Baseball Prospectus released PECOTA for 2014 earlier this week and the results are uninspiring for the Milwaukee Brewers. The St. Louis Cardinals are viewed as the class of the division with a projected 88 wins, followed by a grouping of the Reds, Brewers and Pirates projected to be within five wins of each other. Even with the addition of Matt Garza, PECOTA still sees Milwaukee as a .500 team with a projected record of 80-82.
It isn’t all bad news for the Brewers entering 2014. The return of Ryan Braun, a relatively healthy Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds’ warm body at first base will all contribute to an offense projected to score 707 runs, fourth best in the National League. Runs will be scored at Miller Park. Part of the problem is that the visiting teams will also score plenty of runs with the Crew’s pitching staff projected as the fourth worst in the NL, giving up 713 runs.
This is all fun to look at in February while trucks are loaded and heading out for their Spring Training destinations, but it’s a better snapshot of teams strengths and weaknesses than an expectation for the season. Injuries, trades, breakouts and collapses will force constant reevaluations of where every team stands as the season plays out. Also, these projections tend to be very conservative with few teams winning or losing more than 90 games (though the Los Angeles Dodgers 98 win projection jumps off the page).
For a little context, both the Brewers and Pirates were projected to win 79 games in 2013. By the end of the season, they were separated by 20 games, and it would have been difficult to find any baseball fans that viewed those two teams as having a similar talent level. In 2011, with the additions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the Brewers were projected to win 85 before winning 96 and running away with the division.
Ultimately, 80 wins probably means that if the season breaks right in Milwaukee, they could have a playoff team. That is the “glass half-full” view as players report for Spring Training. Can Matt Garza throw more than 160 innings? Will Wily Peralta’s production be closer to his second half results? Does the pre-2013 Yovani Gallardo still exist? There are still 52 days before we start to get an answer to any of those questions.