Sideline Report: Do projections before the season have any impact whatsoever?


Braden Shaw, JagWire editor-in-chief

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the latest projections for the 2016 MLB season. The Royals — according to this year’s Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm rankings — are projected to win 74 games this season. They also have 18-1 betting odds to win another World Series title. For some reason, people are getting up in arms over this “foresight.” Some are chalking it up to a lack of respect, and people are blowing this up into a national story.

(Keep in mind the PECOTA rankings projected the Royals to win 72 games last year, and we all know how that turned out.)

I’ve looked at sports betting odds and projections without ever putting much thought into them. They are just results from an algorithm that staticians put into a computer and regurgitate out. Or, with betting odds, they are just a way to make money at the end of the season in Las Vegas. Nothing really to get worked up about.

Yet, Royals fans feel wronged by these findings. It is an “injustice” that the Cubs – who arguably have the best lineup in baseball — are sitting at 4-1 odds to win the World Series. Heck, the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, Mets, Giants, Blue Jays, Yankees, Nationals and Indians all have better betting odds than the Royals. Thankfully, betting odds don’t determine the actual champion.

Baseball is the most statistical sport by far. There are percentages and averages galore — all wrapped up in sabermetrics — used to determine players’ values and how to beat an opponent. But sometimes you just have to see the teams play it out on the field to see what the actual outcome will be.

Projections also like to go for the flashy new team with the hot free agent signings or up-and-coming talent. The Cubs made a splash in the Winter Meetings by picking up the likes of Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey. They are going to be awesome this year, but 4-1 odds seems just really optimistic for the franchise that hasn’t won a World Series in over a hundred years.

Vegas odds love the big names in all sports, so of course a team from small-market Kansas City will almost never get the credit or respect they deserve. Just wait for the 2016 postseason to laugh at these silly projections.

I will be shocked if the Kansas City Royals finish with a losing record this season. This team defies the odds with a proven method of baserunning, contact hitting, a serviceable rotation and a killer bullpen. There is so much talent on this team, and I think it’s fair to say that another playoff run is expected out of this team.

So, no, the Royals will not win 74 games. They will exceed expectations once again. After all, they are back-to-back American League champions and 2015 World Series champions. This is the best team in baseball, until proven otherwise. This is a franchise that isn’t supposed to be this good on paper. It’s a good thing that the games take place on a baseball diamond instead of a stat sheet.

Junior Braden Shaw is a passionate sports fan who follows sports at both the college and professional level. He loves to defend his unpopular opinions on the University of Nebraska, Sporting KC, Chiefs and Royals and is always up for a debate over any game or team.

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