Earlier today I wrote about the PECOTA standings, which were released today at Baseball Prospectus. I was somewhat surprised (and disappointed) to see that the Indians are projected for only an 81-81 record. I see them as being better than that, and wondered what might have caused such a mediocre projection. The standings come from the player projections, so the answer to my wonderings lie there.
The player projections are part of Baseball Prospectus' for-pay content, which means I won't print too much of what they have to say about the Tribe, because that's poor form. If you have a subscription, you can see the projections for the Indians in full here. If you don't have a subscription, I would point out that I think it's worth the cost for anyone who likes to read well done baseball analysis with lots of data. You can also find the PECOTA projections in BP's annual book, which was recently released. It includes far more than just PECOTA, and is also worth its price.
I understand not everyone is in a position to shell out for a subscription or the book, but that doesn't make it okay for any of us to publish full projections. That goes for the comments as well.
The short version of what might be must surprising about PECOTA's forecast for the Indians:
Corey Kluber's projection is far, far below what he did in 2014.
Despite averaging 6.93 innings per start last year, Kluber is projected to average only 6.00 in 2015. He is forecast to post a 4.08 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP, which are not only dramatically worse than his 2014 numbers, they're worse than what he put up in 2013. PECOTA projects Kluber to be worth only 0.7 WARP this year.
I think we should all be prepared for some downward regression for Kluber this year, because almost no one who has as good a season as he did is able to match it the following year. That said, I don't understand why PECOTA expects such a dramatic decline. ZiPS, released last week at FanGraphs, also sees some regression, but still expects Kluber to be an excellent pitcher, one worth 4.8 WAR.
The PECOTA numbers for Kluber seem like a typo.
UPDATE: LGT reader Zaza Braggins passed along this article up at BP today, in which their staff acknowledges that Kluber's numbers seem way off, and explains that the projection system just doesn't know how to handle such a huge breakout season from a player like Kluber.
On the position player side of the projections, things are hardly any rosier, especially for Michael Brantley, who finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting last year. PECOTA forecasts a batting line of .285/.340/.406 for Dr. Smooth, which isn't quite as dramatic a decline as the one projected for Kluber, but is still a far cry from the .327/.385/.506 he put up in 2014. As with Kluber, I think we should expect some regression, but I'm not sure why such a dramatic correction is expected.
Even splitting the difference between Kluber and Brantley's 2014 production and their 2015 PECOTA projections would add 5-6 wins for the Indians.