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PECOTA projects Yankees will win the AL East

Baseball Prospectus released its PECOTA projections on Thursday, and things look good for the Yankees.

Divisional Round - Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Happy belated PECOTA Day to all! As they do every year, Baseball Prospectus released its PECOTA projections for the 2019 season, giving us baseball-starved folk some nuggets to munch on while we wait for pitchers and catchers to report next week. PECOTA, as described by BP, uses past performance from players to try and project how they will fare the following season.

Last season, PECOTA pegged the Yankees to finish with 96 wins en route to a division title. While the projections slightly underestimated the Yanks (who finished with 100 wins), they vastly underestimated the Red Sox, who were projected to finish with just 87 wins. The projections were off by at least 20 games on just two teams last year. While no system is perfect, it’s still interesting to see what the endless supply of stats say about the Bombers in 2019. So let’s take a look.

Like last year, PECOTA sees the Yanks winning the division with the same 96 wins it predicted last year, though this time they see Boston finishing closer, at 90 wins. This is a scenario any Yankees fan would sign up for, but how about the individual projections? Let’s compare position players’ PECOTA projections with FanGraphs’ Steamer projections:

Hitters Projected WAR

Giancarlo Stanton 4.4 4
Aaron Judge 4.6 5.3
Gary Sanchez 3.2 3.6
Aaron Hicks 3.3 2.3
Luke Voit 1.3 2.6
Miguel Andujar 2.1 0.9
Gleyber Torres 2.2 2.8
Didi Gregorius 1.4 1.1
Greg Bird 0.3 0.1
Troy Tulowitzki 1.2 1.1
DJ Lemahieu 1.9 3
Brett Gardner 1.2 2.2
Total: 27.1 29

There’s a few noticeable differences that stand out, primarily when looking at Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks. PECOTA seems to like Voit, and don’t believe his breakout stretch with the Yanks last year to be a flash in the pan. Of course, it doesn’t project Voit to continue with an OPS north of 1.000, but a 2.6 WARP and 21 homers from Voit in 2019 would be welcomed by the Yankees.

Hicks presents the opposite side of this spectrum, with Steamer liking the center fielder much more than PECOTA. He was among the most valuable center fielders in baseball last year, but PECOTA sees Hicks being almost as valuable as Brett Gardner in 2019, but with more power (21 homers). Considering it projects a full season of plate appearances for Hicks, who has had injury problems throughout his career, it’s an interesting outlook for a player that has shown real value at the plate when healthy.

Both projections like the chances of a bounce-back season for Gary Sanchez, while neither foresee a similar narrative for the injury prone Greg Bird. Elsewhere in the infield, PECOTA seems to favor DJ LeMahieu much more than Steamer, seeing the utility infielder finishing with a .357 OBP and 10 homers.

Pitchers Projected WAR

Luis Severino 4.5 3.5
James Paxton 4 3.6
Masahiro Tanaka 2.6 2.7
J.A. Happ 2.8 1.9
CC Sabathia 1.3 0.8
Aroldis Chapman 1.3 1.5
Dellin Betances 1.1 1.5
Chad Green 0.7 1.2
Zack Britton 0.7 0.7
Adam Ottavino 0.5 0.8
Jonathan Holder 0.2 0.3
Total: 19.7 18.5

On the mound, PECOTA sees Luis Severino and James Paxton leading the starting rotation with a 3.5 and 3.6 WARP, respectively. These are both lower than Steamer, which has both pitchers at 4.5 and 4.0. Interestingly, the projections have Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ allowing about the same amount of home runs in similar workloads next year, as the projections seem to like Tanaka mellowing some of his home run issues. Those three starters all have projected ERAs under four.

Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances are projected to finish with WARPs of 1.5, both higher than Steamer by slight margins. Jonathan Holder’s projected ERA of 4.66 suggests PECOTA expects a setback this year after a strong 2018 campaign, while it sees Tommy Kahnle returning to be a 0.5 WARP pitcher after a mysteriously disastrous 2018 season. Outside of Chapman and Betances, the most valuable projected reliever is Chad Green, followed by Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton.

Looking at the projections as a whole, it’s hard to be upset with a system that sees the Yankees scoring the most runs in baseball, while tying for third in the American League in runs allowed. Baseball is incredibly difficult to predict, but based on what was released on Thursday, the Yanks are in store for another successful season. Hopefully that will translate in the postseason.