Baseball Prospectus released its PECOTA projections Thursday morning, and that’s grist for our mountainous mill. While the projections aren’t usually too far from what a lot of us expect, they are useful. For one, they add context. I know a great deal and think a lot about the Rockies — not so much the Pirates. Looking at how other teams are projected helps me put what I perceive to be the Rockies’ strengths and weaknesses in a better frame. They also offer hidden insight. The projections are the product of something like a million-plus season simulations. It’s no surprise that new insights emerge from such a large amount of processed information.
So, with that in mind, here are a few early takeaways from the 2019 PECOTA projections.
The NL is competitive!
The Rockies are projected to finish with an 85-77 record. Considering that record projections should be viewed as +/-8 wins as a result of (mis)fortune, that seems about right. It also makes me feel pretty good. That feeling, however, is tempered by looking around the rest of the NL. Only three teams are projected to finish with fewer than 81 wins: The Giants, the Marlins, and the Padres. Getting to 90 wins and a spot in the postseason won’t be easy. At least the NL West is projected to have two out of the three worst team’s in the NL, and the Rockies get to play them a total of 38 times.
The Rockies offense is...good?
Earlier this offseason, BP released DRC+, which is (at the very least) the most thoroughly adjusted batting statistic that exists. It’s also the first one that park adjusts at the plate appearance level, which is particularly important for understanding Rockies batters. Projected team-level DRC+ in the NL ranges from 86-101, and he Rockies are projected at 100. They are one of seven teams clustered from a projected 98 DRC+ to 101. This may still be because DRC+ appears to be overcorrecting for the Coors Hangover, but it could also mean that the offense isn’t the weakness a lot of us have supposed.
The Rockies’ best hitter: Daniel Murphy
Speaking of DRC+, Murphy is projected to lead the team with a 136 mark. While it’s just two points better than Nolan Arenado’s projected 134, it’s still noteworthy. If Murphy can come anywhere close to this projection, it’ll be hugely important for the Rockies and their chances.
The Rockies’ best pitcher: German Márquez
This is entirely believable. PECOTA projects Márquez to post 3.0 pitcher wins above replacement player (PWARP), which would actually be a step back from the 4.7 he had in 2018. Don’t let that be a word of discouragement though. Márquez’s projection is the sixth best among all NL starters. Here’s another way to think about this projection: Did Kyle Freeland’s amazing 2018 distract us from the real breakout pitcher? At the very least, PECOTA is more convinced of Márquez than Freeland (projected to finish with 1.5 PWARP).
Don’t forget about Jon Gray
So, if Márquez is projected to be the Rockies best pitcher, who’s projected to be their second best? That would be Jon Gray, who has a 2.3 PWARP according to this model. This talk about “which of these three pitchers will be the best and oh yeah they’ll all probably be pretty good anyway” is new and very exciting.
But about that pitching depth
BP’s visual depth charts show that the Rockies top four pitchers are projected to be about as good as the Dodgers’ top four. Antonio Senzatela even has a good projection (0.9 PWARP) in the five spot. It gets dicey after the top five though. If we still use the Dodgers as a comparison, they have Kenta Maeda (1.4 PWARP) and Julio Urías (1.5) listed as spot starters. The best the Rockies have is a 0.4 PWARP in 53 innings projection for Jeff Hoffman. Which, by the way, would be pretty good. It just doesn’t match the Dodgers’ pitching depth.
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With these projections out, I am now extremely ready for baseball to start. If you’ve had a chance to dig into the PECOTA projections, what sticks out to you?