The day before pitchers and catchers are to begin reporting to Spring Training, the official PECOTA projections were released. Before we get into where the White Sox ended up, let’s do a little refresher for what PECOTA even means.
(P)layer (E)mpirical (C)omparison and (O)ptimization (T)est (A)lgorithma
PECOTA is used primarily for projecting the performance of individual players, but it can be applied to entire teams as well to project records. It uses predicted depth charts to establish the projected runs for and against each team, before gleaning a projected win total from that.
Now that everyone knows what we’re even talking about here, let’s get into the Sox. So for the 2020 MLB season, PECOTA has the Sox finishing the season with……drum roll please…… 82.5 (or 83) wins. Can this projection win them the AL Central? Doesn’t seem like it based on the projections. Here’s how the rest of the division panned out:
- Minnesota Twins – 93.4
- Cleveland Indians – 86.1
- Chicago White Sox – 82.5
- Detroit Tigers – 69.2
- Kansas City Royals – 67.8
Third huh? In all honesty, 83 wins is pretty fair. Everyone freaks out this time of year and takes it too seriously when they see their team’s projections. Well, the same holds true this year. I saw some Twitter outrage earlier, but you’ve gotta remember with the White Sox, they finished with 72 wins last year. 10+ additional wins is a pretty decent jump if these projections hold true. For what it’s worth, PECOTA had the Sox finishing with 70 wins last year. (Take that PECOTA! The over hit).
The Sox have done a GREAT job this off-season, but this team hasn’t proven anything quite yet.
I get that the starting pitching was pretty horrendous last year. Well, mainly the back end of that rotation. I mean… Covey? Banuelos? Despaigne? Santana? It’s supposed to be improved this year, but the keywords are “supposed to”. Can Giolito be an Ace again? Can Keuchel bring Championship caliber pitching, or even a glimmer of that? Is Cease the real deal? Can Rodón come back healthy? Can Kopech come back healthy? What Lopez will show up day to day? Those are a lot of question marks around the starting pitching. The bullpen has some good arms, but there are definitely gaps there, too.
Those are just the question marks around the pitching. When you move onto the position players, you have even more “supposed to’s” that add to the list. Robert is supposed to be a stud (and he’s going to be…who are we kidding??). Madrigal is supposed to be a stud. Can Eloy put a full season together and play better in the outfield? Can TA win another batting title? Can Moncada cement himself as a Top 3B?
I think a combination of the overall talent, acquisitions this off-season, potential from the prospects, and the “question marks” around the team add up to about 10 more wins when you’re talking about a sabermetric projection. A lot of things have to go right for the Sox, but if they do, they could easily exceed this projection. The pieces appear to be there.
You can find the full projections here, but here are some other PECOTA highlights:
- The Yankees, Astros, Twins, and Dodgers were the only teams to crack 90 wins
- The Dodgers were the only ones to crack 100 wins (102.5)
- The Baltimore Orioles are projected to finish with the least wins (62.9)
- The Cubs are projected to finish with 84.5 wins (2nd in the division)
How do you think PECOTA did? Are you taking the Over or Under for the Sox this season? I’m taking the Over.