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PECOTA on cards: 72-90

Baseball Prospectus released its PECTOA-based team projections --- the 2008 final standings in february. this exercise was very accurate last year, especially where our team was concerned: BP correctly called the order of finish at the top of the nl central and pegged the cards as an 81-81 team that would struggle to score runs. the news is quite a bit worse this year: PECTOA sees the cards as one of the worst teams in the league, a 72-90 club. only the pirates are projected to finish with a worse record (71-91); the nats and giants are also tabbed for 72-90. the astros come in at 74-88.

the cardinals' projected run total stands 14th in the national league; last year PECOTA projected the cards to finish 15th (they wound up 11th). their projected total of runs allowed ranks 11th out of 16; PECOTA was way off the mark in this regard last season, predicting that the cards would finish 2d in the league in this category (ha ha ha).

as luck would have it, BP is letting you peek at the cards' player-by-player projections for free; that sneak preview usually applies to the two reigning pennant-winning teams, but for whatever reason BP is using the league champs from 2 years ago, the cardinals and tigers. their projection assumes a starting lineup of molina behind the plate, with pujols kennedy izturis and glaus around the infield and duncan rasmus and ankiel in the outfield. it reflects the confusion at several of the positions; at 2b, for example, BP has kennedy getting 50 percent of the playing time, with miles and ryan splitting the remainder 30-20; the breakdown at shortstop is 70 percent izturis, 15 miles and 15 ryan. right field is divided up among four players --- ankiel 45 percent, schumaker 30, ludwick and barton 10 each --- and centerfield is shared by rasmus (55 percent) ankiel (40) and schumaker (5).

those all sound like pretty good guesses to me; they might underestimate aaron miles' playing time, but in general i think that's how it'll shake out. the scary thing is that this projection has pujols --- whose PECOTA line is the best in baseball among hitters --- playing 95 percent of the time. if he goes down for any length of time, yeesh.

the projections on the pitching side have to be taken with a huge grain of salt --- BP was way off on them last year for st louis, and they're not likely to do much better this year due to the high number of health-related questions on the staff. but for whatever BP's opinion is worth, the rotation isn't this team's chief concern: the collective era comes out to 4.46. if the starters achieve that, i think the cards will be worth watching this summer. the projection assumes 22 starts from anthony reyes at a 4.32 era and 10 effective starts from chris carpenter --- may both of those things come to pass. the bulk of the rotation --- wainwright, looper, pineiro, clement, wellemeyer, and thompson --- checks in collectively at ~ 4.50, with mulder getting pounded for 15 starts (5.71 era). but BP has the cards' bullpen getting raked, and no wonder --- their projection assumes 65 innings for dewon brazleton, 40 for cliff politte, and 50 for kelvin jimenez --- 155 innings in the aggregate, or more than 10 percent of the team's project total. the aggregate innings total for those three pitchers is gonna be a lot closer to 0 than to 165. whether their likely replacements (including chris perez and mark worrell) are any better remains to be seen. since bullpen management is among tony/dave's greatest strengths as a management team, i'm not too worried about it.

no projection system is perfect, but PECOTA is rarely way off the mark. the overall projection of 72 wins is a serious reality check. to contend in 2008, the cards will have to beat that projection by a dozen games; to have a chance at winning anything, they'll have to beat it by 15 or more. i can't think of a single team in the last 3 years that beat its PECOTA projection by that wide a margin. Update [2008-2-16 10:25:40 by lboros]: ok, here's an example, pointed out by realbrit70 in the comments: the 2006 tigers were projected as a 79-win team; they won in the mid-90s. a ray of hope!