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PECOTA projects Cleveland Indians for best record in the American League

Baseball still isn't played on spreadsheets, but Tribe brass is talking to the commissioner's office about changing that.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball Prospectus has posted the initial PECOTA standings for 2016. There's a lot that can be discussed about them, but rather than bury the lede, I'll get right to it and point out that the have the Indians projected for 92 wins, which is not only best in the American League Central, its best in the entire American League.

Sticking to the AL Central though, things look especially rosy for the Tribe, because their 92 projected wins aren't just the most, they're the most by far. The White Sox are in 2nd, ten games back with 82 wins, followed by the Tigers and Twins with 79 wins apiece, with the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals in dead last with just 76 wins.

That last item is going to be the most talked about piece of the standings. PECOTA (and most other projection systems) also had the Royals winning fewer than 80 games last year; instead KC won an AL-best 95 games. BP's Sam Miller knows this will be the talking point, and has already written about it.

Along with the wins and losses, the standings also project runs scored and allowed. The Tribe are projected to be a middle-of-the-road offense (though better than their division rivals); what sends them to the top of the standings is their run prevention, which is projected to be the American League's best. That isn't just about the potentially great pitching; PECOTA also has the Indians as the second-best fielding team in the league.

I know some Tribe fans will hate seeing the Indians on top, because they believe that sort of thing leads to pressure the team crumbles under. (That's what was said by many about the team last year, when outlets including Sports Illustrated picked the Indians to win the World Series and the team then stumbled out of the gate.) For my part, I don't believe for a second that the Indians will finish 16 games ahead of the Royals, and I don't think anyone is going to win the Central by 10 games, but I'm happy to see projection systems high on the Tribe. Every season has a nearly uncountable number of possible outcomes, and no single one of them is especially likely. Data like we're getting from PECOTA is a reminder of that, but also (in this case) that a pretty good number of those possibilities turn out well for the Indians.