Last month Baseball Prospectus unveiled its projected 2021 standings using its proprietary PECOTA system. PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm and is a metric that takes a player’s past performance and tries to project the most likely outcome for the following season.
The Los Angeles Angels finished 26-34 in the pandemic shortened 2020 baseball season and have not had a winning record over the last five seasons. This season PECOTA projects the Angels to win 86.0 games this season, which projects them to be a wild card team, just behind the Tampa Bay Rays (86.4 wins), and ahead of the Cleveland Indians (85.4), Toronto Blue Jays (84.6), and Chicago White Sox (82.8) in the American League.
Baseball Prospectus also gives the Angels a 23.6% chance to win the American League West, trailing only the Houston Astros who are projected to win 91.8 games in 2021.
Predicting Total Wins
PECOTA uses mathematical algorithms, while oddsmakers weigh not only the numbers but sentiment and intangibles. This year, the sportsbooks don’t see eye to eye with Baseball Prospectus. According to the oddsmakers at Powerplay Sports Betting, the Angels wins total is 82.5, a full 4 game difference, and well behind White Sox (90.5), Twins (88.5), Blue Jays (87.5), and Astros (87.5), Oakland Athletics (86.5), and the Rays (85.5).
Bookmakers also have the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers at the highest win total at 103.5, well in front of the New York Yankees who have the second-highest expected wins total at 95.5. At the other end of the spectrum, oddsmakers have the Pittsburgh Pirates win total set at 59.5. They’re the only team projected to lose over 100 games this season.
FanGraphs ZiPS also has Los Angeles fewer wins than PECOTA. ZiPS is a computer projection system developed by Dan Szmborski in 2004. and which officially went live for the ’04 season. Like PECOTA, Szmborski’s projection system uses weighted multi-year statistics to perform two basic analyses: an estimation of what the baseline expectation for a player is at the moment, and then an estimate of where that player may be going using large cohorts of relatively similar players.
According to FanGraphs, the Angels will win 84 games, a wins-total which is more in line with the bookmakers and middle of the pack in the American League.
It’s interesting to note that PECOTA was also bullish on Los Angeles last year, projecting 87 wins for the full 162 game season which translated to 31 wins for the short 60-game season. The Angels fell well short of that number.