When it comes to projecting the Atlanta Braves each season, most projection systems have gotten reasonably close over the last few years. Because these are mathematical models, all projection systems are likely to err on the side of being conservative when it comes to overall win totals and WAR, but generally speaking systems like ZiPS and Steamer do a reasonable job. However, one projection system that hasn't been able to get the Braves right very much has been PECOTA which was created by Baseball Prospectus.
Over the last several years, PECOTA has not liked the Braves' chances each year for whatever reason. The Braves have won the National League East every year since 2018 and PECOTA has not once predicted that to happen. Just last year, the Braves were projected to finish second with 92 wins and they were coming off a 101 win season and their fifth straight division title. Notably, that was at least pretty close to what other projections had for them to start the year.
Well, the 2024 PECOTA projections ($) are out and against all odds, it finally gave the Braves their due respect, although with an important caveat.
PECOTA finally picks the Braves to win the NL East, but by a shocking margin
Just for reference, PECOTA projected the Braves to win 92 games last year, 82 wins in 2022, and 82 wins in 2021 with the totals not being higher in years before that. This is not hating on the Baseball Prospectus staff as this is just a mathematical model doing its thing, but it was clear for years that there was something about that model that was clearly undervaluing and incorrect about what the Braves were doing.
Flash forward to this year where PECOTA projects the Braves to win over 100 games in 2024 and as a heavy World Series favorite. Aside from the "could this curse the Braves because PECOTA is usually wrong about them?" issue, this projection at least seems to get close to getting the NL East order right heading into the season. Coming off back-to-back 100+ win seasons, the Braves should be favored with the Phillies being a clear #2.
However, what is weird is how little respect the Phillies are getting this coming year. While over the course of a regular season the Braves should be favored, projecting Philadelphia to only get to 84 wins and finishing that far back seems rather low. They still have Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola at the top of that rotation and they get a full season of a presumably healthy Bryce Harper. Atlanta should still be favored, but a 16 game lead at the end of the season feels awfully ambitious against a squad with multiple deep postseason runs the last couple of years.
We shall see if PECOTA finally cracked the code on predicting the NL East race in 2024. In this case, Braves fans should be hoping that they are spot on this time.