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PECOTA predicts sub-.500 season for Tigers

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Every year, Baseball Prospectus puts out its PECOTA projections. In recent years, these projections have been accompanied by a depth chart for each team and prediction of the standings for each division.

Last season, it called three of the four American League playoff teams, missing only the Central Division champions. It also foresaw the Tigers' resurgence, pegging them for second place while the "experts" out there were certain they were a sub-.500, last-place team. (Complete glance at SixFourThree blog, via Big League Stew.)

Not bad.

Of course, it completely whiffed on the National League, and whiffed bad. Not good.

So the results are mixed, at best, I think it would be safe to say. They are useful thumbnail sketches, but they rely on proper projections of playing time, so to get the most out of them they have to be tuned as closely as possible to the actual playing time for the players. That's an inexact science, given pesky managers and injuries. It also tends to underestimate teams with solid defense. And, oh yes, there are a few free agents still out there to be signed.

Anyway, the PECOTA projections for 2010 were released today, and Tigers fans won't be pleased with the results.

The Tigers are predicted to be 79-83, finished in a second-place tie with the White Sox, three games behind the Twins. In other words, PECOTA predicts the Central Division will stink. Can't disagree.

My own belief the Tigers are about an 82-win team, mainly disagreeing on run prevention, but also with slight disagreement on run scoring. The system actually believes the Tigers will give up 812 runs this season, while scoring 794. In other words, it thinks Detroit will score 50 more runs, but give up 80 more. I don't buy that. I think the Tigers actually have pretty good pitching, even with the questions at fourth and fifth starter. PECOTA's depth chart underestimated the Tigers' run prevention all of last season, as well. So I'm not suprised.

I'm just not convinced the Tigers' run-scoring is going to improve all that much either. I'd put them closer to scoring 750 while allowing 740, just doing some back-of-the-napkin scribbles, nothing too seriously thought out because there are too many question marks still. It's way too early to be making proclamations with a lot of confidence about how the season will go for Detroit.

The playoff teams, as of today: Rays, Red Sox (wc), Twins, A's; Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies, Braves/Diamondbacks (wc). So yes, it sees Oakland in the playoffs and the Yankees' watching from home. Both would please me greatly. Both seem unlikely.

So I wouldn't take PECOTA with too much confidence in January. Check back at the end of March for a better take.