Well, we now have season projections from all major sources, and they are pretty interesting, far more interesting than in recent years.
The projection systems out there are ZiPS, PECOTA, and Steamer (although Steamer does not do team projections, only player stats) and USA Today also weighed in had some incredible things to say about what they thought this season would be like.
Here is the real news for Tigers fans: Detroit was listed as 3rd or 4th place in ALL projections, winning somewhere in the range of 80 games. Every single projection listed the same things as the reason: a poor season from an again Victor Martinez, and underwhelming performance by the Starting Rotation, namely a return by Verlander to his numbers of 2014, Zimmerman continuing his decline of the last few years, an oft-injured and ineffective Anibal, basically the 2015 model, a Mike Pelfrey, that is… well… Mike Pelfrey, and a rookie on the back end. They also do not value the depth of guys like Fulmer or Boyd.
On a positive note, Steamer projects Miguel Cabrera to have the second highest run production (wRC+) in the American League, behind only Mike Trout. I’m sure fans will love to see another Cabrera/ Trout show down for MVP.
Projections are strange every year, like picking the Royals to be a sub-.500 team each of last two years (both years they won the AL), and they have done that again this year. No love for the World Series champs! But this year, things seem to be particularly screwy.
I will start with the worst and work my way towards the most likely.
The USA Today projection looks like someone who knows nothing about baseball through it together for fun. The biggest red flags are in the NL, where they have three teams with 100 losses, and another with 98. Never in any year has either league had more than two 100 loss teams. It has literally never happened. Is the 2016 version of the NL the worst league in history? Unlikely.
And due to the staggering amount of losses in the NL, USA Today predicts that the AL will finish 46 games above .500. 46 more wins than losses. Keep this is mind because it is going to become a common beef as we look through more projections. But let’s put that into perspective, if the AL is 46 wins above .500, that means those 46 wins came in Interleague play, right? Well, since Houston joined the AL in 2013, the American League has finished above .500 every year, to a tune of 8 wins, 26 wins, and 34 wins last year. 300 Interleague games are played every year, the AL would have to go 173-127 in those contests, a winning percentage of .577, not done since 2008, and only ever done again in 2006. At no other points in the 20 year history of interleague play has a league dominated to that extent, and nothing has been close to that since they increased to 300 games in 2013.
USA Today also picks the White Sox to win this division, comical.
Moving on to the Fangraph’s ZiPS projection system. They have a much more likely zero 100 loss teams in either league (there has not been a 100 loss team since 2013). Although, they project that the American League will win an astronomical 58 games over the NL! It seems impossible to me. They also have Kansas City finishing last in the division.
The ZiPS and PECOTA projections (brought to us by Baseball Prospectus) are fairly similar, at least in where teams fall within divisions. Neither has any team with an enormous amount of wins or losses, both project playoff teams with wins in the mid-80s. One thing you could say that is unlikely about these projections is that teams generally do blow open at least a couple divisions, not everyone hovers around 80 wins. One major difference is that PECOTA has the AL finishing 32 games over .500, which is far more likely than 58.
But then PECOTA goes and does something more than a little odd, they give the AL 32 games, but they only dock the NL 20 games. Meaning that they expect there to be 12 more wins than losses in all of baseball next year. A baseball season consists of roughly 2340 games, so there should be roughly 2340 wins and 2340 losses. The numbers can be slightly different, for instance, the Tigers only played 161 games last year (74-87). But you never play a game where two teams win. PECOTA is projecting this to happen in 6 different games next year. That’ll be a new one.
I won’t bore you and embarrass myself by predicting every division, and I will update this before the end of Spring Training, but here is how I think the AL Central will play out:
- Detroit Tigers 91-71
- Kansas City Royal 89-73
- Cleveland Indians 84-78
- Minnesota Twins 80-82
- Chicago White Sox 75-87
And yes, that means I predict the AL Central will go 28 games above .500, and the reason I do that is because the AL Central plays the NL East this year. And while the NL East boasts the 2015 NL Champion, and a team with a near $200M payroll, the rest of the division is garbage. The Marlins, Braves and Phillies will all lose 90 games, and the Braves and Phillies might approach 100. And even the Nationals barely won 80 games last year. The NL East is probably the worst division in baseball, so the AL Central needs to take advantage of that for the Wild Card races this season!