PECOTA: Braves to win 76 games, Swanson to be less awful

“A better WARP! High-five!”

Credit: Mark Bradley

Credit: Mark Bradley

“A better WARP! High-five!”

Wednesday was PECOTA Day on Baseball Prospectus. PECOTA Day is to statheads as Signing Day is to recruitniks; this year the two happened to coincide. Georgia's recruiting class was ranked No. 1 by every outlet. BP's data does not regard the Atlanta Braves' 2018 season quite so highly.

We’ve written about PECOTA – stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm – before. It’s a statistical projection. Statistical projections tend to flatten toward the middle. Only one position player – Mike Trout, duh – and one pitcher (Chris Sale) are projected to have a WARP (BP’s version of WAR) of more than 5.9. Eleven position players and three pitchers finished last season with WARPs of 6.0 or better.

BP requests that subscribers not overshare PECOTA data, it being proprietary and all, and every year I try to honor that request. I would note the following:

1. PECOTA tabs the Braves' top position player as Freddie Freeman. No shock there. (Though he's projected as only the 31st-best everyday player in baseball, which seems low.) Its second-best position player? Ozzie Albies.

2. PECOTA tabs the Braves' top pitcher as Sean Newcomb. Second-best? Mike Foltynewicz. Third-best? Julio Teheran.

3. A.J. Minter is projected to have a better WARP than Arodys Vizcaino.

4. Dansby Swanson is roughly projected to quadruple last year's WARP, which would make him fifth-best among the Braves' everyday eight.

5. Ronald Acuna is projected to have a pretty good rookie season. (Here we note that projections of rookies are inherently perilous, their sample size being limited to non-major-league competition.)

6. PECOTA has the Braves going 76-86 and finishing fourth in the National League East. It has them being the 23rd-best team in baseball.

That isn't out of line with FanGraphs' projection -- 77-87, 22nd-best among 30 clubs. You're free to quibble with any/all of the above, but the irritating thing about numbers is that they don't quibble back.

For the record, PECOTA isn't always right: It had the Braves winning 77 games last year; they won 72. But sometimes it is: Two years ago, it had them winning 68 games; they won 68. Both times, I thought they'd win more than PECOTA projected; both times I was wrong.