Toronto Blue Jays Introduce R.A. Dickey

Yesterday Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections, and it took a lot of Jays fans by surprise that, in the publicly available projected standings that I linked to in the Afternoon Snack, the club came up fourth in the American League East, behind not just the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, but the Boston Red Sox as well.

This seems slightly less odd when we see that they’re really actually neck-and-neck with the Rays and Sox, who are projected for just one win more than the Jays, but… it’s still maybe a little bit odd.

Granted, as I say every time I do these sorts of posts, I find that projections are, on the whole, pretty much entirely pointless– hardly anything worth going damn ape goof about– but still… I figure it might be worth taking a look through the PECOTA data (while, y’know, being careful not to give away too much of BP’s hard work) to see precisely why the Jays maybe don’t stack up quite as well as we’ve been hoping. (Hint: see the picture above.)

I could probably cut straight to get to the nut of the issue here, but I think it’s important to point out a number of ways in which PECOTA is actually being quite favourable to the Jays.

For example, several players on the club are being projected to have better seasons in 2013 than they did in 2012– some considerably so. Jose Reyes, Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, Maicer Izturis, and Ricky Romero all have projections more than a full WARP (BP’s own version of WAR) above what they posted last season, with lesser improvements projected for Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia and Brandon Morrow (all mostly through additional playing time), as well as Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

They can’t all be better, so… sure, that seems like a fair sample of players to improve.

The trouble comes when we look at some of the projected regression. Edwin Encarnacion, perhaps expectedly, takes a step back across the board, with a .256/.341/.470 and a 2.7 WARP projection. A little more surprising is that PECOTA has Brett Lawrie adding some power, but otherwise taking a step back in terms of average and on-base, and losing about half of his defensive value (from a 20.5 FRAA to a projected eight). I’d love to be able to quibble more with the Lawrie projection, but… yeah, he’s probably got to stop swinging as much as he did in 2012, and get back to being the guy who can take a walk that we saw in his debut season– which he started to do with more regularity in September, if we can believe it.

Where I might be more inclined to quibble, however, is the 1.6 WARP projection on Melky Cabrera, who managed 5.1 in 2012, in just 113 games, and was better, even, in Kansas City the year prior. I mean, I get that the BABIP he has posted in each of those two seasons is well above his career norm– skewed as it is by those two potential outliers– and that some kind of regression should be expected, but… yowza.

Crazier still, perhaps, is the case of R.A Dickey, whose projected 1.5 WARP is well off the 3.7 he posted in reality last season– in fact, it’s lower than his WARP in each of his last three seasons, and lower-than or equal-to the projected WARP of four Yankee starters (Sabathia, Kuroda, Hughes, Pettite), three Red Sox starters (Lester, Buchholz, Dempster), two Rays starters (Price, Hellickson), and his teammates Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow.

Of course, it may not be that crazy. We know that defence-independent pitching metrics have trouble with knuckleballers, who, as Dave Cameron explained in a December post at FanGraphs, ”induce weak contact that leads to consistently lower than average rates of hits on balls in play.” So clearly there could be some issues there– though we don’t precisely know what’s under the hood.

But I mean, the NL Cy Young winner is Boston’s fourth-best pitcher? Yeah… no. Matt from House of the Bluebird does the math:

I think that seems a hell of a lot more reasonable, no?

There are other things that may seem a little wonky, especially through our Jays-coloured glasses, in there too, for sure– Mike Napoli and Mark Teixeira each being a half win better than Edwin Encarnacion, or Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks, Stephen Drew, and Ichiro all projecting better than Melky– but really… yeah… it’s all just projections! I mean… whatever!

Comments (66)

  1. Holy shit I think it’s safe to say PECOTA thinks the AL East is a tad harder than the NL

  2. First!!!!1!

  3. ZIPS is much kinder to Dickey. But really, who the fuck knows.

    I think that knuckleballers are just hard to project. Especially 38 year old ones with a relatively short track record of success (2010-2012).

    • What about comparing Pecota projections to actual results? This seems like a column worth exploring :)

    • The problem I have with PECOTA’s system is that it doesn’t take a consistent approach. Some guys are projected based on a “regression toward the mean,” and others are projected based on things like BABIP and what not. In the end, it’s pretty transparent that while stats are used, there are people behind those stats making decisions about which stats to weigh. With Dickey, they obviously didn’t consider that his ERA, WHIP and BA against have been declining steadily for the last few years, all fairly independent of BABIP. And while the Encarnacion projection is a reasonable “regression toward the mean” calculation (they did the same for Adam Dunn, and rightly so), they didn’t use that calculation for Lawrie, at least evenly (i.e. they might have for his power, but obviously didn’t for average).

      • I think this difference in approach is based on the prior years. In other words, because Encarnacion’s 2012 was so different from prior years expecting a regression is more likely. I think it assumes the same for R.A.Dickey which may be less fair as there is more of a trend there. With younger players I assume it handles them differently because there is limited info and they tend to get better with experience.

  4. All this does is give us something to talk about. Really, i would rather be an under dog with all the hype around the team right now, take some of the pressure off.

    • Completely agree. I think the expectations have gotten out of hand. Lets just sit back and enjoy watching a good jays team for the first time in years & hope to have meaningful ball in September

  5. That’s why they play the games.

    • Right, and a win or two in the other direction sees the Jays finish with a wild card. It’s not too shocking.

  6. I read BP ten years ago. I don’t really see the point for it anymore. Although I did like their piece on how Mark Reynolds might be blind.

    PECOTA seemingly has no means to determine the sheer awesome that is Dickey.

    • You`re missing a lot of great stuff.

      • Enough good stuff to justify the price tag? I can’t imagine BP has any sort of meaningful exclusive resources. I’m sure you can find similar to better stuff for free.

        • I havent paid a cent for it and constantly read decent stuff there. Definitely not impressed with PECOTA though. And really how in hell did the Wankees end up on top with the Red Sox not far behind? Speaking of weighting, I’d say the judges are a bit biased.

  7. Janssen says shoulder not 100%, hopes to be ready for opening day. Not the greatest news.

    • Can’t expect him to be 100%, but as long as he is ready for OD, awesome.

      People keep talking about our BP being an issue. I think its only an issue because the rest of the team looks so good. When you really think about it, there are some really good arms in there, and with SP that will give you more quality starts then in years past, the issue becomes even less.

      We seem to be looking for issues, trying to build doubt in our team, but really, we got a good line up, good starting pitching, good BP arms, and good depth.

      C and P report today, lets go already!

  8. I really don’t want to go into the season saying Playoffs!!! from the get-go. It’s a great team but they have to play the games and I guess we’ll see what happens. I’m not being Debbie Downer, but I’m not going to count my WS rings before they are minted. PECOTA doesn’t think we’ll go the distance. AA’s done his job. If the players do theirs we should be ok.

    And, hey! The Leafs are in 5th and the Raptors aren’t doing horribly! Maybe this merging of sports franchises was a good thing…

    • This is such a meaningless debate (no offence). The Jays should be able to compete well against every team in baseball. And they should be exciting to watch. For the rest… that’s why you actually play the season.

      I get so sick of people having to qualify every statement to avoid being “wrong” somehow if we don’t win. We’re fans. I want them in the playoffs and I am properly homer-ish enough to think it is madness to project them 4th.

      • Of course they should be able to compete but we’ve seen superteams fail before. In any case I’m not saying they will fail and of course I’m a fan so I hope they win like hell and go to the playoffs. But stuff happens. I’m not debating whether they will finish fourth or not. I left a sentence out of that post which basically should have said ‘and I don’t give a damn what PECOTA says’. But one way or another we’ll know by the mid-season whether this team looks as great on the field as it does on paper.

  9. If RA Dickey isn’t better than Dempster, Buchholz, Hughes or Pettite next season then Baseball is broken.

  10. I wonder what PECOTA thought of the Baltimore Orioles last year. I take all of that shit with a grain of salt. Let them play the games before we decides that they’ll finish BEHIND the fucking Red Sox.

    • Nobody is deciding. They`re projecting.

      • Projections are fun,like prospect porn. Hoping for what could be and seeing if it comes to pass.
        Legitimate question.
        Has anybody tried to determine which system of projections is the most accurate?

        • Radar, you are a dirty old man to add projections into the porn realm. Ha ha.

          BP lists the following PECOTA projections for 2013:

          AL – MVP – Albert Pujols
          NL – MVP – Joey Votto
          AL- CY Young – Justin Verlander
          NL – CY Young – Clayton Kershaw
          AL – ROY – Najajima (Japanese SS – Oakland A’s)
          NL – ROY – Adam Eaton (OF – Diamondbacks)
          AL – Bounceback – Jon Lester
          NL – Bounceback – Tim Lincicum

          PECOTA hates, from a projection standpoint, the following position players:
          Logan Morrison
          Travis Hafner
          Jeff Keppinger
          Jurickson Profar
          A.J. Pierzynski (everyone hates this guy)
          Jeff Francoeur

          - and – PECOTA hates, from a projection standpoint, the following pitchers:
          Joe Blanton
          Aaron Harang
          Jordan Lyles
          Bruce Rondon
          Kevin Correia

          • I like the prediction on Eaton, I think he’s going to hit the ball all over the place.

            I don’t blame the prediction on LoMo, he can’t stay on the field. I just read he’s not recovering very quickly from his knee surgery, Again.
            Profar puzzles me, The entire baseball world is in agreement that he’s going to be great.
            He got a hit last year with 2 out and Texas’s season on the line. I think that prediction is off.

  11. ichiro over melky is insanity, yankees got a lot of favourable prjections

    • Idk if its Insanity….a lot of what ifs

      Your talking about one of the best hitters of the past 10 years, and a guy that has to prove he can do it without PED – that is if those had any affect on his hitting.

      So, it may not be correct, but it may not be wrong either. How many batting awards does Melky have? Ichiro?

    • Ichiro over Melky is insanity.

      Ichiro in Yankee Stadium over Melky… is understandable. But I’m pretty sure WARP is park-neutral, correct me if I’m wrong.

  12. Pecota was founded by L. Ron Hubbard so take it with a grain of salt.
    There’s no way Xenu hit’s .700 even if he is the leader of the Galactic Confederacy.

  13. in many ways, the red sox rotation looks better than the one from the team that dominated the league from may to august in 2011. i don’t think it’s fair to project the red sox as the crappy team from last year.

    • Gotta agree there. I see alot of people writing Boston off. I think those people are going to be sorry.

  14. Without looking at any of the projected saber metric numbers, I feel that on paper, the Jays have a better rotation than any of the other 4 teams in the East, a better lineup than Boston, Tampa and Baltimore, and a bullpen that is better than at least Boston’s and New York’s. I’d put the order in the division as Toronto, Tampa, New York, Baltimore, Boston.

    • I would put Yanks 1 or 2

      With Ichiro, Jeter, Cano, Granderson, Teixeira, yuke hitting 1-6, they can still put the fear in just about any pitcher. And they have a very strong rotation and some very good guys out of the pen, even with their age, they are still going to be a force.

      I dont see Tampa getting past 85 wins this year, they lost a big work horse to gain a prospect that may be ready or may need another year. not counting them out, but dont see them as 2nd. 3rd tops.

      BoSox will be better then last year – sure, but i think the Os finish last.

      • Of all those 6 hitters, only one (Cano) is sure to put “fear” into opposing pitchers hearts.

        Look beyond the name. Youk, Ichiro are both flat out cooked. Tex and Grandy both have power but thats about it. Jeter is slightly bettee then league average. Cano is a beast.

        Torontos lineup is significantly scarier.

        As for the pitching……Toronto has a true ace (compare Dickey with CC the last three years) same as NY. But after that they have two guys who have a realistic shot at acedom as well. NY has nobidy like that.

    • Tampa’s rotation is head and shoulders above everybody else.

  15. Fangraphs is better.

  16. Nice read. Especially the last couple paragraphs. I really wish I had some of these “experts” in my fantasy league.

  17. Baseball Prospectus OG Clay Davenport has more heartening projections:

    • better but apparently our pitching still sucks???

    • First time commenter here…. How does Davenport have more runs than RBI’s? From my understanding, that’s not quit possible. Unless I’m missing something…? Or is he counting runs scored on errors which don’t count as RBI’s? Not sure how that works…

      • Runs and RBI’s are two different things.

        Run = when you personally cross the plate.
        RBI = when you drive someone across the plate.

        Simply put anyway.

        • That I know, but how could their not be an equal amount of them? If I cross the plate, someone’s getting an RBI, no? If I hit a home run, it’s my RBI, if someone hits me in, they get the RBI. How can their be a run without an RBI?

  18. I agree that the Dickey projection is probably low. But you could say the same thing about players on every team though. For example they project Anilbal Sanchez to have a WARP of 1.5 even though the past three years he has posted WARPs of 3.3, 2.8 and 2.1. They have Scherzer regressing from a 3.8 WARP last year to 2.3 this year.

  19. Sure, his Sabermetrics may be somewhat askew, but the cream he manufactures works wonders for my arthritis, and he had quite a beautiful head of hair.

  20. You have to consider schedule as well when the team’s are so close. Here are the key differences:
    1) Blue Jays play ALL of AL East away 10 times against 9 times at home

    2) Blue Jays face an average of 6 more teams likely to contend than the 3 likely contenders in the AL East (Rays, Red Sox & Yankees):
    Angels / Braves / Dodgers / Giants / Nationals / Rangers / Tigers

    Team ,Games vs likely Contenders
    Blue Jays,32
    Red Sox,25

    Note: I do not include the Phillies in the contender category (if you do this would increase the Red Sox by 4)

    3) Blue Jays face an average of 5 less teams likely to be sub 500 than the 3 likely contenders in the AL East (Rays, Red Sox & Yankees):
    Astros /Rockies / Twins / Marlins / Mariners / Mets / Padres / Royals

    Team, Games vs likely Weak Teams
    Blue Jays, 31
    Rays, 37
    Red Sox, 35
    Yankees, 37

    Note: Ironically this is partly the fault of the Blue Jays for raiding the Marlins (helping Rays) and the R.A.Dickey trade (helping Yankees)!

  21. [...] DJF wrote a nice explanation for this rather crabby prediction and pinpoints some areas where PECOTA is [...]

  22. Hahahahahahahahahaha oh man.

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