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Baseball Prospectus PECOTA Projects A's to Win the AL West

It's not April 1st. In fact, baseball hasn't even started. But season projections are in full swing, and as much as I love this year's prediction, I can't say that I agree with it.

If you don't subscribe to Baseball Prospectus, what you need to know is that they have projected the AL West standings to look at little something like this:

Team W L
Oakland 87 75
Seattle 86 76
Texas 85 77
Los Angeles 76 86

The key to the projections lies in the runs scored vs. runs allowed; although LA and Texas easily score a hundred more runs than the A's and Seattle, they also give up a hundred more runs. For an A's team that is built on pitching and defense, that is the one statistic that might keep them in the 2010 race.

But to win the division and to send the Angels to the bottom; ten games under .500? I hate to be the one to say it, but neither of those events is likely to happen.

If I had to guess, I would look at the chart above and think that Oakland and Los Angeles had been accidentally switched. Don't get me wrong; it's my dream standings for 2010, but upon closer reflection, I have a few problems with the numbers.

There will be follow-up posts as we near the start of Spring Training; with in-depth looks at the AL West race. Seattle has made some FA moves, Texas has the best farm systems in the majors, and the Angels--while perhaps fielding a slightly less talented team this year--will continue to compete for the division. And with the number of head-to-head matchups, it is likely that with four very similar teams, the win totals will stay under 90, and the race will be extremely close.

But I don't think that the A's team that PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm; BP's proprietary system) has projected looks like the team the A's will actually field.

1) First of all, the projections have Rajai, Sweeney and Cust as the outfielders with the most playing time; Coco Crisp is projected to have 35% of the AB's. I strongly disagree with this. I think Beane bought Coco to play, and barring injury, he will be an everyday outfielder.

2) If Jack Cust plays left field 85% of the season (projected), I will make sure to re-watch Lost during A's games.

3) Barring a Gio Gonzalez collapse in Spring Training, or an injury to Duchscherer, Sheets, Anderson, or Braden, Trevor Cahill will start the season in Triple-A. If he leads the team with 27 games pitched (projected), I would be very surprised.

4) The only way Jake Fox sees 70% of the DH at-bats (projected) is if Jack Cust is in left field. See problem #2.

5) The projections have Fox and Cust in together for the lions' share of the games, hitting 30 and 33 homeruns, respectively. If this happens, I might be able to watch Cust in the field, but again, is this likely?

What do you think?