Baseball Prospectus' annual PECOTA projections have been released, giving insight to how their models expect the season to playout. While not gospel, these projections can show how computer models expect the season to go , and can act as a barometer for fan expectations.
With Pitchers and Catchers getting closer to reporting, more and more projections for the 2023 season are starting to be released. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections were released and show a tight NL Central Race.
NL Central Standings
PECOTA projects the NL Central will be by far the tightest division in baseball with both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals projected to win 87 games with the Brewers having a slight edge to win the divison with a 48.1% chance compared to St. Louis' 47.0%. The projections show the Cubs hanging around with 77 wins, the Pirates in 4th with 70 and the Reds with 66 wins.
Given the powerhouse that is the NL East as well as the top heavy NL West, the Brewers best chance to make the postseason remains winning the division, though it is possible to clinch a Wild Card spot given the expanded postseason.
In the postseason, the projections give the Brewers a 36.9% chance of making it out of the WIld Card Series, and 2.0% chance of winning the World Series. The Cardinals are given a 37.5% chance of making the Division Series and 2.7% chance of winning the World Series.
These projections indicate that the division will be very close and St. Louis and Milwaukee are very comprable teams as it stands though in the six weeks until the season starts there could be some changes made as rosters become finalized.
Who are the Brewers standouts?
PECOTA offers multiple percentile breakdowns showing what a player would achieve at various percentiles the projections run, when looking at the 50th percentile projections there are a couple of interesting players who standout.
Jesse Winker projects to have a 127 DRC+, which measures a hitter's expected hitting contributions. Like OPS+, 100 is league average, meaning Winker is projected to contibuted 27% more runs than league average. Winker, Christian Yelich (115), Willy Adames (111), Luis Urías (110) and Rowdy Tellez (110) are the five players projected to contribute at above league average production at the 50th percentile. For what it's worth every player is projected to have a DRC+ above 100 in their 99th percentile projections.
Again looking at the 50th percentile projections, Winker leads in Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, and finished third to Tellez and Adames in Slugging Percentage.
One projection that might look a little concerning is William Contreras. At the 50th percentile, Contreras is projected to have a 92 DRC+, 8% below league average. That's not particularly good, especially considering he was viewed as an offensive upgrade at catcher. Fear not though, as Editor in Chief of Baseball Prospectus Craig Goldstein notes he thinks Contreras will outpace that projection. The 99th percentile has Contreras with a 132 DRC+, so there's a wide range for him to be a productive player.
It is important to remember that while PECOTA is fun to look at, like any projection it is not set in stone, and is just one interpretation of what could happen given the inputs and the weights of the system. However, projection season means baseball season is right around the corner.