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Yankees picked to finish third, miss playoffs

Jan 28, 2010, 3:21 PM EDT

Pecota.jpgPECOTA — or “Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm” for those of you who don’t like clever acronyms — is the statistical projection system owned and operated by the good people at Baseball Prospectus.

While the specific means by which PECOTA predicts what players and teams will do is proprietary — and while the parts that are public are way over my head — the upshot is that PECOTA looks at the career path followed by every player in baseball history, compares current players to those guys, takes its best computerly guess at how the current guys will progress as well, and based on that spits out a set of predictions each year.  All prediction systems are going to be subject to some error here and there — you only get out of these things what you put into them — but PECOTA has actually been pretty accurate as far as these things go.

But it does cause an utter s—storm every once in a while.

Last year, for example, PECOTA famously predicted that Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters would put up one of the best offensive seasons in the history of catchers. That didn’t come to pass, of course, and a lot of people who like to beat up on stat people beat up on the Baseball Prospectus guys over that. Oh, if we were all judged by our worst moments.

I mention all of that because PECOTA’s projected standings for 2010 just came out, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Baseball Prospectus will be the only reputable organization picking the Yankees to finish in third place and out of the playoffs. Oh sure, it’s close — only three games separate them from the first place Rays — but on the outside looking in they are.

Like I said, I’m a moron about such things, but if I had to guess this projection is due in part to the fact that there simply aren’t that many teams in baseball history with as many older players continuing to play elite baseball as the Yankees have, and thus the projection penalizes them a bit more than might be warranted in real life (remember; this is an algorithm talking, not some sportswriter). That is, if you can consider 93 wins a penalty. For what it’s worth, the AL East looks like a tossup in these projections, and the difference between the Rays, Sox and Yankees probably fall within the margin of error.

Not that it will stop some newspaper writer from going crazy in the next day or two and using it as an opportunity to tell stat guys to get out of their mother’s basement and go watch a real baseball game.

  1. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 29, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    For the love of Jeter, do you think I run this blog, GET LOST!!!

  2. Talex - Jan 29, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    Well, this is so stat driven that it takes all other factors out of the equation.
    With the moves the Yankees and Red Sox made this off-season they basically are going to be the same teams minus slightly less offense.
    The Yankees starting 5 is now better than 2009 and the Red Sox starting 5 are now better than 2009. The Rays are exactly the same. Toronto and Baltimore have not improved at all.
    The Yankees offense is the same as 2009. The Red Sox offense is not as good as 2009. Right now the Rays are the same. Toronto and Baltimore have not improved at all.
    The bullpens are about the same for all 5 teams; maybe slightly not as good.
    So what’s changed? Everyone is a year older? So based on that one stat the standings have changed for 2010. Quite frankly, I think the American League East will come down to who has the least injuries. The Yankees, Sox, and Rays are so close 1 thru 25 team rosters that who ever avoids that one big injury to a star player will probably win the division. I don’t think this has to do with age since the big injuries of 2009 were to mostly younger guys on all these teams, Wakefield excluded: Wang, A-Rod, Dieske Matsuzaka, etc.
    And the other thing is that this system cannot account for any other new players any of these teams pick up mid-season. If the Red Sox get a big bat or if the Yankees get a big bat then this is all null and void.
    And if you go and look at Baseball Prospectus picks for the American League last year … aside from the American League East could they have been more wrong? They had Minnesota in 4th place. They had the Rays with 94 wins and not 84. They had Cleveland first with 86 wins instead of 65. They had Oakland in first place instead of last place. They had the Angels getting only 81 wins instead of their actual 97 wins. Quite frankly, I think a monkey could have done a better job predicting who would place where. Actually, their predictions look a lot like the educated guess each year of all the different sports writers.
    So I guess we’ll all just have to watch the games and see what actually will happen instead of trying to guess. The truth is none of us know who will break out and who will sizzle out. That’s why they play the games boys!

  3. Tim - Jan 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Come on man thats pretty lame. Those are the fans that actually make the sport interesting, the ones that get angry and all defensive. I know because I am one of them. I dont have fun chatting it up with my friends who happen to like that miserable team from Boston. I have fun yelling rediculousness at them about their team and how amazing the Yankees are. If we were rational where is the fun.
    P.S. 28 in 2010

  4. Da Butz - Jan 29, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Pecota is a moron

  5. Darryl - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    Proof positive that you can create algorithms and statistics to say anything you want them to say! Predictions are like opinions; which are all like assholes – everyone’s got one and they all stink.

  6. Juan martinez - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    Long live the Yanks
    27 and growing……Like it or not….you haters

  7. Mike J - Jan 29, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    2009 they predicted the Angels would win it all.

  8. nyyaceyourpapi - Jan 29, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    For all you people who keep calling the Yankees an “old” team, get some facts.
    The 40 man active roster avg age by position:
    Pitchers:
    26.05 years (that includes 3 over 30 yr old players)
    Catchers:
    31 years (Jorge Posada is 38 and he still is better than a lot of catchers out there)
    Infileders:
    25 years (Arod is still better than your guy at 34 and Jeter, well, enough said)
    Outfielders:
    26.6 years (And we traded Melky away who is even below the avg age)
    In total the avg age of the Yankees is 27.16
    Work on that research, get back to me with your teams avg age.
    Ace

  9. steve Knepper - Jan 30, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    Hey Phil..
    Relax…DUDE
    And yes I will call you dude or anything else i want anytime I want…Get over it DUDE
    The funny Thing Is I believe this exact poll last year had the Yankees not even making the playoffs.
    Enjoy Your Pipe dream and # 28 Jackass

  10. NewYorker - Jan 30, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    Lucky gal, she is.

  11. NewYorker - Jan 30, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Lucky gal, she is.

  12. Jeff - Jan 30, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    I’m a Yankee fan, but with no leftfielder, no bullpen and no bench, the Yankees may not miss the Playoffs, but the current roster does not have enough depth to win a World Series. But then again, who knows what the team will look like in October. You never finish the season with the same roster you started with.

  13. JohnnyNewGuy - Jan 30, 2010 at 8:21 PM

    In the off season between ’04-’05 Bill James and Baseball Prospectus had the White Sox winning 72 games and finishing in third place in the AL Central. Well for those who don’t remember, they won 99, had the second best regular season record, tied the best postseason record and won the World Series. It just goes to show that these are statical ratings and for those of you who have read moneyball have found out; these projections are great for the season but have no affect on the postseason and in fact are usually wrong in the postseason. You want to talk about depth and defense, then the Red Sox should win the AL East. Offense wise the Yankees should win. I don’t remember who posted this link earlier but in my opinion this represents a more accurate view of how all the divisions will play out this year. http://rlyw.blogspot.com/2010/01/extremely-early-2010-mlb-projected.html
    But even here I don’t think the Yankees run away with the division, I believe the Rangers finish 2nd instead of 3rd, the Braves could very well win the NL East with the Phillies in 2nd and winning the wildcard, and I know damn well the Reds don’t finish better than 3rd in the NL Central.

  14. Footballguru - Feb 19, 2010 at 7:20 PM

    Sorry Phil, Yankees will not only make the playoffs, but also repeat and win the World Series. What loser team do you root for?

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