Baseball Prospectus came out with PECOTA projections for team wins Tuesday morning.
The Cubs, they say, will win 15 fewer games than they did in 2017, but still win the N.L. Central — and be the only team over .500 in the division.
I’ll let you read that over and have it sink in a bit, and then you can read my comments.
The PECOTA system is projecting what Bill James would have called a “compressed league” — one with very few wins separating the best from the worst. Just one team (the Padres) is projected with fewer than 70 wins and only three (Dodgers, 97; Astros, 92; and Indians, 91) with more than 90 victories.
While the Cubs are projected to drop from 103 to 88 wins, the system says they’ll still win the division by eight games, as the Pirates are the team with the next-most wins, just 80. The Cardinals are at 75, the Brewers 74, and the Reds 72.
The Dodgers and Mets (86 wins) will join the Cubs as division winners in the National League, so says this system, and the Nationals (85 wins) and Giants (84 wins) would face off in the wild-card game.
In the American League, PECOTA has the Astros, Indians and Red Sox (89 wins) as division winners, and the Mariners (85 wins) as one wild-card team. The Rangers and Rays, tied with 83 wins, would have to play a tie-breaker to determine the other wild-card participant.
So what do I think?
This seems totally unrealistic. In 2016, six teams won 90 or more games; PECOTA says this drops in half for 2017. In 2016, eight teams lost 90 or more games; PECOTA says there will be just one such team in 2017.
I do think the Cubs might be set up to decline in wins this year. Everything broke right for the Cubs in 2016. Injuries (apart from the one to Kyle Schwarber) were minor, they won eight games in which they trailed entering the ninth inning and pretty much every time they needed a key hit or key out, they got it.
My totally unscientific prediction for this year’s Cubs is that they win 95 games. That’s still really good! And, it should be enough to win the N.L. Central comfortably, though I doubt they’ll be the only winning club in the division.
PECOTA projections are fun to stimulate discussion, but I doubt the 2017 MLB final standings will resemble them at all.