PECOTA is pretty great, but it isn’t without its flaws. There are some things it simply cannot predict about players. Sure, it can identify players with playing time suddenly cut short were likely injured, as the comps pulled by the algorithm are likely going to find similar playing time dips caused by injury. But sudden changes in underlying skillset may take a few years to sort themselves out, and by nature, the system hedges and is not going to confidently project any individual player or group of players to overperform or underperform to the extreme.
So starting from there, the projected standings are never going to be perfect. Then throw us imperfect humans into the mix, as the player projections have to be weighted by how much playing time they’re going to get — a difficult task on the most stable of rosters, and the White Sox roster is anything but stable.
Jose Abreu is a safe bet for ~600+ PAs in some distribution between first base and DH, ditto Avisail Garcia at right field or DH — unless one or both are traded mid-season. Welington Castillo will probably get most of the reps at catcher. Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson should get the majority of the time in the middle infield.
After that it gets really murky really quickly. Presumably, Nicky Delmonico will get first crack at left field. How long of a crack that is depends on how well he does, but also how quickly Eloy Jimenez comes, if that happens in 2018 at all. Then again, maybe Ryan Cordell winds up impressing and soaking up more of left field than we’d think sitting here today.
In center field, I’d have to think Charlie Tilson would get first crack at it if he’s healthy, but who knows if he’s healthy? Adam Engel might be next up, but then, if he can’t get his OPS above .600 I’m not sure how much run he gets. Straight up, I suspect Leury Garcia could outperform them both, but the White Sox probably want to deploy him judiciously among the seven positions he can cover and we had to try to guess how much of that would go where. What if Tito Polo kills Double-A and Tilson is hurt and Engel is terrible?
Oh and third base. You know, where Yolmer Sanchez might play regularly. Or, Davidson splits time with him. Cordell can play third, too. Is this where Leury gets extra PAs too? Tyler Saladino looked like a pretty dynamite third baseman once upon a time. What of him?
And that’s just the position player side. The permutations on the pitching side are even more ridiculous, given there’s simply a huge pile of innings and oh so many pitchers to throw at them. And players also get hurt.
As a result, even if PECOTA were bang on perfect, the standings still wouldn’t be, because we, sitting here in February, tried to guess how the six month season would play out.
But, y’know. We tried.
Photo credit: Patrick Gorski- USA Today Sports