The projected standings feature at BP has been released, using the 2009 PECOTA numbers. If you were expecting a Royals breakout in 2009, you should probably stop reading...
The American League, thanks to the development of the Rays, looks increasingly AL East top-heavy, and with three teams in the East projected to win more than 90 games, wins are getting sucked out of other divisions. In the Central, 2009, according to PECOTA, looks like it could be right out of the 2002-4 dead zone of horribleness: a half-decent team surrounded by less than stellar rivals.
Here is PECOTA's guess regarding the Central:
- Cleveland: 84-78
- Minnesota: 79-83
- Detroit: 78-84
- Kansas City: 75-87
- White Sox: 74-88
Let the boredom begin. .470 baseball fever, catch it!
PECOTA has dissed the White Sox before, most famously in 2007, and it wasn't Kenny Williams who was left laughing at the end either. And while Cleveland has seemingly emerged as the favorite to win the division, that 84-78 record is pretty pedestrian, though also reflective of increasing concerns that, with those Indians, there isn't much of a there there.
So what of the Royals? PECOTA pegs the Royals as one of the worst offensive teams in the league, right there with the worst of the AL West and the Blue Jays, weighed down by one of the lowest OBPs in baseball. A 75-87 record is something of a slight I suppose, those essentially the Royals have been at this level for two seasons now, and there isn't any huge reason to expect much more. After all, Greinke and Meche have already arrived, as have a host of smaller pitching victories. No, if we're hoping on the Royals breaking through to another level, we'd need to see A) Butler and Gordon improve, B) Crisp + DDJ in the outfield create a cascade effect of awesomeness defensively, C) Aviles continue to be Aviles, and D) Davies and Hochevar improve. None of those things seems impossible, or even outlandish really, which is why many people believe the Royals are poised for a run, maybe even one in 2009. However, that's still a string of something like five or six individual improvements/breakouts lined up, against no one having a down or injured year. Even though it's Spring Training, it simply doesn't work like that very often.
Beyond the Royals, if the Twins, Indians and White Sox are all declining (in the broad view) and the Tigers something like a 78-win team, then the pennant may come down to whether or not Detroit can make a few deadline moves to makeup the difference with the faltering Tribe. Because we know the Twins won't be doing anything... I guess it must also be said, that with a little Indians bad-luck and KC good-luck, the Royals could also be very close to the division lead with two months to go as well. Although I personally have little faith in Dayton's ability to make two key deadline trades that would close the gap.
Look, PECOTA isn't infallible, but it also isn't worthless. The fact is, on the whole, it's hard to see how Dayton's flurry of off-season moves has added up to much improvement. Maybe the team can prove everyone wrong, and God bless 'em if they do, but honestly, that is what it's come down to.