Bradley’s Buzz: PECOTA has stopped hating the Braves!

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) holds up second base after he stole his 70th base of the season during the 10th inning against the Chicago Cubs at Truist Park, Wednesday, September 27, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) holds up second base after he stole his 70th base of the season during the 10th inning against the Chicago Cubs at Truist Park, Wednesday, September 27, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

It’s PECOTA Week. For baseball fans who track advanced analytics – at this late date, do any baseball fans NOT track advanced analytics? – it’s biggest week of the calendar year.

PECOTA is the proprietary metric of Baseball Prospectus. It stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. Yes, there was briefly a Brave named Bill Pecota, and yes, legend holds that the famous Bill James named his creation after the sport’s most average player. That description might have flattered Pecota, but enough about him.

Baseball Prospectus asks its subscribers not to overshare PECOTA data,. I don’t believe BP will take offense if we mention its projected No. 1 non-pitcher for 2024 is a Brave. (Hint: He was the National League’s unanimous MVP.) Or that its No. 5 pitcher is also a Brave. (Hint: His first name is Spencer.) Or that, for the first time in a while, PECOTA does not appear to hate the Braves.

To its credit, BP leans into the outcry spawned by its February reveal by running stories bearing the headline, “Why PECOTA hates (Your Team).” Nine years ago, Royals fans couldn’t grasp why PECOTA tabbed a team that almost won the World Series to finish – yow! – 72-90. Lo and behold, the 2015 Royals won the World Series. (They haven’t finished above .500 since, though.)

The contemporary Braves haven’t been afforded quite such short shrift, but the club that has won its division six years running wasn’t once tabbed by PECOTA as the NL East team to beat – until now. PECOTA has the 2024 Braves winning 100.7 games. Only one other MLB club is projected to win even 95 games. Three guesses which.

PECOTA sees little separating the Dodgers, whom it has winning 102 games, and the Braves. L.A. is given a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs; the Braves are slotted at 99.8%. The Dodgers’ chances of winning the World Series – 19.2%. The Braves’ chances of winning the World Series – 18.7%.

(We mentioned Wednesday that the odds of surviving the October crapshoot are, even for the best teams, never great. Here’s your proof in decimal points.)

PECOTA is the sabermetric set’s go-to prognostication. (See what happens when you name a spreadsheet after a utility infielder?) FanGraphs – the other major analytic site – offers a quieter rollout of its projections. Be advised that FanGraphs doesn’t just not-hate the Braves. It loves the Braves.

FanGraphs has the Braves winning a best-in-baseball 98.4 games. It has no other team, Dodgers included, above 94. It gives the Braves a 24.7% chance of winning the World Series, making the local team as close to an overwhelming favorite as bloodless spreadsheets get. The Dodgers’ WS-winning chances – 15.9%. The Astros’ chances – 10.8%. No other club is above 7.6%.

And what, you ask, of the Braves-killing Phillies? That team might be heavy on October “intangibles,” but it doesn’t look quite the same in the chilly light of February. PECOTA sees the second-place Phillies winning 84 games, 16.7 fewer than the Braves. FanGraphs has Philly winning 84.7 games, 14 fewer than the Braves. Given that projections tend to flatten toward the median, those are massive spreads.

So what team, this time around, does PECOTA hate? Well, the Orioles won 101 games last year with a youngish roster. They’ve added Corbin Burnes, a pitcher of the first rank. PECOTA has Baltimore finishing third in the AL East – behind the Yankees and Rays – with 86.7 wins. FanGraphs also has the O’s running third with 84.6 wins.

Back to PECOTA. It lists six Braves among MLB’s top 100 everyday players: Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Sean Murphy, Ozzie Albies, Marcell Ozuna. It has five Dodgers: Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy. Of the six Braves, only Ozuna is over 30. Of the five Dodgers, only Smith is younger than 30. Just something else to bear in mind as we await the day pitchers and catchers report.

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