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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. Max - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    Marlins at 76 wins is a gutsy call too but these will change in the coming weeks.

  2. Phil - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    I realize that it’s just the last week of January, rosters aren’t firmed up and these are computer projections, but it is heart warming to consider that with that obscene payroll the New York Geezers may still miss the playoffs. Schadenfreude – it’s almost as good as a single malt beside a nice fireplace.

  3. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    Who was their prediction for the 2009 World Series winner ?
    This will recoznize if they are frauds…….

  4. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    Who was their prediction for the 2009 World Series winner ?
    This will recoznize if they are frauds…….

  5. Total - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    but it is heart warming to consider that with that obscene payroll the New York Geezers may still miss the playoffs. Schadenfreude – it’s almost as good as a single malt beside a nice fireplace.
    Dude, you could have had that feeling without the computer projections since, as far as I remember, no-one’s guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
    And using this for a bit of Yankee-bashing says a bit more about you than you might like.

  6. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    You Kansas City fans are so funny, join a winner buddy.

  7. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    You Kansas City fans are so funny, join a winner buddy.

  8. Reinman - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Didn’t a lot of people pick the Yankees to be third in the division last year as well?
    It will come down to pitching, IMO. Red Sox and Yankees have the best rotation, but if the youngsters in Tampa like Price, Garza, Davis, Shields and others step up, its a toss up.
    With how the Orioles could be improving, and how Bluejays can maybe rebound in the future, in a couple of years, that division could have 5 legitimate playoff contenders in any other division.

  9. Lawrence A. Herman - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Remarkable. They project that there will only be 3 90-win teams in all of baseball, and they will all be in the AL East.
    They have the Yankees to lead the league in scoring, but give up about 70 more runs than the Red Sox or Rays. I don’t subscribe, so I can’t tell if that’s because they are predicted to have weaker pitching or weaker defense.

  10. JasonC23 - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    Please, for the love of Jeter, stop double-posting everything.

  11. Henry Taylor - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    Holy Cow! Tell those Huckleberries to keep on picking stocks; because they don’t know nothing about baseball. Phil Rizzuto just rolled over in his grave.

  12. Bret - Jan 28, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    Were they really that far off on Wieters? After all, they were projecting a whole year and he only played 4 months. A little overambitious with the power numbers certainly given he hadn’t faced big league pitching and had to learn his own pitchers as well as the rest of the league but if you look what he did during the last month of the season and project that out for 6 months it makes what PECOTA projected look like Yuniesky Betancourt. I don’t think they were wrong, just a little bit early. I could easily see him finishing with that line in 2010.

  13. Ben - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    This is a joke. I remember one year (2008) it was one of these stats geeks like Bill James or Kevin Goldstein that said the Yanks should not re-sign Mo and have Edwar Ramirez as their closer?!?!?! I look at what they report and then digest it, like all material, but in the end, these stat reports are a heaping pile of garbage. If they don’t like old people, then they better have said that Ortiz and Varitek have .200 BA’s and Wakefield has a 15 ERA while Burrel of the Rays is told he’s not allowed to play baseball this year. I know it takes the fun out of it, but the games aren’t played till April and games don’t matter till August for competitive teams. Just saying…

  14. tank74 - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Same old song and dance – diss the Yankees! At least I know you’ll eat your words in November

  15. Charles Gates - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    While PECOTA does have value, it differs a pretty good deal from these projections at http://www.replacementlevel.com :
    http://rlyw.blogspot.com/2010/01/extremely-early-2010-mlb-projected.html

  16. Phil - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Teo things, Total. First, I am not a “dude”, to you or anyone else. Got that?
    Second, you have an awfully low threshold for what constitutes “Yankee bashing”. No fan of a team that has salted away 27 World Championships should be so sensitive.

  17. Union - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    Ah Yankee fans, you got to love them. They kind of remind me of my wife, dramatic, a tad touchy and most definitely over emotional!

  18. Union - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Ah Yankee fans, you got to love them. They kind of remind me of my wife, dramatic, a tad touchy and most definitely over emotional!

  19. Shely - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Alright lets all calm down now. I got it from good authority that this prediction actually came from Peter Gammons. Anyway, it sounds like it. At this time, you have to laugh at it. I am not a Yankee fan, but it is hard for me to think they will not run away with the division, especially since Boston lost Bay, and are counting on questionable pitching.

  20. Joe Blow - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    Spoken like a true Boston puke…Bottom line- Yanks are World Champs while you sip on that malt.

  21. Bill - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Yanks may have the biggest payroll, but that doesn’t automatically translate into a title. Stop bringing up the deep Steinbrenner pockets. Talent plus chemistry gets a team to the post season.

  22. Jonny5 - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    I knew the Nats would rate better than the NYM. They will be tougher to beat for the Phills without a doubt.

  23. RedsGhost - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    Shely- ” especially since Boston lost Bay, and are counting on questionable pitching.”
    Translation= I don’t know shit about baseball.

  24. Phil - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Joe,
    If you were a little better read around these boards, you’d know I’m not a Boston fan. Since you Yankee fans are so damn humorless, let me give you my three favorite Yankee moments.
    (3) Johnny Podres shuts out NY 2-0 in the 7th game of the ’55 series
    (2) ‘Maz. Nuff sed.
    (1) My Reds sweep NY in the ’76 series.
    Again, it would seem fans of a team with 27 titles could be more gracious winners. If I may paraphrase Orson Welles, there are three intolerable things in life – cold coffee, warm champagne, and over-excited Yankee fans. Welles actually cited the coffee, champagne and over-excited women, but since the Yankee fans here are acting like your maiden aunt after just getting a French postcard in the mail, I took the liberty of the substitution.

  25. paul - Jan 28, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    Please do not consider yourself a Yankee fan if you are not from the tri state area. You are just a band wagon hopper. Go back and root for your home team. It wasn’t much more than 15-20 years ago people only thought the Mets were New York’s only baseball team. I wonder if the band wagon hoppers ever sat at Yankee Stadium at a Yankees / Royals game or some other opponent and you were surrounded by fans chanting “Let’s go Mets” during the game. If you don’t remember that – screw. You are not and never have been a Yankee fan and if they indeed wound up in third place you would say you were never a Yankee fan anyway.

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