Pittsburgh Pirates: Baseball Prospectus Releases Their PECOTA Projections


Baseball Prospectus has released their 2018 PECOTA Projections at both the player and team levels. What is projected for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Some new projections have come out for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Player empirical comparison and optimization test algorithm, otherwise known as PECOTA, is Baseball Prospectus’ projection system that was created by Nate Silver. Silver now runs the site FiveThirtyEightThe system has done a pretty good job since 2003 for predicting the Pirates record, especially given the difficulties in player projections.  In a 2014 piece at FiveThirtyEight, Neil Paine wrote,

"“The smallest possible root-mean-square error (a mathematical way of testing a prediction’s accuracy) for any projection system over an extended period of time is 6.4 wins. In a single season, forecasters can — and do — beat an RMSE of 6.4. But whenever that happens, it’s due to luck. The amount of random variance that goes into team records makes the 6.4 barrier literally impossible to beat over a large number of seasons. Over time, no forecaster’s system can ever do better….In PECOTA’s case those predictions have come within an RMSE of 8.9 wins, 2.5 wins away from perfection.”"

PECOTA is not perfect, both creators and users of the system know this.  But it gives a good representation of what to expect for each player and team in the upcoming season. Furthermore, Baseball Prospectus provides percentile forecasts on their player pages.

For the 2018 season, PECOTA projects the Pirates at 78-84, a fourth-place finish in the National League Central and tied with the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies for ninth in the National League.  Averaging PECOTA and Fangraphs projected Depth Chart standings has the Pirates with 77.5 wins, fourth in the National League Central.  Here are the rest of the averaged projected wins for the teams and their divisional finish:

Look at the Pittsburgh Pirates Projections

The Pittsburgh Pirates are projected as an average team. This projection makes sense considering the current roster construction.  There are still some quality free agents available – Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, J.D. Martinez, etc. – so the win totals will change between now and the start of the season. The Pittsburgh Pirates club won’t get much better than they currently are projected at.

On the individual player side of things, the Pirates best-projected player is Starling Marte, who they project at 3.1 wins above a replacement level player (WARP).  The second best-projected player is a rather surprise in Adam Frazier (2.2 WARP). They project Frazier to start in left field and get 65 percent of the playing time there.  Josh Bell projects to lead the team in true average (TAv) – which is similar to wOBA, but TAv includes situational hitting – at .279, but his limited defense value has him at only a projected 1.3 WARP.  Shortstop Jordy Mercer projected right at replacement level.

For the pitchers, Jameson Taillon leads the way with a 2.5 WARP. Tyler Glasnow is second on the team at 1.5 WARP.  This is mainly because of his dominance and high strikeout rates in the minor leagues.  The rest of the pitchers, save Felipe Rivero, all project really as just average.  This could support the idea the Pirates and the bullpen revolution.

Next: Ke'Bryan Hayes Ranked In Fangraphs Top 60 Prospects

Former Pittsburgh Pirates

Other areas of note are that Gerrit Cole projects at a 2.8 WARP and 3.64 ERA, while Joe Musgrove has a projected 4.37 ERA and 0.7 WARP and Colin Moran a .250 TAv and 0.1 WARP.  Andrew McCutchen projects to be a two-win player (2.1 WARP) for the Giants and produce a .290 TAv.

The Pirates lost two players that are projected to bring much greater value in 2018 than what the replacements are.  PECOTA projects the Bucs in the lower-middle of the pack. This is essentially what they have been the past two years.  They’re neither good or bad, rather just there.