That is not to say that PECOTA is putting forward credible estimates at each position. The following 2 predictions stand out for being bad:
Kevin Youkilis – 2010 projection: .288/.387/.500, 28.7 VORP; 2009 actual: .305/.413/.538, 53.5 VORP. I don’t like Kevin Youkilis either, but why would he lose almost half his value and post his lowest OBP since 2006?
Victor Martinez – 2010 projected VORP: 23.9; 2009 actual VORP, JUST WITH THE RED SOX: 21.4. Granted, V-Mart overachieved once he got to Boston, but a full year of his production should absolutely be better than his partial year in Boston in 2009.
But that’s it on offense. There are some players, such as J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, who are projected to see a sharp decline in VORP, but whose raw performance projections from which VORP is calculated seem reasonable. VORP is a counting statistic, a relative statistic, and inherently flawed, so I will avoid criticizing a drop in projected relative value if I feel the performance estimate is accurate.
On the flip side, while virtually every Yankee is projected to LOSE VALUE, many Red Sox are projected to improve. Let’s choose one, entirely at random:
David Ortiz – 2010 projected: .267/.368/.492, 19.3 VORP; 2009 actual: .238/.332/.462, 14.5 VORP. Let me get this straight, 35 year old Alex Rodriguez will LOSE VALUE from his approximately 50 VORP performance in a partial 2009 to a 47 VORP across ALL OF 2010, but 34 year old David Ortiz is due to have a comeback?
On the pitching side, PECOTA’s projections are slightly more conservative than many actual 2009 performances, but all of the conventional stat projections are satisfactory. For example, Beckett and Lester project to have ERAs of 3.60 and 3.89 respectively. Fans may disagree, but those are reasonable estimates and not substantively different from their 2009 actual ERAs of 3.86 and 3.41. Beckett projects to improve, in fact. PECOTA projects all 3 of the Yankees’ big ’09 starters to get worse in ’10.
PECOTA does have a harsh projection for Papelbon, but that just proves not even computers can stand that jerk. Just kidding. PECOTA seems to be systemically poor at projecting relievers in general. Here are three examples, all from the projections:
Jonathan Papelbon – 55 IP, 2.84 ERA
Mariano Rivera – 55 IP, 3.31 ERA
Phil Hughes – 59 IP, 4.02 ERA
BP sees each of these guys losing AT LEAST one run per 9 innings from their 2009 performances. Ain’t happening. The fact that virtually every reliever on either team, even Boone Logan, is projected to pitch no less than 40 and no more than 59 innings doesn’t add credibility to the bullpen projections either.
While I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that Baseball Prospectus is headquartered in Braintree, MA, I do not believe they are intentionally trying to make a downward projection for the Yankees. Rather, PECOTA consistently makes conservative estimates, and the Yankees seem to be penalized for having old players who are expected to contribute greatly to the team. A quick glance at the Red Sox confirms the absence of such a penalty, at least for one other team.
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