PECOTA and History on the Angels Side of Not Being 21 Games Worse in 2010
My short post on Friday seemed to create quite a stir in the comments section so I promised to deliver a follow-up piece that would expand upon my initial take on Baseball Prospectus' prediction whereby the Los Angeles Angels would go 76-86 and finish last in the AL West in 2010.
If the truth be told, PECOTA has been consistent, if not accurate, when it comes to the Angels. It has underestimated the number of Angels wins by a minimum of eight games every season since 2004. On average, the system has shortchanged the Angels by 11 games per annum over the past half dozen years.
After reviewing these results, I have more confidence than ever in PECOTA, at least as it relates to the Angels. Here is the formula: Take the number of wins that the system forecasts for the Halos and add a minimum of eight and a maximum of 13 victories to determine the range of the team's expected win total.
With respect to 2010, PECOTA believes the Angels will win 76 games. Add 8-13 wins and... bingo, you get the range of victories (84-89) for the coming season. If you desire a more pinpoint total, then take PECOTA + 11 = 87.
While I admit to hindsight bias, my point of contention is not based on a sample size of one or two, nor selectively choosing this year or that year. Instead, it is based on each of the past six seasons. (PECOTA actually overestimated the number of Angels wins by five in the system's first year of existence in 2003. For the 2003-2009 period, PECOTA missed by an average of approximately 8 1/2 wins per season.)
If PECOTA is right and the Angels win 76 (or fewer) games in 2010, it will mark only the 36th time since Major League Baseball went to a 162 game schedule in 1961 (AL) and 1962 (NL) that a team's win total fell by at least 21 games year over year. In other words, such a collapse happens twice every three seasons or about one in 40 times when you factor in the total number of seasons involved during this period.
Granted, the higher the wins in the base year, the higher the odds of achieving infamy in the following year. Excluding 2009, teams have won 90 or more games 377 times since 1961. Twenty-one of those clubs (or 5.6%) won at least 21 fewer games the next season. Similarly, teams have matched or exceeded the Angels win total of 97 games last year 100 times since 1961. Nine of those clubs (9.0%) won at least 21 fewer games the following campaign. As a result, if history is any guide, there is less than a 1-in-10 chance of the Angels being 21 games worse in 2010 than 2009.
Here is a list of all the teams whose win totals have fallen by 21 or more games since the schedule was expanded to 162 games.
As it relates to the Angels, it would be one thing if the team's payroll had been slashed or its roster dismantled via trades or free agency this fall and winter. However, the reality is that the Halos personnel has not changed materially since last October. Sure, the Angels may give up a little by losing Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero, and John Lackey and replacing them with the untested Brandon Wood, the aging Hideki Matsui, and Joel Pineiro, who is coming off a career year. Maybe 2009 is as good as it gets for Erick Aybar and Kendry Morales even though both players are just 26 years old. Perhaps Bobby Abreu, 36, and Torii Hunter, 34, fall off the cliff at the same time despite providing relatively steady production over the past several years.
On the other hand, is it unreasonable to expect Scott Kazmir to contribute more to the Angels cause over the course of a full season in 2010 than he did in his only month of service in 2009? The 26-year-old lefthander has averaged nearly 29 starts during his first five campaigns. Pop in 23 additional starts for Kazmir and take away a like number from your choice of Matt Palmer (13 GS in 2009), 21-year-old rookie Sean O'Sullivan (10), Shane Loux (6), 22-year-old rookie Trevor Bell (4), Dustin Moseley (3), and 23-year-old rookie Anthony Ortega (3) and tell me what that's worth?
Speaking of starting pitchers, have we forgotten just how good Ervin Santana was in 2008 when he ranked in the top ten in MLB in FIP, xFIP, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, and WAR? Well, the 27-year-old righthander opened up 2009 on the DL, racked up a 7.81 ERA in the first half, and settled down to a 3.09 ERA with two complete game shutouts in the final two months.
Could Howie Kendrick, who hit .358/.391/.558 in the second half after returning from a stint in the minors, add more value in 2010 than 2009 when he played in only 105 games? How about Kevin Jepsen, the strikeout/groundball specialist with one of the hardest and best fastballs as well as cutters and sliders in the game?
Look, the Angels are likely to suffer their share of injuries this year. One or two youngsters won't pan out. One or two veterans will disappoint. But, maybe... just maybe a few things will go their way that could serve to offset some of the negative surprises that are bound to occur in the season ahead.
Put it all together and it seems difficult to comprehend how the Angels could go from 97 wins in 2009 to 76 wins in 2010.