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Here come the projections

Jan 27, 2014, 11:06 AM EDT

crystal ball

As rosters are finalized and spring training stands just around the corner we’ll start to see many projections. The first overall one I’ve seen with wins and losses is Clay Davenport’s. Go see his here.

They all look pretty reasonable to me, at least insofar as how each team finishes in its division. I’m not a numbers guy so I can’t pick nits or say things like “Only 85 wins?! Bah! I think they win 89!” Go read Clay’s methodology. It’s complicated.

And I’m glad people like Clay do these because it helps to put actual past performance and numbers and things on top of all of our offseason feelings and expectations. Aging curves and past performance being the best predictor of future performance are concepts that are easy (and frankly, fun) to forget when your team is having press conferences putting its jersey on its new free agent.

My favorite thing about projection season, though? How mainstream baseball writers will deride them as silly as they come out. They’ll drop barbs on Twitter and in their columns about how, since someone projected wins and losses for the league “there’s no reason to play the season now!” or some such. The disdain for projections and statistical analysis in general comes through pretty clearly in this stuff.

And then, come March, these same guys will run “predictions” columns. Based on far less data and far more unverifiable and unfalsifiable conventional wisdom and pure gut feeling. And rather than predict things like “generalized results over a sample of 2000+ games,” they’ll predict who out of 30 teams will win a seven-game series six months in the future. And claim their own expertise as the basis for taking them seriously.

Fun times.

  1. nymets4ever - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    Pointless, wholly unnecessary snark directed at other writers who are just trying to do their jobs makes you look so cool. True story.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      Wen they do their jobs in a crappy way that is dismissive of other people doing their jobs, they’re not deserving of the deference you think they should have.

    • maikoch - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      I’m usually a Craig defender, and I hate to agree with nymets4ever (or dirtyharry, or historiophiliac for that matter). However, this piece definitely felt a little shrill. It’s like the journalistic equivalent of a preemptive strike.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 27, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        It’s like the journalistic equivalent of a preemptive strike.

        If you do thing A and reaction B happens, a decent number of times*, one could think that in the future if A then B, right? Because there’s been plenty of people who like to mock predictions that are based on hundreds of thousands of simulations, and then use their gut on their own.

        The 2012 election and Nate Silver should have showed us how bad people are at predictions, and then we have articles like this one in ’07 from the Chicago Tribute that mocked PECOTA’s prediction of a 72-90 White Sox team that just won the WS. The Pale Hose ended up at 72-90…

        http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2007/03/computers-dont-have-feelings.html

        [*lets not get into statistical significance here]

      • historiophiliac - Jan 27, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        kisses

      • Old Gator - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:38 PM

        “Nothing guarantees results like a preemptive strike.”
        – Admiral Yamamoto

  2. stex52 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    Wow! Houston at only 92 losses? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it. But that would be a twenty-one game improvement over 2013. Only two of their top 8 prospects are scheduled to hit the majors in 2014. The outfield should be significantly better with Fowler and, hopefully, Springer. Infield maybe somewhat better if Singleton and Villar both pan out. But pitching has a lot of holes for at least another year.

    My gut check over/under is still 100. I would pleased to be wrong.

    • stex52 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Correction, 19 game improvement. I misremembered their final record.

      It’ll be so nice to say, “Darn, we didn’t get the #1 draft choice.”

      • yahmule - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:11 PM

        I honestly believe Correa could come up and more than hold his own this season. Same thing with Appel. I realize there’s a 90% chance Correa spends the entire season in the minors, though. It would be silly to keep Springer down any longer. He’s not going to start striking out less if that’s what they’re hoping. I think the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of Wojciechowski and Foltynewicz will be formalized sometime this summer. They also have some other young guys who could develop into decent complementary pieces. I think their days of losing 100 are over, unless the extreme frugality continues.

      • stex52 - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:33 PM

        I think they are pretty dead set on developing Correa slowly. Appel and Folty I agree; if they come out of the box hot they may well see the Majors this year. Leaving Springer down would be baseball malpractice; and it’s time for Singleton to show what he can do.

        I thought McCullers would fast track but they slowed him down. I also don’t think they will speed Deshields up because his natural positions are CF or 2nd base. Given the present occupants he would be low impact, so why hurry?

        So I think it’s dicey to assume too much improvement this year, unless Fowler blows the doors off or they make some impact signing. Corner infielder or starter would be nice, but I don’t think there is one likely at this point that would make that much impact.

      • yahmule - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        I think guys like Altuve, Castro and Dominguez are young enough to get a bit better, too.

  3. chaseutley - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    The Phillies finishing dead last in the NL East? I will bet a family size bag of nacho cheese Doritos against that happening.

    • CJ - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      That you, Rube? Guess it’s better you spend your time on here than attempting to sign yet another former Phil on the wrong side of thirty. Five.

      Seriously though as a phan, I readily admit they have probably a better chance on finishing last than finishing first. I wouldn’t call it likely, but they have a lot of faith in an aging core and there’s very little depth behind them. That’s asking for trouble.

      On paper, should they finish last? No chance. But if they have the wrong 2-3 guys go on the DL for extended periods of time, they’re screwed.

      • chaseutley - Jan 27, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Maybe I should have backed up such a bold statement with the bold flavor of Cool Ranch Doritos.

  4. uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    When it comes to his projects on Boston, Yankees, Indians and Texas he’s splitting hairs as to who he thinks will make the post season. Even if you believe Davenport is baseballs equivalent “Nostradamus” it’s way to close to call.

    • stex52 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Of course it is. A thousand imponderables will happen between now and the end of the season. He’s is just making an educated guess with some data.

      On the day someone can really predict all those numbers, watching sports will be no fun anymore.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        “…an educated guess…” I’m at a loss for example to see how he can take the Mariners from a 71 win team in 2013 to an 83 win team in 2014. There only major signing was Cano. Ok they signed Hart and Morrison basically to roll/platoon players. But they lost Ibanez and Morales so far,.both of those guys generated a pretty good amount of HR’s and RBI’s.
        Lets just say I’m befuddled by the 12 game pick up. Cano’s good but he ain’t that good.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        Bad players in ’13 regressing to the mean?

      • stex52 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        Don’t know. His program might see Seattle’s 2013 performance as lower than it should have been, what with their front line starters and all.

        But I’m just speculating.

      • stex52 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        Yeah, what COPO said.

    • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      UYF, my friend, let me explain the optimism for the Mariners. First, only Seager at 697, and Morales at 657 registered 600 PAs. Smoak chipped in with 521. In 2013 Miller only accumulated 335 PAs. Zunino 193.

      While Ryan got 287 PAs at SS, and if he gets that many this year in New York the Yanks are in for trouble.

      Yes, Morales (most likely) and Ibanez are gone, but Morrison and Hart replace them and the Mariners did that by choice, believing the latter two are an upgrade.

      Also the Mariners wasted 283 PAs on Morse, 279 PAs on Chavez, (who they re-signed, but projects to get way fewer ABs), 236 on Bay, 125 on Shoppach, and 107 on Blanco.

      Instead in 2014 they will showcase the much better and much younger group of Bloomquist, Franklin, (if they don’t move him) Buck, and James Jones, as reserves.

      On the mound, gone are Harang, Bonderman and Saunders, and only one currently (barring the acquisition of a #5 hurler) Ramiez, Beavan and Mauer. The top four of Hernandez, Iwamura, Walker and Paxton upgrades the rotation nicely.

      Progress from Saunders, Seager, Ackley, Montero, Franklin, Miller and Zunino are all reasonable.
      Closer examination indicates that 83 wins may indeed be selling them short, and oh yeah, I forgot to mention their new second-baseman, some guy named Cano.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        My friend is that the same optimism that you had about 4 weeks ago that the Mariners had all this money they were going to make a serious run at Tanaka, then they were looking at possibly trading for Price and another offensive weapon?

        You’ll have to forgive if I’m somewhat skeptical of your appraisals of the 2014 Mariners. Especially since you seem to totally skip over the fact the A’s, Rangers and even the Angels have improved in the AL West and since about 54 of their 162 game schedule are against just those 3 teams they may have a tough time winning even the 26 games against those same 3 teams as they did in 2013.

        But, we’ll see that’s why they play the games.

      • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        UYF, my friend, neither you nor I know how “serious” the Mariners run for Tanaka was. Early on you opined that the kind of money the Yankees spent on Tanaka was way over the top and unwise for the Yankees to pursue, so “serious” is both relative and ever changing.

        The A’s have improved, particularly in their bull pen, but their offense is still suspect. The Rangers are probably better, but their starting staff still is questionable.

        Not sure the Angels are better. I expect both Pujols and Hamilton to rebound, but they have serious questions in their starting staff, and other holes. Hey even the Astros will be better, but no team has more reason for optimism than the Mariners, many more changes and upgrades, than the others, and a number of teams in other divisions have regressed, namely the O’s, Jays, and Indians.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        I don’t believe I ever said it was “unwise” that’s not a word I would normally use. I admit I did say I wasn’t sure that signing 2 of the FA’s for what Tanaka was probably going to cost wasn’t a better option. I also remember saying that even though It would cost a lot to sign Tanaka that if the Yankees did sign him I would root for him.

        Just one quick comment on the Mariners pursuit or lack thereof of Tanaka. I think if you go to this link:
        http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/01/mariners-focusing-on-complementary-players.html

        and read Zduriencik comments on Tanaka you will see they never really had any serious intention of signing him.

        I must say I admire your considerable optimism when it comes to the Mariners especially considering you tend to downplay almost every other teams potential especially in your most recent reply about the A’s, Rangers and Angels.

        Have a good day my friend, in any case I’m anxiously awaiting for the start of the real season.

      • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        UYF, my friend, I don’t know what term you used to describe your reticence to the Tanaka signing, but when I offered that most likely the number would be between 22-23 mil a year you suggested the Yankees would be wise to stay away.

        Most of us read MLBtraderumors, and have for years so any info there I have already digested, and other statements indicate the Mariners offered 100-120 mil, which is “serious” in my mind.

        I am also pretty darn sure, that your rooting for Tanaka, goes without saying.

        As for the other 3 teams in the AL West, my position as stated is the A’s have improved, but their offense is still questionable. The Rangers are better too, but their rotation is troublesome, and I do not believe the Angels are significantly better, and their rotation is suspect if not lousy.

        I too wait for the season to begin with great impatience.

  5. flyinhighwithvick - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Phillies below the Marlins? Really? I expect nothing less from an article posted by Craig, but Hamels and Lee combined will have more wins than the entire Marlins staff. Come on, at least be realistic.

    • Francisco (FC) - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      You DO realize Craig didn’t actually write those projections right?

      • flyinhighwithvick - Jan 27, 2014 at 3:53 PM

        “article posted by Craig” ….learn how to read.

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:02 PM

        “article posted by Craig” ….learn how to read.

        Hilarious! That’s a reference to THIS post. The INFORMATION with the PROJECTIONS is Clay Davenport’s, and Craig posted a link to CLAY’S PROJECTIONS.

        Would you like to try again?

      • historiophiliac - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:20 PM

        Death to the messenger!

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:47 PM

        Yep, Historio. Apparently just referencing work done by someone else -and not even MENTIONING the Phillies in the post, just linking to an unfavorable projection – means Craig is a mean, mean blogger, disparaging the beloved Philadelphia team at every opportunity.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:48 PM

        Why are you anti-phan? WHY?????

      • flyinhighwithvick - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:40 PM

        Sigh…you just reveal your own stupidity. An article….written by someone else….posted by Craig. Do you get it now, or should I write it in crayon?

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:38 PM

        No, no. I always got it. What you seem to NOT get is that your comment is essentially blaming Craig for posting a link to someone else’s opinions and observations that you don’t like, never mind the fact that Craig never even singled out the Phillies in his post. Do you see why your comment is so off base?

    • CJ - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      and the entire Marlins staff will have 5 times more wins than the rest of the Phillies staff after those 2. The team just isn’t built to succeed. It’s more reunion tour than contender.

    • 18thstreet - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      This is just like that time Craig reported on Sputnik. Dude hates America.

  6. happytwinsfan - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    interesting that he has only three teams with 90 wins or more, the most being 91. last year there were 11 teams with 90 wins or more and the highest was 97. is this because the bottom teams this year aren’t as bad as last year? as a twins fan i’m cool with that.

    • tjwilliams - Jan 27, 2014 at 7:44 PM

      Yeah, I went back to 1980 and, discounting strike years, there has never been a season in which the winningest team won fewer than 91 games OR the losingest team lost fewer than 95 games. The closest I could find was back in the 80s when there were a couple of seasons where the worst team went 66-96.

  7. spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Something seems a little askew. The average division winner attains only 89 wins, with no team exceeding 91. That is historically low. Checking the past 10 years the win totals of the NL Champs registered the following: 97,98,102,97,95,90,91,100,105,101. In 2007 both Colorado and Arizona only accumulated 90 wins.

    In the AL, the figures read, 97,95,97,96,103,100,96,97, and 99. Davenports model suggests enormous parity, in both leagues, and the chances of that I find exceedingly low.

    • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      Not sure why “build” would be included in a category. Perhaps if it contributed in some way to “health”, then if might be significant, but since all sizes get hurt, and I know of no correlation between body size, strength, and health, performance probably ought to suffice.

      • stex52 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        I wonder if his program doesn’t smooth out peaks and valleys to performance within a standard deviation or two. That might have the effect of showing all teams, on average, to be closer to one another in performance.

        Unfortunately, that might also explain why he sees the Astros at 70 wins instead of 60-65.

      • natstowngreg - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        Agree w/Stex. A statistical projection (even one that tries to adjust for player health) can’t tell you which teams will suffer key injuries, get the bounces, make good in-season personnel moves, or just generally over/underachieve.

        So the projections are conservative, both on the high and low ends. I respect Clay Davenport’s abilities as an analyst, and am sure he has a pretty good understanding of his own methodology’s limitations.

      • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        I can’t disagree with much of what you wrote, but that still doesn’t explain the extreme move to the center by teams, which is radical, not conservative. Conservative would have been numbers closer to the norm.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 27, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        Conservative would have been numbers closer to the norm.

        While I can’t comment on how many specific simulations Clay ran, when you do some 100,000+ times, there’s going to be outliers. That doesn’t mean an outlier can’t happen in real life, but I’m sure the teams with 95+ wins are a few SD away from the norm.

      • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:04 PM

        Standard deviations or not, the point isn’t that some teams aren’t going to win 95+ games, but that no teams are. That is still a radical position, regardless of how many times run. Random seasons aside, suggesting that no team wins more than 91 games points to flaws in system.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 27, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        Here, Tom Tango said it much better than I:

        Why do I bring this up? Well, when someone, be it Vegas, or Clay Davenport, suggests that the most talented team is going to have an over/under of 91 or 92 wins, this does NOT mean that they expect the league-leader to have 91 or 92 wins. It’s two different questions, exactly the same two questions that I have.

        Whereas you can estimate that the most talented team will have an over/under of 91 or 92 wins, you should therefore estimate that the league leading team (whoever that happens to be) will likely average some 10 wins more than that.

        http://tangotiger.com/index.php/site/article/difference-between-forecasting-results-with-an-without-an-identifier

      • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        I get all that. But any forecasting metrics that lean toward the mean are at least less than interesting. It is like saying the outcome is between 9-11, give or take 10.

      • natstowngreg - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:06 PM

        I buy the argument that projecting based on available data isn’t all that interesting. My point is, neither Davenport, nor anyone else, can project a team’s specific record over 162 games. I doubt the data allow one to project WHICH teams will win and lose 95+ games.

        Those who predict that teams will win (or lose) 95+ games can only do it by guessing which teams will over/underachieve, or have good/bad luck. To varying degrees, the guesses are educated.

        To be honest, I don’t find projections of specific records very interesting. But they’re harmless and somewhat entertaining. And, they’re generally forgotten by the end of the season.

      • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:40 PM

        I too find projections interesting, but the bolder the predictions, the more interesting.

  8. contraryguy - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    So the Reds lose Choo and Arroyo, and drop 10 wins from prior year? Ouch. Or maybe Davenport’s just a Dusty fan, there have to be one or two still out there.

  9. themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    I like the way Davenport broke down The AL East (not because I have a dog in that fight, but because I recently tried to predict the same division. Man did some of you NYY guys yell at me. I was trolling you a bit, since some of you are amusing in when you rant, but I think you made good points about your team. I could be wrong about your team and they’ll be better than I thought. Clay Davenport thinks so). Davenport sees the NYY as doing better than I did, but we agreed on the top 2 and the last place clubs (TO & Baltimore).

    Toronto is interesting. They score terrifically. That is one awesome hitting team. If they can just get some average to slightly above average pitching they’ll contend. I see them moving up that ranking if they can improve in run prevention. This might be a combination of catcher defence (which was woeful) and better pitching. If they land or develop a true ace this season, they’ll be right in the thick of it.

    That’s a dark horse team. All the rest seem set to be who they are going to be, but lets see where Jiminez and Santana land before that’s truly worth committing to. Fun times ahead.

  10. rje49 - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Save these the prediction and these comments, then look at them at the end of the year. It’s safe to say the real standings will have big differences, and half the commenter’s predictions will be way off, too. That’s normal. I couldn’t do any better! There are simply too many variables, from key injuries, pleasant surprises, big disappointments, good & bad luck, etc. etc.

  11. skids003 - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Craig, reprint at end of year, would be interesting to see how good he did.

    • happytwinsfan - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      i’d rather see his final end of spring training one, where he’ll be able to account for the final resting place of all free agents, spring training injuries, how fast guys seem to be coming back from injuries, last minute trades, and anything else. i’d also like to see the same from others making similar efforts, then we know who to take seriously next year

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 27, 2014 at 5:09 PM

        final resting place of all free agents? Dang I didn’t realize that if you didn’t make the cut in ST you were “taken care of” by the team when it went north! Yikes!

  12. largebill - Jan 27, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    I like the projections even though I don’t take them all that seriously. We know some players will get injured. However, we have no idea which key players on which teams will get injured. Every team has players that would greatly impact their line up/rotation if they missed substantial time. Couple that with the fact that every team only has so much depth which may or may not cover the areas in which they suffer injuries. Team having a great OF prospect in AAA irrelevant if the SS or catcher breaks an ankle.

  13. historiophiliac - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    I want to be excited at the thought of a rematch against the Woodpeckers, but, man, this team just kills me. Sigh. I don’t even want to put my heterochromia celebration goggles on, y’all.

    • unclemosesgreen - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      I’m so excited at the thought of a rematch with the Woodpeckers. And I just can’t hide it.

  14. illuminancer - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    I think stats are valuable and useful when evaluating teams and players. I also think that projections should be taken with a huge grain of salt. There are just too many variables that don’t come into play until, well, the games are played. And that’s okay. As a fan, I don’t want to obsess about the projections that say my team is going to be bad; that takes all the fun out of the game for me, at least.

  15. illuminancer - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    Link is dead?

  16. pastabelly - Jan 27, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    The standard deviation between teams seems too tight, meaning he believes the teams are more closely bunched up than they probably are. That’s why even the strongest teams are projected to win only 90-91 games and some awful teams are projected to win 70 games. Also, the writer’s statistical analysis shows every really good team from last year with significant reduction in wins for 2014.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 27, 2014 at 7:12 PM

      Also, the writer’s statistical analysis shows every really good team from last year with significant reduction in wins for 2014.

      Yes, that’s regression to the mean. Another phrase for saying that the teams’ performance last year wasn’t their true talent level.

  17. pastabelly - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    I don’t gamble, but I would think the Las Vegas over/unders for teams is probably more realistic and also would think that Bill James estimates for teams based on his own algorithms is probably a much better predictor as well.

  18. raysfan1 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:28 PM

    Davenport has the Rays in first; he is thus clearly a genius!

    • historiophiliac - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      Homer!

      • raysfan1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 1:38 AM

        Marge?

  19. cackalackyank - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:31 PM

    Wow interesting. According to Davenport and his computer almost 400 million worth of contracts gets you exactly…zero more wins? Sure hope those contracts are back loaded. /Sarcasm

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