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Breaking down the Astros’ 2019 PECOTA projections

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SEATTLE, WA - JULY 30: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros is taken out of the game against the Seattle Mariners in the seventh inning by Astros manager A.J. Hinch at Safeco Field on July 30, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JULY 30: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros is taken out of the game against the Seattle Mariners in the seventh inning by Astros manager A.J. Hinch at Safeco Field on July 30, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /
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With Spring Training rapidly approaching, it feels like an appropriate time to discuss projections. Specifically, Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections.

“Hope springs eternal” – Alexander Pope, poet

Every year as we prepare for another season of baseball, it feels like most teams (sorry, Marlins) have a some sort of chance to make it a memorable season. While it may not always translate into a postseason appearance, there are still “good” seasons where teams exceed expectations. The 2018 Rays, for example, fall into this category. Of course, the opposite could be said of teams with high expectations (hello, Nationals) that fall completely short.

Projections have a funny way of throwing ice water on a possibly hopeful situation. Or, it may inflate the ego of already good teams that have a legitimate chance for postseason glory. For the Astros, the PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus may inflate their ego a bit. Maybe not? Heck, PECOTA seems to love Houston this year. I do not nor pretend to know how the players feel about projections. For a fan though, our ego will likely inflate to annoying levels.

Projected AL West standings, 2019

  • Astros: 99-63
  • Angels: 81-81
  • A’s: 79-83
  • Mariners: 75-87
  • Rangers: 69-93

Incidentally, the Astros had the same PECOTA projection (99-63) last year, and the club actually won 103 games. While another 103-win season may not happen in 2019, Houston feels like a decent bet to enter the triple-digit win total for a third-consecutive year. Despite a mostly quiet offseason, Jeff Luhnow and the club’s front office has constructed another potent roster that is capable of winning another World Series.

Here is how PECOTA breaks down some notable Astros in 2019:

  • Jose Altuve – .309/.387/.473, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 53.7 VORP, 4.8 WARP
  • Alex Bregman – .270/.357/.459, 23 HR, 78 RBI, 39.4 VORP, 4.9 WARP
  • Carlos Correa – .265/.360/.444, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 38.4 VORP, 4.2 WARP
  • George Springer – .259/.354/.443, 25 HR, 77 RBI, 37.2 VORP, 3.5 WARP
  • Michael Brantley – .274/.337/.417, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 15.5 VORP, 1.6 WARP
  • Justin Verlander – 189 IP, 3.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .283 BABIP, 30.1 VORP, 3.3 WARP
  • Gerrit Cole – 189 IP, 3.30 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .296 BABIP, 35.3 VORP, 3.9 WARP
  • Collin McHugh – 123 IP, 3.59 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .294 BABIP, 17.7 VORP, 2.0 WARP

Personally, it feels like PECOTA is too low on Verlander and Cole, especially in light of their most recent seasons. However, I do somewhat understand how projection systems could be a bit down on the former due to him entering his age-36 season this year.

Projection System Comparison in 2019 for Justin Verlander

  • PECOTA: 189 IP, 3.53 ERA, 3.3 WARP
  • B-Ref: 188 IP, 3.16 ERA*
  • Steamer: 202 IP, 3.37 ERA, 5.1 fWAR

*Note: Couldn’t locate projected WAR for B-Ref

Next. Astros Morning Snippets: Time to “Take It Back”. dark

The various projection systems are similar (3-plus ERA, 188+ IP), but there are some differences. Also, each site does have different calculations and components for wins above replacement (fWAR, bWAR, WARP), among other metrics. Overall though, we can see that the projections are currently down on Verlander in comparison to his 2018 season (214 IP, 2.52 ERA). The projections may prove to be right, but it remains something to watch. I wouldn’t bet against Verlander nor Cole, though.

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