Nate Silver, Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA guru, has taken his first shot at team PECOTA projections for runs scored and runs allowed.
Using the PECOTA projections and Steven Miller’s variation of Bill James Pythagorean Win Expectation equation based on runs scored and runs allowed:
Where (a) = 1.79, you get a near dead heat for the AL East with only two tenths of a win separating the two teams.
How realistic is this? It is important to note that Pythagorean Win % is a better judge of how a team should have performed given the component data points and at predicting a teams future success within a season. In fact, it has been shown by Clay Davenport at Baseball Prospectus that Pythagorean Wins are a better predictor of future success than actual winning percentage.
Using PECOTA projections to make win expectations is layering a few educated guesses on top of each other. But that’s what the offseason is all about.
The best way to see how realistic these hypothetical standings are is to look at the component projections of each individual player and give it a finger to the wind proof test.
First lets look at the PECOTA projections for hitters. In my opinion, most of these are relatively in line with fair expectations. If anything, I think PECOTA is a little low on J.D. Drew, Alex Rodriguez, and Hideki Matsui and a little high on Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox lineup features a better high end and low end, while the Yankees lineup is deeper throughout. I fully expect the Yankees to score more runs than the Red Sox this season, and I would not at all be surprised if the distance in Runs Scored between the two teams is greater than Silver’s projected five runs.
Looking at the starting pitching, the expectations do not show the advantage in the starting rotation that I think the Red Sox have over the Yankees.
Collectively, the Red Sox starting five contributes a 54-43 record with a 4.29 ERA, while the Yankees are 52-41 with a 4.36 staff ERA. I expect that the Red Sox starting pitching will be significantly better than the Yankees starters. While the Yankees have a clear edge int he bullpen, I think PECOTA has understated the difference in Runs Allowed. I would not at all be surprised to see the Red Sox stretch that Runs Allowed advantage well past the projected two run difference here.
So where does that leave us? The Yankees will stretch their Runs Scored lead while the Red Sox stretch their Runs Allowed lead, and we end up right back where we started. In a dogfight for the AL East.
Lets just hope that the old adage, “pitching wins championships” holds true.