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What would be improvement?

Within the last couple weeks or so, the projected PECOTA and CHONE 2010 standings were both released. Neither is particularly friendly to the Pirates; PECOTA predicts 70 wins and the worst record in baseball, CHONE predicts 74 wins and a tie for the third worst record in baseball ahead of only the Blue Jays (68) and Astros (73).

But then, no one that’s really following the team should be surprised that an 18th losing season is imminent. We all know it’s coming. What I’m curious about is what sort of record should we take as acceptable improvement towards preventing the nineteenth losing season? 74 wins isn’t impressive by any stretch, but a 12-win improvement would probably be among the biggest improvements in the league, and it’d be done with a very different roster from last year and maybe even without much help from the minor leaguers closest to Pittsburgh. So if the Pirates won 74 games this year (their most since 2003) would that be enough? With their low payroll, the impending contributions from Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln (all who may help in 2010, though I think Alvarez is the only one of those three with a chance to make a real impact this year), and a few young guys already on the team getting better as they age, does the leap from 74 to 82 and beyond seem unrealistic in 2011?

Addendum: Gene from fellow Bloguin blog Favre Dollar Footlongs asks how reliable projections like CHONE and PECOTA are. Vegas Watch actually compiles and evaluates these things every year and last fall looked at how the projection systems stacked up over the last five seasons. He found that PECOTA was generally the most reliable, though they had a terrible year last year and since that terrible year coincided with Nate Silver going political it seems wise to take their projected standings with a grain of salt until they can prove they have things back on track. CHONE has been the best over the four years that it’s existed, though, so it generally does a good job of these sorts of things. Of course take that for what it’s worth; certainly none of these systems are perfect and there’s a good bit of error in all of them, there’s simply less error in CHONE over the past four seasons.

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