The Royals, the defending American League champions and one of Pecota's former teams, are projected by PECOTA to drop off to 72 wins in 2015. The panel members all easily thought Kansas City would exceed that win total, despite the improvements from other teams in the AL Central.
"They're definitely over 72," Verducci said. "What am I missing that could have them that low?"
PECOTA projects 86 wins for the Rays, an improvement after 77 victories and a fourth-place finish in the AL East last season. Their rotation is expected to be strong, however, Verducci pointed to some key departures that would be difficult to overcome.
Starting pitcher Matt Moore is expected to miss most of the first half. Former Tampa Bay ace David Price was traded last season. Ben Zobrist is now in Oakland. The Rays' former manager, Joe Maddon, is now with the Cubs. And general manager Andrew Friedman has moved on to the Dodgers.
"They lost a lot," Verducci said. "I don't see where the improvement is and they're saying the Rays are a much better team than they were last year."
After a busy offseason punctuated by signing James Shields last week, the Padres are projected to win 84 games in 2015. Everyone thought the Padres would win more, although Darling and Lemire think San Diego's win total will be only slightly higher than the projections.
"They've added a lot of star power," Lemire said. "I think they'll get over, but I'm not sure it's enough for the playoffs. We're talking like 85, 86 wins, and maybe they're the team that just misses."
And finally the panel discussed the Mets, who are tabbed for 81 wins. Everyone on the crew predicted New York will win more games and could be in contention for the postseason.
"I think they're another team that is going to play games that are meaningful in September," Darling said.
The PECOTA system is far from perfect. Last season it projected the Red Sox (71 wins) and Rays to win 89 games, and the Orioles to finish with 75 wins. Baltimore won 96 games and the AL East title.
PECOTA had the Royals projected to win 79 games last season, and Kansas City topped that by 10.