Some folks swear by the Baseball Prospectus annual ; others merely swear at it. And while the Republican’s Garry Brown admits “their efforts seem to have merit,” the scribe insists “some baseball fans, present company included, have neither the patience nor the brain power to dig any deeper than batting averages and earned run averages.”
As its front cover indicates, this publication features “deadly accurate PECOTA projections for more than 1,600 players.”
You know you’re in trouble when you can’t get past the cover without having to look something up in Wikipedia.
I thought I knew PECOTA. He used to play for the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets, didn’t he? Actually, there is a correlation between him and the projections in question. Bill Pecota can be seen as the everyday journeyman, a .249 lifetime hitter who wasn’t very good, but wasn’t very bad, either.
The Baseball Prospectus folks seem to have gone out of their way to make his name into an acronym for their detailed studies and comparisons of player performance.
To the true believer of new-age baseball stats, PECOTA stands for (are you ready?) “Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.”
Merriam-Webster informed me that an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem, or accomplishing some end, especially by computer. So that’s what they’re up to, eh?
All of this statistical analysis might bring to mind an old line from Chico Marx: “Who you gonna believe, me or you own eyes?”
Jimy Williams, a baseball man for 45 years, always said, “I go by what I see,” but baseball also has the likes of Tony La Russa and Terry Francona, World Series-winning managers who rely heavily on statistical analysis.
In our national pastime, there’s room for both methods of rating players, but it’s doubtful that Jimy Williams would ever write 594 pages about his.