Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Wil Myers are all projected or 3.0 or more WAR. That's quite good. It's not win-an-MVP good, but compared to Steamer's 6.5 combined WAR a 9.7 combined WAR looks great. Jedd Gyorko also gets a slightly better projection at 2.4, but his 2.0 tally in Steamer wasn't too shabby. Combined those 4 are projected to each hit at least 20 HRs. Considering that projections are notoriously conservative, that is quite the bold statement. No team in Padres history has had four 20 HR hitters in a single season. The last team to have 3 was the 2007 club with Adrian Gonzalez, Khalil Greene and Mike Cameron.

The pitching unfortunately still does not come out looking good. This has been a common theme among pundits that analyze the numbers and projections systems that try to predict them. PECOTA believes in Andrew Cashner to continue what he has done the last couple years, but the others fall prey to regression to the mean. It is just hard for any system like this to go out on a limb for Tyson Ross and his breakout or Ian Kennedy and his return to form after a couple bad years in Arizona. Even if you are big believers in belief with regards to this pitching staff it still seems like it could use a shot in the arm. An upgrade from a quality pitcher who can also eat innings.

In the end though, this is pretty good news. Much better than what we might have gotten accustomed to with projections. Sure, the accuracy of PECOTA versus other systems is in question, but it's always a nice pat on the back to see at least one go your way. And it also gives us some confidence that A.J. Preller does have some numbers at his back that show that these moves can pay off for the Friars.