LOS ANGELES — The folks at Baseball Prospectus released their 2017 PECOTA projections on Tuesday, and they really, really like the Dodgers. Los Angeles is predicted by the model to win 98 games this season, which would be the best record in baseball.
This is not new.
The Dodgers have been projected by PECOTA to have the best record for now five consecutive seasons:
- 2013: 93 projected wins (92 actual wins)
- 2014: 98 projected (94 actual)
- 2015: 97 projected (92 actual)
- 2016: 94 projected (91 actual)
- 2017: 98 projected
It’s not terribly surprising that the Dodgers have such a lofty projection this season. They were two wins from the World Series last year and brought back Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and Rich Hill. They are expected to get much more than 42 starts from the trio of Clayton Kershaw, Hill and Julio Urias in 2017, and continue to have depth among pitchers and position players.
PECOTA really likes the Dodgers’ run prevention, projecting them to allow 597 runs, 50 fewer than the next-best team in baseball (the Astros). But it is also high on the offense, projecting 761 runs scored, second-best in the NL, only six runs behind the Cubs.
The Dodgers scored 725 runs and allowed 638 in 2016. They haven’t scored more than that since tallying 780 runs in 2009.
The last time the Dodgers finished with the best record in baseball was 1974, when they went 102-60 — a Los Angeles franchise record — but lost in the World Series to the A’s.
What is a bit of a shock is that the Dodgers are far and away ahead of everybody else. The closest team to them are the Astros, at 93 wins. The defending champion Cubs, who won 103 games in 2016 and had a pythagorean record of 107-54, are projected to win only 91 games this year.
That’s a tough sell for me.
Also kind of weird to me is how the projections are conservative by nature yet have the Dodgers so far out in front. There are only five teams projected to win 90 games in 2017, and in the last five years PECOTA has averaged just under four projected 90-win teams per season. Over the last 21 full seasons (1996-2016, since the last strike), MLB has averaged 7.67 teams per season winning 90 games, and never fewer than six teams in any year.
In the last four years there have been 30 such 90-win teams compared to 14 predicted by PECOTA.
“PECOTA, like most projection systems, is based a lot on regressing everything to mean,” said Aaron Gleeman, the editor-in-chief at Baseball Prospectus. “So that's why there are fewer 90-plus win teams and also fewer 90-plus loss teams than will probably actually exist in a given season.
“It's also why, for instance, PECOTA is absolutely in love with Mike Trout, viewing him as clearly the best player in the world, and still projects him for only 7.7 WARP.”
Trout has averaged 9.1 Wins Above Replacement Player by Baseball Prospectus methodology in his five full seasons, for instance. His 7.7 WARP forecast in 2017 represents his 50th-percentile projection.
PECOTA shows different projections for each player, with varying degrees of probability. Here is the projection for Julio Urias in his age-20 season:
Baseball Prospectus is not alone in projecting good things for the Dodgers in 2017. FanGraphs also has the Dodgers with the best record in baseball at 95 wins, and with the Cubs second at 94 victories that seems a little more relatively plausible.
PECOTA wasn’t the only MLB projection to be unveiled on Tuesday. USA Today also released their prediction model for 2017. The Dodgers are projected to win the National League West with 92 wins in this scenario. The Cubs are projected at 99 wins.
Average PECOTA, FanGraphs, and USA Today, and the Dodgers look like a 95-win team. That seems pretty reasonable to me.
Yasmani Grandal, who projects as the Dodgers’ best player by PECOTA at 6.4 WARP — with roughly half of that value coming from catcher framing — said at Dodgers Fan Fest in January that he steers clear of projections and prognostications.
"I don't like to see what other people say about our team. I know what our team has,” Grandal said. “I know what we have in the minor leagues and what can help us. It's just a matter of taking that extra step. We have the talent.”