Eighty-seven wins and a wild card playoff spot is the projection for the Seattle Mariners according to Baseball Prospectus and the PECOTA model developed by Nate Silver in his pre-political polling FiveThirtyEight days. At 87-75, PECOTA projects that the Mariners should edge out either the 84-78 Texas Rangers or the 84-78 Tampa Rays for the first wild card spot, while falling a few games behind the 94-68 Houston Astros for the division title.
What is PECOTA?
PECOTA, which stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, was named as an homage to Bill Pecota, who played for the Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. His lifetime .249 batting average is representative of the typical major league ball player, so Silver felt it was only fitting to name his model after him.
Nate Silver, who is probably most famous for correctly projecting the electoral outcomes of every single state in 2012 when President Barack Obama won re-election over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, built the PECOTA model around 2002 while working for Baseball Prospectus. The first projections were published in 2003 and Silver managed the model from 2003-2009 before launching the first iteration of FiveThirtyEight at the New York Times.
PECOTA Isn’t Gospel
As the model for projecting standings is the sum of the model for projecting player performance, the pre-season projections for the Mariners, and indeed every team, can and will change with either the acquisition of new players or injury to or trade of current players. Over the course of six months and 162 games, there will be fluctuations in the make-up of many rosters around the league.
It is worth noting that in the American League over the past few seasons, PECOTA has had difficulty projecting both the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles, teams without outstanding starting pitching but with excellent bullpens, above average to superior defense, and athleticism on the base paths. This is worth noting for Mariners’ fans because that is exactly the type of roster GM Jerry Dipoto has attempted to assemble for the confines of Safeco Field.
But PECOTA must like something better about Seattle more than Kansas City or Baltimore. Both the Royals and the Orioles are projected to finish last in their respective divisions with a 71-91 for KC and 73-89 for Baltimore.
What to Expect at Safeco?
With a projection to score 771 runs, the Mariners look to be the second most prolific offense in the AL, behind only last year’s World Series runner up, the Cleveland Indians with 797. The M’s also look have the fifth best pitching / defense in the Junior Circuit, projected to allow just 712 runs. That total trails only the Cleveland Indians (686), Boston Red Sox (683), Tampa Rays (681), and the Houston Astros (646).
Good pitching and good hitting make for fun baseball. And don’t tell the rest of the world how nice the weather is in the Summer in Seattle. Optimism springs eternal in the Emerald City. Thanks PECOTA.