The Seattle Mariners will win 87 games in 2017. The Mariner Moose will take over the city of Seattle in a grand coup. The entirety of the Pacific Northwest will be wiped out by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. What do these three things all have in common? They’re all predictions, albeit with varying degrees of validity. Baseball gathers dozens of statistics, which hypothetically makes it easier to predict, but you’re still trying to predict the success of human beings and one year Michael Saunders stepped on a sprinkler in Spring Training and tore his meniscus. All that being said, the Mariners PECOTA projections seem promising but also...probable? Take a look
*I am not including the National League here because they still allow pitchers to “hit,” which makes their predictions even more of a crapshoot. A link to the full chart is here.
A brief explanation of the headings, for those of you who don’t wish to click through the BP Glossary:
- W/L are self-explanatory, as are AVG/OBP/SLG
- RS represents total offensive runs scored, while RA predicts runs averaged (be they earned, or otherwise)
- TAv measures total offensive value (including sacrifice hits and reaching base on an error) relative to average, and it treats strikeouts as slightly more damaging to the overall total
- FRAA is PECOTA’s catchall defensive metric which focuses heavily on play-by-play data, and takes into account batter handedness, pitcher tendencies, and park factors
Based on these projections PECOTA has the Mariners as the first wildcard team, with the second highest runs scored in the American League. For a team that finished 2016 with the second-highest wRC+ in MLB, and who retained the heart of their order, this makes sense. They/it (do we anthropomorphize an algorithm?) also have the Mariners giving up 713 runs, which makes sense for a team that plans to start Yovani Gallardo once every five days. The M’s are slated to be second in the AL West which once again checks out, though I think the projections for the Rangers are a little too high, and the projections for the Angels are a little too low. The standout surprise from these predictions is the staggering 59.2 Fielding Runs Above Average that PECOTA anticipates for the M’s upcoming season; 18.2 runs higher than the second-best defensive team in MLB. This seems a bit lofty, relative to the other predictions, but not entirely absurd given Jerry Dipoto’s offseason plan. Dipoto has been vocal about prioritizing defense, and his acquisitions have reflected this, so in that sense this prediction is understandable. If things go south this season, Jerry can look wistfully back at the PECOTA projections and console himself that at least the computers supported him.
Predictions guarantee nothing, but if we’re going to talk about them it’s nice that the conversation can be hopeful. After all, we could be the Royals.