“Get ready, Cardinals fans! After a disappointing season, our beloved team is ready to bounce back and dominate the division once again. According to the latest PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus, the Cardinals are set to take the top spot with a comfortable five-game lead. With a projected 85.2 wins, the Cardinals are poised for success, leaving Chicago (80 wins) in second place and last year’s division winner, Milwaukee (78.9 wins), in third. Cincinnati (78.6 wins) and Pittsburgh (72.3 wins) round out the bottom of the division.”  Cardinals Poised for a Comeback Season According to Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA Projections

After a disappointing season in 2023, the St. Louis Cardinals are ready to bounce back and reclaim their spot at the top of the division. According to the latest PECOTA projections released by Baseball Prospectus, the Cardinals are predicted to win the division by a comfortable five-game margin.

Strong Projections for the Cardinals

The projections have the Cardinals finishing with 85.2 wins, with the Chicago Cubs coming in second at 80 wins. Last year’s division winner, the Milwaukee Brewers, are projected to finish third with 78.9 wins, followed by the Cincinnati Reds (78.6) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (72.3).

If these projections hold true, the Cardinals will see a significant improvement of 14 games from their 2023 record of 71-91. On the other hand, the Brewers are expected to see a decline of 13 wins from last year.

Chances of Success

Baseball Prospectus gives the Cardinals a 52.9% chance of winning the division and a 10.3% chance of securing a wild-card spot. However, their chances of winning the World Series are still relatively low at 3%. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites with a 19.9% chance, followed by the Atlanta Braves (19.3%), the New York Yankees (11.7%), and the Houston Astros (10.1%).

Competition in the Division

The Cardinals’ closest competition, the Chicago Cubs, have been linked with free agent outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger. With many significant free agents still unsigned, there is a possibility for a lot of changes before opening day. Fangraphs currently ranks the Cardinals’ rotation fourth in the division and 19th overall.

Milwaukee’s Potential Struggles

If the projections hold true, it would be the first time since 2020 that the Brewers finish third or worse in the division. It would also be their first full season with a losing record since 2016. The team recently traded their best starter, Corbin Burnes, to the Baltimore Orioles for a minor league infielder, a young pitcher, and a draft pick.

Payroll Differences

In terms of payrolls, the Cardinals and Cubs are currently just above the league average and only $6 million apart, with the Cubs spending slightly more. The other three teams in the NL Central are expected to have lower payrolls, according to Spotrac.

Previous Projections and the Origins of PECOTA

Last year’s projections had the Cardinals winning 87.5 games, but they fell short of that mark. PECOTA stands for “player empirical comparison and optimization test algorithm” and was developed by Nate Silver in 2003. It is also a “backronym” for former journeyman MLB infielder Bill Pecota.