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The Astros According To PECOTA (Part 1)

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Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released the first 2012 iteration of their annual stat projection system, PECOTA. Please note that this is a projection system, not a prediction system. It's a fine line and sometimes BP writers get huffy when PECOTA is incorrectly labeled.

As the release of the inaugural PECOTAs are always, for me, a momentous occasion on par with Christmas, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Day, and International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I gleefully neglected work and family to fire up Microsoft Excel to wade through the prognostications.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with PECOTA, it's a baseball stat projection system named after Bill Pecota, as average a player as there ever was. The projections are based on quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and super string theory, where the end result is a collection of stats that represents the weighted average of the different calculation iterations.

For the type of people who fight Saber Boy for a living, what this means is that the projections represent the most likely performance of a player. I'm done trying to explain it. If you want to know more, Google is available.

Anyway, I dove into the Astros' PECOTA projections, starting with the hitters, and my comments are below.

NOTE: The article image has nothing to do with the Astros or with this article. I just thought it looked funny.

  • PECOTA lists Carlos Lee at 200 pounds. I've heard of people being in the best shape of their life at Spring Training, but dang. If PECOTA is right, Carlos Lee now only weighs 30 pounds more than Jose Altuve and makes Chris Snyder look like Goliath at 220 lbs. Maybe all of the misplaced mockery from the message boards finally got to him? Carlos, man, it's time to pick up the hamburgers again or we'll have to change your nickname to El Caballito.
  • Chris Johnson is projected for 54 plate appearances. We spent last week discussing if Johnson is primed for a breakout and should get the majority of the starts at third base. If PECOTA is correct, then Johnson is headed back to AAA. I'm going against PECOTA on this one. CJ will get at least 55 plate appearances.
  • Catchers are only projected for 307 plate appearances. This projection implies that the Astros will be playing catcher-less for about half of the season. While of dubious legality, this is certainly a strategy that has never been tried before, and it should be interesting to see if the ploy is successful. Perhaps the Astros will play Downs and Paredes at third simultaneously in lieu of a catcher, in order to negate infield defensive problems.
  • Did you know: Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero are only two inches taller than Jose Altuve? I didn't.
  • PECOTA seems to think that Carlos Lee really, truly, has improved his defensive skillset. They project +8 Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) for him at first base, and only -2 FRAA in Left Field. This is so much better than his career averages that it's astounding that even a computer can project this without nervousness. Perhaps the 100-pound weight loss has something to do with this.
  • Most likely to have a Break Out Season: 1) Jimmy Paredes; 2) Brett Wallace; 3) J.D. Martinez; 4) Jordan Schafer; 5) Marwin Gonzalez
  • Most likely to beat their PECOTA projections: 1) J.D. Martinez; 2) Fernando Martinez; 3) Jed Lowrie; 4) Jason Bourgeois
  • Most likely to underperform their projections: 1) Humberto Quintero; 2) Marwin Gonzalez; 3) Jimmy Paredes; 4) Brian Bogusevic
  • Only Lee, Bourgeois, Martinez, and Altuve are projected to have an above-average batting average. And Lee takes the crown with a disappointing .275.
  • Average team OBP = .309. Yuck
  • Average team SLG% = .382. Double Yuck
  • Altuve will lead the team in triples with 4.
  • Top Base Stealers: Altuve (29); Paredes (28); Bourgeois (26); Schafer (24)
  • For those of us who have been debating if Springer would sniff the majors in 2012: PECOTA has the answer, and it's, "NO."
  • Only Carlos Lee, J.D. Martinez, and Jed Lowrie will hit more than 10 Home Runs. I'm not a gambling person, but I'd take the "over".
  • PECOTA also includes a fun section of player comparisons. Based on the player's projections, the algorithm looked at players who have had similar seasons in the past and lists the top three "comps". Below are some fun comps from the 2012 projections.

    • Brett Wallace's top comp is Justin Morneau
    • Fernando Martinez' top comps are Nick Markakis, Dwight Evans, and Dominic Brown. I hope PECOTA is right.
    • Jimmy Paredes' top comps include Ryne Sandberg and Dave Roberts
    • Jose Altuve's top comps include Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar. We shall see.
    • J.D. Martinez' top comps include Gary Matthews, Sr. and Adam Lind
    • Matt Downs top comps are Kelly Johnson, Ryne Sandberg, and Brandon Phillips. Somebody please remind me why this guy isn't getting regular playing time?

    If anybody would care to dispute these projections, post it in the comments and at the end of the year we will see who is smarter -- Man or Machine. Or sophisticated baseball algorithm. Whatever.