For the third straight year, Baseball Prospectus is kicking off spring training for Insider with an early look at the PECOTA projected standings. A lot can change between now and Opening Day because of injuries and roster machinations, but throughout this week, BP will provide an early prognostication of how each division will play out.
For the past four seasons, the National League East has been the Philadelphia Phillies' personal playground, serving as a six-month warm-up for a run of postseason success that has yielded two pennants and a championship. The presumptive favorite hasn't changed in 2011, but the division's other occupants won't surrender without a fight. Prior to last season, the NL wild card hadn't come out of the East since 2003, when the Florida Marlins claimed it and went on to win the World Series, but the Atlanta Braves' 2010 playoff appearance proved that the division's playoff-caliber contenders weren't confined to Philly, and four younger, potentially hungrier rosters will be gunning for the division's defending champs come Opening Day.
With the aid of Baseball Prospectus' projection system, PECOTA, we've forecasted the performance of every player in baseball this season. When coupled with our estimates of playing time, PECOTA's projections allow us to generate an expected record for each team. Here's how the system sees the NL East playing out in 2011: