Fun With PECOTA (Part 2)

Last week, I had a little fun with Baseball Prospectus' 2012 PECOTA foreshadowing system. I'm calling it a foreshadowing system because the word forecasting implies something a little more definite. After all, meteorologists are forecasters, and since they are infallibly nostradomic, it would be improper to apply the word to a subject as nebulous and chaotic as professional baseball.

In all seriousness (or at least more seriousness), I would like to say that I am in awe of the amount of labor and thought that goes into the creation of PECOTA every season. It can't be easy to build. With thousands of players to account for, with each one's likelihood to do, well, whatever it is that they might do, there is a staggering amount of data to process, and to be snide without at least tipping one's hat would be unfair.

PECOTA does one thing extremely well: It gives people a broad picture about the abilities of a player to impact his team. It is a guide through the future season; a guide who knows vaguely what direction we are heading, but not the names of the roads to be taken.

But PECOTA needs numbers to present that overview, and the numbers are where the fun is. So after the jump, I will continue my good-spirited and well-meaning mockery by examining how PECOTA views the Astros' pitching staff and its overall win-loss record.

Note: I want to point out the totally awesome photo of Wesley Wright. I don't know who Julio Cortez is, but that's a really fine example of photographication, and he deserves kudos for taking this one.

Like any good engineer, I prefer to present my data in the form of a bullet list. So here is the Astros' pitching staff, according to PECOTA.

  • The lowest ERA on the team will belong to Brandon Lyon (4.01) Even more shocking, PECOTA thinks Lyon will manage a staggering 38 innings pitched. That's like 39 more innings than last season.
  • Wandy is the only pitcher (besides Lyon) with a FRA (Fair Runs Allowed) lower than 5.00. FRA is like FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). Don't ask me to explain the difference, but it uses the same scale as ERA, so it suffices to say anything over 5.00 is bad.
  • PECOTA projects 1,444 and 1/3 innings pitched by Astros pitchers this season. According to my handy calculator, that equals 160.5 games. That means the Astros will forfeit 1 game and have another rained out after 5 innings. And, there will be no extra innings games.
  • Most likely to break out: Jordan Lyles (32%), Fernando Rodriguez (30%), Bud Norris (29%)
  • Most likely to beat PECOTA projection: Bud Norris (67%, 4.77 ERA), Jordan Lyles (66%, 5.29 ERA), Zack Duke (61%, 5.53 ERA), Fernando Rodriguez (59%, 5.59 ERA).
  • Most likely to collapse and fall below PECOTA projection: Brandon Lyon (41%, 4.01 ERA), Sergio Escalona (36%, 5.04 ERA), Juan Abreu (34%, 4.98 ERA)
Projected Pitcher Records (Starters):
Bud Norris: 7-17
J.A. Happ: 5-14
Jordan Lyles: 4-10

PECOTA also finds comparable players (or comparable player-seasons) and lists the top three. Here are some fun players that are compared to the 2012 Astros:

Sergio Escalona: C.J. Wilson
Brett Myers: Don Drysdale
Livan Hernandez: Mike Hampton
Kyle Weiland: CC Sabathia (Let's hope so!), Andrew Miller (Let's hope not!)
Lucas Harrell: Mike Hampton (Hampton is popular on this list)
J.A. Happ: Chris Narveson (I wouldn't complain), Steve Carlton (I REALLY wouldn't complain)
Bud Norris: Josh Beckett (Yes, please), Ian Snell (No, please)
Jordan Lyles: Zack Greinke (Awesome), Larry Dierker (Super-Awesome!)

Finally, I added up the projected runs scored and runs allowed by the Astros according to PECOTA, and applied them to Bill James' calculation for Pythogorean Win Expectation.

Runs Scored: 601
Runs Allowed: 782
Pythag Record: 0.371
Pythag W/L: 60-102

I don't think it's outside of the realm of reason to say the Astros will lose 102 games, though I know a certain group of writers and readers that are much more hopeful than that.

With any luck, PECOTA will be no more accurate than Chuck the Weatherman, and the Astros will have sunshine and blue skies (metaphorically speaking) for all of 2012.

P.S. Forgive all the parentheses (there were far too many in this post for me to call myself a writer without snickering), but my internal commentary just spilled out onto the keyboard without notice. I'll turn the Extraneous Punctuation Filter (EPF) back on for my next article.
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