The Best Team in Baseball…?

gwynn_dodgers_celebrateOver the last few days, Baseball Prospectus has been rolling out their yearly PECOTA projection updates,  and included in that is the initial take on the division standings. The system projects that three teams — Yankees, Tigers, & Reds — will tie for the second-best record in the majors with 92 wins.

Only one team is projected to beat that, with 93 wins. That team is the Dodgers. I’m not sure if that’s fantastic news or the outright kiss of death.

Just like any projection system, PECOTA is to be taken as an educated guess rather than anything set in concrete, although it did famously nail the 2007 collapse of the White Sox to within one game. Personally, I think it’s underselling Washington (88-74) and perhaps Toronto (85-77), though I’m glad to see that it agrees with me that Baltimore (74-88) is going to sink like a rock to the bottom of the AL East. (In Toronto’s case, at least, the entire existence of R.A. Dickey is understandably confounding to projection systems, which hurts the Blue Jay projection.)

Back to the Dodgers, I don’t think anyone here really sees them as being the “best team in baseball,” simply because there’s so many questions here — ones we’ve been over all winter, like health issues in the rotation and in the outfield, a weak bench, Andre Ethier‘s platoon issues, a giant black hole of mystery on the left side of the infield, and the need for comebacks from past superstars like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, & Hanley Ramirez. In the NL alone, I don’t consider the Dodgers as being better than the Nationals or probably the Reds as well; the Braves & Cardinals each have a case to make there too, and as much as I hate to admit it, you can’t count out the Giants based on what they’ve done over the last three years. (Ken Rosenthal’s look at the NL West today, where he considers San Francisco the team to beat, is worth a read if only because it indicates that Scott Proctor wants to be a starting pitcher now. Please, please, please.)

What’s most interesting here to me is why it is the system likes the Dodgers so much. It expects the Los Angeles offense to be only middle-of-the-road, scoring 713 runs. That’s more than the 637 they actually scored in 2012 or the 644 they put up in 2011, but less than the projections for five other NL teams and every AL team other than Baltimore, Houston, Minnesota, & Seattle. Yet where it really likes this club is in run prevention, pegging them to allow only 601 opposing tallies. That’s within the range of what actually happened over the last two seasons (612, 597) but puts them as the best club in baseball in terms of preventing runs, with San Francisco’s 622 coming in second.

That’s because PECOTA really, truly loves the Dodger pitching, even with the expectation that Chad Billingsley is only going to throw 96 innings. It’s no surprise that Clayton Kershaw & Zack Greinke are highly rated, but I do find it surprising that it thinks Josh Beckett is going to bounce back to a 3.17 ERA. By this projection, the bullpen looks stellar — 11 pitchers are included, from excess starters like Ted Lilly & Chris Capuano down to the less likely guys like Mark Lowe & Shawn Tolleson, and only a single pitcher is projected to have an ERA above Scott Elbert‘s 3.68 — Javy Guerra, at 4.13. While I’m well aware that I’m using ERA here and there’s plenty of problems with that, that’s excellent. That’s on top of an offense that looks to have star level seasons from Matt Kemp, Gonzalez, & Ramirez, a bounce-back from Crawford, but is hurt by the usual projection of awfulness from Luis Cruz (.250/.276/.359).

Of course, there’s a lot of counter-arguments to be made here. It’s one projection system of many. PECOTA whiffed on Baltimore & Oakland last year — as, it should be noted, did everyone on the planet. Games are played on the field, not in spreadsheets, you nerd. Why don’t you go meet girls? …and so on.

As I said, I don’t consider the Dodgers the best team in baseball unless everything goes absolutely right, but you could really say that about every team in baseball. (Except you, Houston. Not you.) I expect them to be squarely in the playoff hunt with an equal chance of greatness as there is of falling apart, Lakers-style. Still, this time last year we were wondering just how mediocre a McCourt-deprived team could be. Even if PECOTA is way off, just the fact that we’re having this conversation is a massive step forward.

503 comments
Joseph Garcia
Joseph Garcia

I also think that Josh Beckett is going to bounce back. If you look at his stats other than the three consistent seasons of being amazing in Boston he seems to have a bad season followed by a great season and vice versa. He wasn't that great last year but the lines in the sand say he will have a good season this year.

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

1024 words on Alex Castellanos hitting now in a NEW POST

Guitar
Guitar

I'm in dat two-seat lambo wid yo girl...

 

Wassup

Kemps Shoe
Kemps Shoe

From Dodger talk last night Dodgers leaning toward Crawford leading off, and he has been feeling soreness in that elbow in back to back throwing days

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

6 catchers 28 pitchers. Is this normal numbers?

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

So Goat its you and me here. Were holding it down

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

i sure wish some baseball shit would happen. Shirley someone wants a Caparang. No? 

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

Gordon Moody unfollowed me on Twitter. I am having a sad?

Kemps Shoe
Kemps Shoe

I seen Zero Dark Thirty last night and felt like I was the one being tortured having to sit through that film ay

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

@°_° I AM serious, and dont call me Shirley

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

 @iScream i think it's just 5 actually since Alfonso hasn't shown up yet.

 

But remember, not all 28 dudes are throwing every day. And they usually only throw a little in the early part of camp. If they need another C, they can always pull up Wallach or Erickson or someone from the minor league side.

baeksu
baeksu

 @iScream You're not the only one here.  Some of us are just too befuddled by the conversation to add anything.

Lobo
Lobo

@Disgruntled Goat Shirley, you can't be serious.

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

alright we'll bring the convo up top. Baseball happens daily. Got yo glove. Got a ball. Throw it at someone until someone throws it back

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

 @Mike Petriello a co-worker, who is a pilot, missed work the last two days cus he claimed to be stuck first in texas, then in phoenix. i almost called him a liar (privately cus that is what friends are for) til i started seeing these pics. so weird. 

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

Hahahaha what?! He unfollowed me but that's pretty much par for the course

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

 @Mike Petriello he unfollowed the re-followed me...now i don't know. he said he was going to bip out, i guess he did. 

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

can we change your avatar name to Dingers?

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

 @iScream HA, wonderful timing

 

RT @truebluela: With Eliezer Alfonzo still not in Dodgers camp, catcher Matt Wallach is here on the major league side. 6 catchers in camp now, w/28 pitchers

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

well I found my new avatar

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

nice! I hope AJ does well. Saw that he worked on reducing loads to his medial meniscus this off season that was kinda cool.

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

 @iScream I still think TFed, though I see the opportunity for him to play every day in ABQ and Castro/Flores to back up AJ.

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

Money on who makes the cut for backup C?

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

but you are one gangsta ass goat

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

needs locs and some chains

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

Well this is certainly the most gangsta I've felt in a long time

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

This is a song I can get behind

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

you ain't like.how i living? Well fuck you

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

Too gangsta for twitter. Always getting blocked.