Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA numbers this week, and obviously there is a ton of data. At first I tried to just pick out some interesting bit of information, which I’ll get to later. Keep in mind that playing time adjustments haven’t been made yet. Guys who won’t be playing are in there, but that shouldn’t affect their non-counting stats. Before that, though, I want to share what really jumped out at me. PECOTA is not very sympathetic to Nationals position players. Here’s what I mean:

PECOTA Doubts the Position Players

PECOTA thinks (ok it doesn’t think, it calculates) that almost all Nats who might be considered starters will have a lower OPS in 2011 compared to 2010. That includes those you might expect, such as Ryan Zimmerman (drop of .069), Jayson Werth (drop of .086) and Mike Morse (drop of .097). It includes others that you might not expect such as Adam LaRoche (drop of .007), Danny Espinosa (drop of .028), and Wilson Ramos (drop of .038). The only starter types with increases are Ian Desmond (increase of .003), Roger Bernadina (increase of .012), and Rick Ankiel (increase of .017).

It’s interesting not only that they see such a massive drop from Zimmerman, who had a great year last year (Werth is moving from a hitters park, that accounts for some of it) but also there are so few OPS increases. And anyone with increases are predicted to be minuscule. I know that OPS is only one stat, and it’s not perfect because of unlike denominators and all that, but that’s not really my point. Such across the board regression is strange. There are other parts that also seem to indicate that the Nats offense will suffer. PECOTA predicts:

  • Zimmerman will tie for the 2nd lowest AVG of his career, and have an OPS of .829 – over the last TWO seasons his OPS is .893
  • Werth will have the lowest AVG, OBP and OPS since before he went to Philly, and lowest SLG in three years. Again, this is more understandable leaving that ballpark, but it still seems extreme
  • LaRoche will have the his second lowest OBP of his career, and lowest career AVG
  • Morgan, who had a horrible year last year, will continue to not hit. His OBP will be .322, which beats 2010. But remember that his lowest before last season was .345. Keep in mind that Morgan’s BABIP was .021 lower than any other time in his career last year. Perhaps PECOTA believes that poor luck will hold
  • Of the 10 players mentioned above, 7 have a decrease in ISO power (SLG-AVG). Ankiel improves significantly (+0.31), Desmond and Morgan see slight increases.

Perhaps PECOTA knows something about new fence distances in Nationals Park, or a secret plan to move back to RFK. Otherwise, this seems very suspect to me. Is it just coincidental that this happened with so many players? Or is there something we don’t know here? I’d say this was the stat guys indicating that the team will miss Adam Dunn, but I am pretty sure Baseball Prospectus authors would agree that lineup protection is a myth.

On to the Rest

Besides that major point, here are a few other observations I’ve got that are just worth mentioning. Here is what PECOTA has deemed to be so:

  • Only 2 Nationals position players are in the top 100 for WARP (their version of WAR) –  Zimmerman (#19) and Werth (#31) – but two out of the top 31 isn’t bad
  • They see Desmond’s bat (.262/.308/.395) as slightly better than Espinosa’s (.230/.300/.396), but give Espinosa a slight edge on WARP due to defense. If those guys finish with those offensive numbers, it will be pretty disappointing
  • Strasburg is #12 on their overall pitcher’s WARP list. If he played, they predicted 140 K and 35 BB with a 2.40 ERA in 122 1/3 IP. It also says he’d put out a nasty fire in the club level cause by a half smoke, and rescue 3.45 kitties from trees per week.
  • Chien-Ming Wang is the next pitcher on the WARP list, followed by Jason Marquis. And while neither have gorgeous numbers, you’d probably take the 4.33 ERA they have for Wang. His WARP will go down when they factor in less/no playing time.
  • They have Jordan Zimmermann with a very low number of innings, but he looks pretty good. He’s got a 4.27 ERA, 7.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. As this gets adjusted for PT, assuming he gets more slotted for more than 86 IP, he’ll likely move to the top of the list for pitchers on this team
  • The statistical curiosity that is John Lannan continues. They predict him to have an ERA of 4.86 – a career low. This is what every program predicts about this guy every year, who doesn’t strike out enough guys and has a bad K/BB. And every year he beats those predictions.
  • Drew Storen‘s got the best ERA on the team, with a 3.50.
  • Livan will completely fall apart and post an ERA of 5.14, although his 2009 was worse

In general, PECOTA is pretty much doom and gloom for the Nats. There aren’t too many bright spots. It’s kind of amazing how bad they think this team is. Only 2 pitchers with an ERA below 4.00? That’s never happened with any Nats team. The pitching is gonna be bad for sure, but the offense is predicted to be as well. I can’t imagine PECOTA giving the Nats more than about 60 wins this year with these numbers. Luckily for the Nats, they will have plenty of time to prove they’re better than these numbers suggest.

By Charlie