This season, Baseball Prospectus’ editor-in-chief, Sam Miller, will be curating an entertaining game called Beat PECOTA. If the idea doesn’t already appear self evident, allow me to explain.
For the completely uninitiated, PECOTA is the projection system employed by Baseball Prospectus. PECOTA forecasts many things about a player’s future performance, including BP’s in-house stats: True Average (TAv) and Deserved Run Average (DRA).
The rules of Beat PECOTA then are simple. Pick the over or the under on the projected stats of as many hitters or pitchers as you want. Only players who are projected to have at least 251 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched are eligible. In order to win, you must beat PECOTA by at least seven points of TAv and 0.3 runs of DRA. For every correct player, your team will gain 10 points. However, for every incorrect prediction, your team will lose 11.5 points, so choosing wisely will be in your best interest. Anything located within the designated threshold will be considered a ‘push’ — you will not lose points and PECOTA will be considered correct. In the end, the highest overall score wins.
For your consideration, what follows are some suggestions on who to choose. I’ve selected a pair of Blue Jays players — one hitter and one pitcher — to over-perform and another pair to under-perform their PECOTA projections. I will be including these players on my team for accountability sake. In my description of why to choose these players I will give a sort of ‘confidence’ rating, which will inform you on whether or not I actually recommend picking them for your team, or whether I’m just picking that player for the sake of the exercise.
Josh Donaldson, PECOTA 2016 TAv: .299
PECOTA relies heavily on probability distributions. That means, among other things, it has a tendency to lean at least a tad toward the league average on both phenomenally good or phenomenally bad players.
Good news: the Blue Jays have a phenomenally good player for easy-pickin’. Over the past three seasons, Donaldson’s worst TAv was .305. While the difference between .299 and .305 would only be a push in this PECOTA game, I would take the odds that he exceeds that. In 2013, he hit for .326 TAv. In 2015, he hit for .324 TAv. While he may not be an MVP again, he seems like a lock to exceed the requisite .306 TAv benchmark. I would consider myself very confident on this wager.
R.A. Dickey, PECOTA 2016 DRA: 4.85
The knuckleballer doesn’t get a lot of love from advanced metrics in general, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But it does strike me as somewhat anomalous that PECOTA would project Dickey to drop this far in DRA after that metric has actually liked him over the past three seasons. It’s likely almost entirely due to aging curves though, as Dickey will enter his age-41 season this year.
From 2013 to 2015, Dickey’s DRAs have been 3.84, 3.80, 3.92. Not only would 4.85 be a massive fall, but so too would the requisite 4.54 that you need to collect your 10 points. I will definitely be taking Dickey.
Bonus coverage: Marcus Stroman is expected to post a DRA of 4.00. While 3.69 would be the necessary score for you to collect your 10 points, Stroman’s career DRA in the majors is 3.21. He should briskly beat his projections as well, though I’m slightly more confident in Dickey.
Troy Tulowitzki, PECOTA 2016 TAv: .291
This one was a lot tougher, and Tulowitzki is the unfortunate beneficiary of there just not being a lot of options.
While in Colorado, Tulowitzki had 351 plate appearances and had .274 TAv. Since coming over to Toronto, Tulowitzki has had a .258 TAv in 183 plate appearances. Both numbers are well below the .283 requisite benchmark so slam dunk, right?
In 2014, Tulowitzki had a .331 TAv. In 2013, he had a .306. In short, labeling Tulowitzki as an under-performer could go sour in a hurry. Honestly, I wouldn’t risk the 11.5 points for this. Even further, I wouldn’t pick any Blue Jays batter because I believe in at least a bit of lineup protection with hitters this good. But if you’re one of those pessimist-types, Tulo could be your fellow.
J.A. Happ, PECOTA 2016 DRA: 4.39
To tell you the truth, 4.39 sounds just about right for Happ. His last full season in Toronto, he sat at 4.55. In his 108.2 innings with the Seattle Mariners last season, he struggled to a 5.09 DRA. It makes you think that not only are the Blue Jays putting a lot of faith into Ray Searage wizardry, but so too is PECOTA. To be fair, in his 63.1 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Happ posted an absolutely sterling 1.89 DRA.
Do I legitimately think Happ will be a 4.70 DRA pitcher — the required amount to pull off a victory for your Beat PECOTA team — next season? Probably not. And I wouldn’t be picking him if I hadn’t bound myself to that contract I agreed upon earlier. If Searage did truly find the elixir to fix Happ then I could be very wrong. If Happ performs like he did in Toronto previously, then I’ll be wrong. If Happ is inconsistent and somehow thinks he is still pitching for the Mariners, then I’ll be in luck!
So there you have it: A couple of interesting picks for Blue Jays players. Now go pick your team!
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