What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
In case you weren’t aware, Baseball Prospectus is home to some of baseball’s most respected statisticians. Their PECOTA rankings, assumed to be named in honor of a certain beloved utility infielder, attempt to project each team’s performance based on statistical variables.
This year, they projected the Washington Nationals to finish at 82-80 (insert laugh track here).
Seriously, 82-80 for a franchise that hasn’t seen a winning season since 2003 when they posted a mark of 83-79 as the Montreal Expos. It’s been five years since they saw .500. Granted, the Nats do have some talent on the roster; Ryan Zimmerman has developed into one of the best third baseman in the game, last season Adam Dunn fell only two long balls short of tying Babe Ruth for the most consecutive 40-homer seasons, and the outfield shows promise for the future in Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan, and Elijah Dukes.
But baseball is about pitching. While the Nats have some respectable talent on the hill, it is a bit of a reach to pin the hopes for a .500 season on a starting staff anchored by John Lannan, Jason Marquis, and Chien-Ming Wang. It’s almost as though the seriously-hoped-for future greatness of pitcher Stephen Strasburg offers an aura of competence that somehow leaks into the statistics, even though he isn’t likely to see the big leagues this year. After readers expressed confusion, Baseball Prospectus responded:
Reading through the comments of yesterday’s announcement that the PECOTA projections have been released, it is evident that there is a lot of concern over several aspects of the data, ranging from the projected standings to individual quirks. We understand and appreciate that this reflects a lot of passion for what we do here at Baseball Prospectus. To be blunt: we messed up, and are working to fix the issues.
Needless to say, the projections have been updated. So, after the slide-rules were re-calibrated, the computers re-booted, and the statisticians given full medical and psychological exams, what happened to that ridiculous 82-80 prediction? Did we get a far more possible number like 75-87? Not quite…the expectation for the Nationals has now been dropped to 81-81.
After all the hand-wringing and re-examination of the data, they pulled back for one fucking win. It’s like they forgot this team finished at 59-103 last year. Or perhaps they didn’t have a calculus for the fact the Nationals are in the same division as the Phillies, Marlins, and the Braves, all of whom at least don’t suck. It could be there was rampant enthusiasm at Baseball Prospectus given the Nats get to face the generally weak AL Central in inter-league play.
Perhaps If I were as smart as the Baseball Prospectus gang, I’d be less critical of this. While it may be quite possible I’m only cut out for “2+2” math, at least I know the Nationals roster doesn’t add up to 82 wins.