Big League Stew - MLB

Happy PECOTA day which, as one Stewie noted on Twitter today, is like "Christmas, Mardi Gras and Groundhog Day all rolled into one for baseball nerds."

Yes, Apple's iPad and SOTU were so yesterday. Today brings the annual moment when Baseball Prospectus, those mysterious statistics druids, publish their individual player projections for the coming season. Play me some algorithm and blues!

The calculations are based on a combination of history, probability, biology, common sense, peanuts and Cracker Jack. There's also a Secret Stadium Sauce.

And along with player projections — which might or might not help your fantasy baseball team — come team standings, complete with projected victories and losses.

And if Baseball Prospectus is right, boy, do we have a doozy of a season upcoming.

Just the other day, I was conversing with 'Duk, asking him: "Under what scenario do the Yankees not make the playoffs?"

And after some "SARS in the clubhouse" jokes from 2003 were thrown around, the conversation quickly turned to dinner. "Ha!" we concluded. "There IS NO SCENARIO by which the Yankees miss the playoffs."

But nuh-uh, according to Baseball Prospectus. They've got the Yankees losing 69 games and finishing in third place in the AL East, with the Red Sox finishing second. The division champions, for the second time in three seasons? Your Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees and their fans probably find themselves quite shocked to see the Empire overthrown after just one season back on top. But that's the way it goes.

Welcome to the '10s, Bronx Zookeepers!

Here are a few more interesting projections from Baseball Prospectus:

• The Oakland Athletics will take the AL West with 87 wins and the Angels will finish last with 76 — with the third-worst record in the American League. The Mariners, Big League Stew's pick to run the table (maybe), will finish second.

• The Nationals, as Ryan Zimmerman(notes) practically said the other day, will finish ABOVE .500 at 82-80 and be in the playoff hunt. Heh, the Nationals above .500! That's rich! Ben Bernanke's gonna be so excited!

• The Phillies, Cardinals and Dodgers will repeat as division winners with either the Braves or D'Backs earning the NL wild card.

• No Major League team outside of the AL East will reach 90 wins.

• The Pirates will have a losing season for the 18th straight time, but they won't drop 100 games.

PECOTA, by the way, stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. It's also an ode to former player Bill Pecota (right), a utilitarian for the Royals and others.

Keep in mind that the standings — all of PECOTA's goodies, actually — do not factor in things such as injuries, trades, luck and other variables. So, even checking last season's PECOTA-based standings — which pegged the Yanks as AL East winners — requires large grains of salt.

They picked the Indians to win the AL Central, for example. It wasn't just luck, or trades or variables that prevented that from happening in '09. The Tribe just stunk. Hey, nobody's perfect. Computers are people too.

If you want more details, head on over to Baseball Prospectus and plop down some subscription money. Or buy the Bantam Book! It's all worth it.

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