Every February, Baseball Prospectus releases their annual PECOTA projections. On February 18, they unveiled their projected standings for each division in Major League Baseball.
This time around, the projections come with added caveats. The forecasted records for each team are for a 162-game season, but due to the ongoing lockout, there is no guarantee that a full season will be played. Furthermore, the league-wide transaction freeze has prevented many teams from making finishing touches to their roster. The rosters which PECOTA is working off of could look dramatically different on Opening Day. Baseball Prospectus plans to make updates shortly before the season actually gets underway, and those predictions could look a bit different.
The projections that we have for the time being are quite bullish on the Brewers. In fact, PECOTA expects Milwaukee to win 97 games, the most out of any National League team.
To no one’s surprise, the pitching staff is expected to lead the way. The Brewers are the only team with two starting pitches projected to finish in the top-10 in WARP. Corbin Burnes is expected to post a 2.25 ERA and 3.00 DRA (62 DRA-) while finishing third in WARP (4.7) in 175 innings. Brandon Woodruff’s projection is a 2.74 ERA, 3.44 DRA (74 DRA-), and 3.9 WARP in 178 frames. Freddy Peralta is forecasted to back up his breakout season with a 3.28 ERA, 3.97 DRA (82 DRA-), and 2.3 WARP in 148 innings.
Other standouts on the pitching staff include Josh Hader (2.21 ERA, 58 DRA-, 16.3 K/9), Devin Williams (70 DRA-), and Jake Cousins (76 DRA-). Aaron Ashby is also pegged for a solid 87 DRA- in 85 innings as a swingman.
The biggest takeaway on offense is that PECOTA, like most projection systems, expects a bounce-back season out of Christian Yelich. In particular, it anticipates that he will provide a strong combination of power and on-base skills. Yelich is projected to slash .261/.385/.470 with 24 home runs for a 127 DRC+. His 4.3 WARP is 10th among all position players.
Meanwhile, PECOTA is not buying into Willy Adames’ breakout after joining the Brewers last May. While he is projected to pop 19 home runs, his anticipated 96 DRC+ would be a disappointing follow-up to his electric debut in Milwaukee. It is worth noting that Baseball Prospectus metrics have never been too fond of Adames (career 92 DRC+ versus a 111 wRC+), so perhaps he will once again out-perform their expectations for him.
Beyond Adames, Omar Narvaez is also expected to take a step back. The backstop is projected for just an 89 DRC+.
While the Brewers lack a big bat outside of Yelich, they are expected to have several hitters who are slightly better than league average at the dish. These include Lorenzo Cain (101 DRC+), Luis Urias (105), Hunter Renfroe (104), and Rowdy Tellez (103).
Milwaukee’s lineup may not be among the best in the league, but PECOTA believes that it will produce just enough to support their excellent pitching. Remember, the rosters under David Stearns have typically been built on run prevention. At least one projection system thinks very highly of that approach.