It's always a good sign when preseason projections start rolling out — it means that the beginning of spring training isn't far off. It also gives us a look into what the season may have in store for our favorite team, which, if you're reading this, is obviously the Philadelphia Phillies.
Recently, Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA standings projections for the 2024 season. Unfortunately for Phillies fans, the initial assessment of the team's chances this year aren't as good as we might have all been thinking, or hoping.
Before we get to the Phillies, if you're unfamiliar with these projections, PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, which is quite the mouthful. It projects player and team performance, looking "... at all of the numbers, and all the numbers that make up the numbers, to see which players are more likely to repeat their success and which ones benefited from good fortune," according to Baseball Prospectus.
PECOTA projects the Phillies to take a step back from the 90-win season in 2023
When the projections were first released on Tuesday, the system, in what feels like a slap in the face to Phillies fans, had the Phils finishing the year tied with the New York Mets with identical 84-78 records. Since then, the Phillies have edged up to 85-77, while the Mets dropped to 83-78.
Still, after a 90-win campaign a year ago, which included a finally healthy team firing on all cylinders over the season's final two months, finishing with 85 wins will feel like a giant step backward. Many fans are heading into the 2024 season dreaming of a win-total north of 90 and challenging the incumbent Atlanta Braves for the NL East title.
And what about those Braves? Oh look, they're projected to win the division again, laughing all the way to a 100-win season and seventh-consecutive NL East title.
It sticks in your craw, just a little bit, doesn't it?
What do the Phillies playoff hopes look like?
PECOTA gives the Phillies a 4.5 percent chance of winning the NL East and a 52.1 percent shot at a Wild Card spot. That gives them a 56.6 percent chance of making the postseason. That doesn't exactly seem like the promising season we've all been envisioning for the Phillies.
With just a 1.7 percent chance of winning the World Series, the Phillies sit behind 12 teams in the projected pecking order, with the Dodgers (19.9 percent) and Braves (19.3) leading the way, and are tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants as the projections stand right now.
It's certainly not an encouraging way to start the year, but it's always good to remember that these are just projections. Once the players get on the field, they'll decide the outcome of the season between the lines. And if there's anything we've learned about this Phillies team over the past couple of seasons, no matter the odds stacked against them, they'll fight right down to the end.