A look at some inaccurate PECOTA projections for the Orioles, plus other notes

When Baseball Prospectus released its latest PECOTA projections for the 2016 season, it basically predicted a strong race in the American League East this year - but not one that will include the Orioles.

PECOTA, which stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, is Baseball Prospectus’ proprietary system that projects player performance based on comparison with historical player seasons. There are three elements to PECOTA:

* Major league equivalencies, to allow the use minor league stats to project how a player will perform in the majors
* Baseline forecasts, which use weighted averages and regression to the mean to produce an estimate of a player’s true talent level
* A career path adjustment, which incorporates information about how comparable players’ stats changed over time.

PECOTA produced these AL East projection for wins in 2016:

91 - Tampa Bay
88 - Boston
86 - Toronto
85 - New York
72 - Orioles

Before anyone gets too bent out of shape over this, PECOTA has missed big often in recent years on the Orioles. The projection for 2012 was 71 wins, and that team won 93. In 2013, it was 75, and that team won 85. In 2014, it was 75, and those division champs won 96 games. They finally got close last year, projecting 78 wins for a team that won 81.

Adam Jones Chris Davis high five white.jpgSo over the last four years starting in 2012, the average PECOTA win projection has been 74.8 and the actual average win total has been 88.8. That is a pretty big whiff.

PECOTA has also missed big on the Kansas City Royals, projecting the 2014 AL champs to win 79 games (they won 89) and projecting the 2015 World Series winner to win 72 games (they won 95). But PECOTA might be stubborn, predicting the 2016 Royals to win just 76 games.

These projections call for the Orioles to have the worst record in the AL in 2016 and Kansas City to have the fourth-worst record. Let’s just say if those two prove true, we all should throw a dinner for the masterminds behind such projections as soon as possible next offseason.

* If the Orioles do wind up signing both pitcher Yovani Gallardo and outfielder Dexter Fowler, they could be doing so at a big savings. At least in terms of one prediction.

MLBTradeRumors.com, which has proven to be rather accurate in predicting most free agent deals ahead of time, ranked Fowler as the No. 16 free agent (fifth among outfielders) heading into this offseason. A contract for four years and $60 million was estimated.

Gallardo was ranked as the No. 20 free agent (11th among pitchers) at the start of free agency. He was projected to get a deal for four years and $52 million.

If the O’s add Gallardo for around three years and $40 million and Fowler at two years and $25 million, that would be a nice savings based on the earlier projections. The two players who were predicted to get a combined $112 million would be signing for $65 million.

Besides the biggest factor - they fill team needs - that is another key factor why the O’s have such interest. They would be giving up two draft picks, but also would retain four picks between the 50th and 95th selections, which are currently Nos. 54, 69, 76 and 91. When the O’s lost two draft picks before the 2014 season to sign free agents Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez, they didn’t select until the 90th pick in the draft that June.

* ESPN’s Keith Law released his individual team top 10 prospects lists yesterday. He ranks catcher Chance Sisco No. 1 among all O’s prospects and also ranked him No. 81 in his top 100. Pitcher Hunter Harvey was ranked as the O’s No. 2 and prospect No. 100 overall.

Law ranks pitcher David Hess third, followed by infielder Jomar Reyes, pitcher Chris Lee, outfielder DJ Stewart, pitcher Gray Fenter, infielder Ryan Mountcastle, pitcher Tanner Scott and catcher Jonah Heim.

Baseball America rated Sisco No. 8 among all the catching prospects in baseball. Baseball America ranked its top 100 right-handed pitchers and Dylan Bundy was No. 31, Harvey No. 32 and Mychal Givens No. 80.

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