Stat savant Nate Silver, widely lauded for foretelling the 2008 election in detail, was a baseball geek first. He's a long-time contributor to Baseball Prospectus's annual almanac, where he unveiled his PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) system, which forecasts — fairly accurately — the future performances of players and teams.
Silver himself won't be at the Baseball Prospectus 2009 book discussion at the BU Barnes & Noble on Tuesday night, but many of the baseball think tank's principals will, including Boston-based contributor David Laurila. As he packed for a trip to Spring Training, the Phoenix asked Laurila for some thoughts on the coming season.
On what PECOTA says we should expect
They're picking the Sox to win the AL East, based on the computer projections. [In fact, it projects them as the best team in baseball, with 98 wins.]
On whether the pitching-deep Sox will need another big bat
The projection system, based on what they have [now], has them winning the best division in baseball. You can always use more of a bat. But I'm more of a proponent of "you can never have too much pitching."
On what we can expect from our captain
[Jason] Varitek is probably going to be better than last year. The off-field distractions he had last year I'm sure are real. BP is a numbers-driven think-tank, but there's more to life than numbers.
On why PRA (Produced Runs Average), a career offensive stat proposed on Monday'sBoston Globe op-ed page — which would add runs scored and RBIs and divide by games played — is flawed, depending too much on a player's teammates
Obviously, if you put [Kevin] Youkilis on the '27 Yankees, he's gonna bat with guys on base all the time, and he's gonna get driven in all the time. But if you put him on the '62 Mets, with Marv Throneberry batting fourth, his numbers are gonna be a fraction of that.
On whether he, like me, is sick of hearing about steroids
I wish it would go away, but it won't. People care about baseball, and they care about statistical greatness, and until people have the answers, it's not gonna go away. And maybe it shouldn't. I'm just glad it's A-Rod and not [David] Ortiz.
The folks responsible for Baseball Prospectus 2009 will speak at Barnes & Noble at Boston University on Tuesday, March 3, at 7 pm.