This is the second in a series of posts about projections. The first part was about the methodology behind each projection system. In this section, we look at what projections are actually telling us.
If you’re new to projections and want to use them to, say, help with your fantasy team, it’s easy to make a common mistake: underestimating the built-in variability in projections. Many people – and I used to be among this group myself – view projections as hard and fast guesses at a player’s production this next season. Most people get into projections as a result of fantasy baseball, so this makes sense; we all want to know which player is going to hit 30 homeruns this next season and which will steal 40 bases. However, projections are actually measuring something different than a player’s expected production: they’re measuring a player’s true talent level.
This might seem like an arbitrary distinction, but trust me, it’s not. As we all know from our day-to-day lives, having a “true talent level” at a particular skill does not necessarily mean you’ll perform at that level every single time in the future. Our minds love to ignore variability and instead treat outcomes as solely talent-driven, but the world doesn’t work that way. Let’s consider a couple examples.