On Tuesday, Baseball Prospectus released its PECOTA projections for the 2016 MLB standings. The Oakland A's clock in at 75-87, which is tied for last place with the Angels. Or, tied for fourth place, if you prefer your glass half full. Here are the projections for the AL West:
1. Astros | 88-74
2. Mariners | 84-78
3. Rangers | 80-82
4. Angels | 75-87
5. A's | 75-87
Note that the A's are projected to score 669 runs (last year: 694) and allow 724 runs (last year: 729). Yep, their differential is expected to be worse, and yet they're still adding seven wins. Just another friendly reminder about Donnie Murphy's Law, in which everything that could possibly go wrong for the 2015 A's went as wrong as possible.
If you aren't familiar with PECOTA, it is the proprietary projection system of Baseball Prospectus and it stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. These standings are created by projecting the performance of each individual player (weighted for how much playing time they're expected to get), and then combining the players into a team projection. In other words, it's not just someone sitting there taking their best guess; there are mathematical reasons why each team is placed where it is.
This isn't the first set of projected standings we've seen this winter. In January, FanGraphs pegged the A's at 79-83, and they're sticking with that mark even after the acquisition of Khris Davis. On Monday, USA TODAY placed the A's at 66-96, which I assume was derived by a person sitting in an East Coast office who doesn't actually know anything about the team and just plugged in something close to last year's record. All three systems have the A's in last place in the division, though only USA TODAY has them repeating in the cellar of the entire AL.
As for the rest of the PECOTA standings, there are a few other projections to note. The defending champion Royals are in last place in the AL Central, at 76-86 ... only one game better than the A's. Royals Review is taking it well on account of having the best possible counterargument (a shiny new ring and almost the entire team returning). After watching the Warriors win an NBA title, then get dissed all offseason for being "lucky," and then use that as fuel to get even better this season, I must humbly ask the projection systems to stop pissing off the Royals please.
Oh, and the Indians are the pick for first place in the entire AL. Did you realize the Tribe, who seems to have legitimate hope most years, has only been past the Wild Card Game twice since the year 2000? One of these years it'll work out, Cleveland! (FanGraphs also has them winning the Central.) The AL East is surprising too, with the Rays edging out the field to win the league's toughest division. On the other side of the spectrum, the Orioles are the only AL team with a worse record than Oakland.
Click here to see the rest of the projections, including the National League!