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MLB Projected Standings, Week 4

One of these weeks I will write something besides a projected standings update.

This is not that week, ironically in part because I enjoyed the watching the Mariners be a first place team and destroy the Astros 11-1 on Tuesday night! Enjoying the game in person trumps writing every now and then.

You can read about the model here, or keep on reading for the updated standings (change in win total from last week in parentheses).

MLB Projected Standings, Week 4:

AL WestAL CentralAL East
Astros, 81-81 (-2), 0 GBIndians, 87-75 (-1), 0 GBRed Sox, 87-75 (+2), 0 GB
Mariners, 81-81 (+1), 0 GBWhite Sox, 86-76 (+2), 1 GB     Orioles, 83-79 (0), 4 GB
Angels, 80-82 (+2), 1 GBTigers, 82-80 (+2), 5 GBBlue Jays, 83-79 (0), 4 GB
Athletics, 77-85 (-2), 4 GBRoyals, 79-83 (-2), 8 GBYankees, 81-81 (-2), 6 GB
Rangers, 77-85 (+1), 4 GB     Twins, 74-88 (-2), 13 GBRays, 79-83 (0), 8 GB
NL WestNL CentralNL East
Dodgers, 95-67 (-3), 0 GBCubs, 102-60 (+2), 0 GBMets, 99-63 (+3), 0 GB
Giants, 89-73 (+3), 7 GBPirates, 90-72 (+2), 12 GBNationals, 95-67 (+1), 4 GB
Diamondbacks, 75-87 (0), 20 GB     Cardinals, 86-76 (+1), 16 GBMarlins, 79-83 (+2), 20 GB
Rockies, 73-89 (-1), 22 GB    Reds, 69-93 (-2), 33 GBPhillies, 69-93 (+1), 30 GB
Padres, 69-93 (-3), 26 GBBrewers, 68-94 (-2), 34 GBBraves, 58-104 (-3), 41 GB

Wild card play-in games: Orioles at White Sox, Pirates at Nationals
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Indians, Astros vs. Red Sox
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Dodgers vs. Mets

Some musings:
  • The Giants are projected to miss the playoffs despite having a better record than every team in the American League.
  • Nobody is projected to lose 90 games in the American League.
  • The entire American League is spread apart by only 13 wins. 9 of the 15 NL teams are not within 13 wins of first place in their divisions.
  • It is really hard to tell how such radically different levels of parity will impact the trade deadline. In theory that should make the AL highly competitive and try to acquire lots of talent, but will some teams shy away given the likely gaudy records of several NL teams?
  • The Cubs are for real. They might be the most talented team in baseball the last several years, and with how young they are they have the look of a dynasty.

MLB Projected Standings, Week 3

This was a week of reckoning in the National League, where the contenders really pulled away from the pretenders. Meanwhile the American League remains about as muddled as the start of the season.

I should mention that I made an adjustment to the formula this week which likely is driving some of the significant changes. I was not accounting for different numbers of games played and there is a wide enough spread of games played so far this season for that to make a real difference. You can read about the model here, or keep on reading for the updated standings (change in win total from last week in parentheses).

MLB Projected Standings, Week 3:

AL WestAL CentralAL East
Astros, 83-79 (+1), 0 GBIndians, 88-74 (+3), 0 GBRed Sox, 85-77 (+2), 0 GB
Mariners, 80-82 (+1), 3 GBWhite Sox, 84-78 (0), 4 GB     Orioles, 83-79 (0), 2 GB
Athletics 79-83 (+1), 4 GBRoyals, 81-81 (-1), 7 GBYankees, 83-79 (0), 2 GB
Angels, 78-84 (-3), 5 GBTigers, 80-82 (-3), 8 GBBlue Jays, 83-79 (+1), 2 GB
Rangers, 76-86 (-2), 7 GB     Twins, 76-86 (+1), 12 GBRays, 79-83 (0), 6 GB
NL WestNL CentralNL East
Dodgers, 98-64 (+9), 0 GBCubs, 100-62 (+9), 0 GBMets, 96-66 (+9), 0 GB
Giants, 86-76 (+1), 12 GBPirates, 88-74 (+4), 12 GBNationals, 94-68 (+6), 2 GB
Diamondbacks, 75-87 (-1), 23 GB     Cardinals, 85-77 (+1), 15 GBMarlins, 77-85 (-3), 19 GB
Rockies, 74-88 (-4), 24 GB    Reds, 71-91 (-7), 29 GBPhillies, 68-95 (-7), 29 GB
Padres, 72-90 (-3), 26 GBBrewers, 70-92 (-5), 20 GBBraves, 61-101 (-8), 35 GB

Wild card play-in games: Orioles at White Sox, Giants at Nationals
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Indians, Astros vs. Red Sox
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Mets vs. Dodgers

Some musings:
  • Turns out some of the highest WAR teams weren't among the teams that had played the most games. This explains some of the huge boosts in the NL. However, this could also be a "tipping point" week of sorts. The adjustment I made in the formula this week would have made no difference with the preseason projections. So, just three weeks in, the best in the NL have asserted themselves as even better, while the worse are worse.
  • Meanwhile, in the American League, the movement remains shockingly minimal. The drastic contrasts between the two leagues at the moment will be interesting to watch, particularly in a few months when the trade deadline looms. Will anybody in the American League be sellers?
  • The Cubs and Dodgers are a cut above everyone else in baseball at the moment. Don't sleep on some of the mediocre AL records though. There are good teams in the league. For instance, before adjusting for schedules, the Indians have an expected rest of season winning percentage of .542 and the Nationals come in at .545 - basically the same even though the Nationals project to win 6 more games. The difference is driven some by the Nats hot start, and also some by the lack of very bad teams in the AL when compared to the NL.
  • Six NL teams are projected to have worse records than the worst in the whole American League. I wonder if that fact will get enough attention as the season wears on and it becomes obvious that the NL will have playoff teams with better records than the AL until some AL team goes crazy at the trade deadline.

MLB Projected Standings, Week 2:

The season is still young, but a little less young. This season suggests that, at least in 2016, you cannot win a division in April but you can lose it. That's bad news for teams that couldn't figure out how to win at home this past week - yes, that's me staring my own team right in the face, those TRUE TO THE BLUE Mariners. Plenty of season remains though, and thankfully for them the rest of the AL West looks mediocre at best.

You can read about the model here, or keep on reading for the updated standings (change in win total from last week in parentheses).

MLB Projected Standings, Week 2:

AL WestAL CentralAL East
Astros, 82-80 (-2), 0 GBIndians, 85-77 (0), 0 GBRed Sox, 83-79 (-1), 0 GB
Angels, 81-81 (+1), 1 GBWhite Sox, 84-78 (+2), 1 GB     Yankees, 83-79 (0), 0 GB
Mariners, 79-83 (-2), 3 GBTigers, 83-79 (+2), 2 GBOrioles, 83-79 (+2), 0 GB
Rangers, 78-84 (+1), 4 GBRoyals, 82-80 (+3), 3 GBBlue Jays, 82-80 (0), 1 GB
Athletics, 78-84 (0), 4 GB     Twins, 75-87 (-3), 10 GBRays, 79-83 (-1), 4 GB
NL WestNL CentralNL East
Dodgers, 89-73 (-1), 0 GBCubs, 91-71 (+1), 0 GBNationals, 88-74 (+2), 0 GB
Giants, 85-77 (-1), 4 GBCardinals, 84-78 (+2) 7 GBMets, 87-75 (-2), 1 GB
Rockies, 78-84 (+1), 11 GB     Pirates, 84-78 (-1), 7 GBMarlins, 80-82 (0), 8 GB
Diamondbacks, 76-86 (-1), 13 GB     Reds, 78-84 (-1), 13 GBPhillies, 74-88 (+3), 14 GB
Padres, 75-87 (0), 14 GBBrewers, 75-87 (0), 16 GBBraves, 69-93 (-4), 19 GB

Wild card play-in games: Yankees at White Sox, Giants at Mets
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Indians, Astros vs. Red Sox
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Nationals vs. Dodgers

Some musings:
  • The Braves and Twins are both winless and that seems to show rather loudly in the standings. The Braves in particular are on their way to a special kind of awful if they can "keep up" the losing. I wonder how extreme rises and drops can be with this model, and losing four games over the course of one week might prove shockingly large. Meanwhile, the Twins look like the first AL team to fall out of playoff contention, thanks in large part to their winless start.
  • The Orioles hot start has garnered buzz, but I had them projected as a slightly worse than .500 team. They are exceeding expectations in my system too, but color me a bit less surprised by their start.
  • Also, since I am on the topic of the Orioles, the projection method actually gives decimal victories and I round them to the nearest whole win. This is how I break ties, which is why the Yankees make the playoffs over the Orioles in this week's projections. The Yankees have 83.0 projected victories, the Orioles 82.9, and the Tigers 82.6.
  • I mused last week that the Cardinals took a critical blow last week when they got swept by the Pirates. The damaged lasted a whole week. I stand corrected.
  • The Cubs hot start has garnered more than its fair share of attention, but so far the hype is not out of proportion. They are the best team in baseball until further notice.
  • The Royals are beating my projection system so far, fueling my own speculation that WAR-based systems miss something that the Royals do exceedingly well. They continue to beat WAR projections of how good they should be by significant margins, and the sample size continues to grow.

MLB Projected Standings, Week 1

How much has the outlook of the season altered after two to three games (or four in a few cases) for every team?!

Not much, as it turns out. That's probably a good sign for the model. You can read about the model here, or keep on reading for the updated standings (change in win total from last week in parentheses).

MLB Projected Standings, Week 1:

AL WestAL CentralAL East
Astros, 84-78 (-1), 0 GBIndians, 85-77 (0), 0 GBRed Sox, 84-78 (0), 0 GB
Mariners, 81-81 (+1), 3 GBWhite Sox, 82-80 (+1), 3 GB     Yankees, 83-79 (0), 1 GB
Angels, 80-82 (0), 4 GBTigers, 81-81 (+1), 4 GBBlue Jays, 82-80 (0), 2 GB
Athletics, 78-84 (-1), 6 GBRoyals, 79-83 (0), 6 GBOrioles, 81-81 (+1), 3 GB
Rangers, 77-85 (-2), 7 GB     Twins, 78-84 (-2), 7 GBRays, 80-82 (0), 4 GB
NL WestNL CentralNL East
Dodgers, 90-72 (+1), 0 GBCubs, 90-72 (+1), 0 GBMets, 89-73 (+1), 0 GB
Giants, 86-76 (+1), 4 GBPirates, 85-77 (+2), 5 GBNationals, 86-76 (0), 3 GB
Rockies, 77-85 (+1), 13 GB     Cardinals, 82-80 (-2), 8 GBMarlins, 80-82 (0), 9 GB
Diamondbacks, 77-85 (-2), 13 GB     Reds, 79-83 (+2), 11 GBBraves, 73-89 (0), 16 GB
Padres, 75-87 (-1), 15 GBBrewers, 75-87 (0), 15 GBPhillies, 71-91 (-1), 18 GB

Wild card play-in games: Blue Jays at Yankees, Giants at Nationals
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Indians, Astros vs. Red Sox
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Mets vs. Dodgers

Some musings:
  • No change in the playoff participants or match-ups, though the Astros and Red Sox flip-flopped home field advantage. Again, this is hardly surprising with only a few games in the books.
  • Early season series do matter. The Pirates-Cardinals tilt shook up the NL Central quite a bit thanks to Pittsburgh's sweep. There was a four game swing between the Pirates and Cardinals in the standings. The Cardinals tumbled all the way from being the closest challenger to the Cubs to equidistant from the Pirates and Reds in the standings. This is partly due to Cincinnati's strong start, but still...that's a remarkable change for so few games.
  • The most noteworthy series in the American League was the Mariners-Rangers tilt, which was not too surprising. They both opened the season with roughly .500 season projections, placing them in the fringe of playoff contention. There was a three game swing between those two teams in the standings, and it was enough to push Texas to the AL West basement for the time being and to shove the Mariners within a game of a wild card spot. Nearly half of the American League (7 out of 15 teams) have projected win totals between 80 and 82 games, so the Texas tumble to 77 wins is probably bigger than it seems. While on one hand they aren't that many games away from the final wild card spot, they are also looking up at almost everyone in the league. That's a ton of teams to leapfrog, even if they are all mediocre.
  • I expect more movement in next week's standings because the update will include two series' worth of games (5-7) for each team instead of just one.

The 2016 Tacoma Rainiers

Cheney Stadium (Wikimedia Commons, user CougsGo509)
I live in Tacoma and thus spend more time at Cheney Stadium than Safeco Field. This may or may not show more on the blog this year. We shall see. I have an idea in my mind to spend more time documenting my time at the ballpark with blog posts.

Regardless, the Rainiers are a particularly interesting bunch to analyze with the transition from Jack Zduriencik to Jerry Dipoto. In fact, Dipoto's remake of the Rainiers roster is arguably more dramatic than what he did at the major league level. I am interested to see how the new-look Rainiers play ball. Here is the 2016 Rainiers roster, broken into different groups based on some of the typical ways that fans often look for ballplayers at minor league games:

Familiar faces: RHP Mayckol Guaipe, INF Shawn O'Malley, OF Stefen Romero, SS Chris Taylor

The brevity of the list above says all you need to know about the sweeping changes, and even within this group there will be differences. Guaipe is ticketed for the bullpen again, but it seems likely that Romero will see more time at first base, O'Malley will see more time at shortstop, and Taylor will see more time at second and third base.

Familiar Mariners faces: LHP James Paxton, LHP David Rollins, C Mike Zunino

Jerry Dipoto built up enough depth at the major league level to push these guys down to Tacoma. Zunino and Paxton still have room to develop, Rollins is probably mostly depth at this point stashed away if needed. I am curious and excited to see Zunino get some at-bats in AAA. He doesn't need to hit much to be a quality everyday catcher in the majors with his excellent defense, and I still see a good hitter in his stroke and bat speed. He could be the most exciting Rainier to watch this season.

Prospects: LHP Paul Fry, CF Boog Powell

Paul Fry does not get a ton of publicity, but we should find out soon how much of a prospect he is. I think he can at least be as good as George Sherrill from about a decade ago now. Relief prospects aren't often very sexy, but they are still prospects. Boog Powell also gets mixed reviews as a prospect because he has limited tools. He needs to be a good OBP-contact-speed-defense type of player to make a mark in the majors.

Fringe prospects: RHP Jonathan Aro, RHP Justin De Fratus, OF Dario Pizzano, RHP Donn Roach, RHP Adrian Sampson, SS Tyler Smith, RHP Joe Weiland

These are mostly players unlikely to generate much buzz but also not all that far from the majors. Aro was picked up from the Red Sox for nothing and for a while looked like a real contender to break camp with the Mariners when bullpen injuries piled up. Then Donn Roach looked even closer with his fabulous spring. De Fratus was supposed to be in the M's bullpen but struggled mightily, so he heads to Tacoma to see if he can find whatever he has lost over the past year. Sampson was acquired at last year's trade deadline from the Pirates when J.A. Happ got shipped out. He has a solid mix of pitches with some feel for them but nothing overwhelming. Pizzano has hit at every level so far but lacks any real strong tool to get noticed. However, if he continues to hit, he seems likely to get up to the majors at some point in the next year or two. Smith is likely organizational depth, but this year is also his first taste of AAA ball. Who knows? Joe Wieland is the opening day starter for the Rainiers, for whatever that is worth. He has some MLB experience sprinkled over parts of multiple seasons but is yet to break through despite relatively solid success in the minors.

AAA veterans: IF Make Baxter, RHP Casey Coleman, RHP Steve Johnson, C Steven Lerud, INF Ed Lucas, INF Efren Navarro, RHP Blake Parker, OF Daniel Robertson

These are the players who make or break AAA seasons but have a minimal impact at the major league level. Every now and then a player in this category puts up a monster season that generates some speculation that they may get called up, especially if they happen to play a position of need for the MLB team. These are the kinds of guys that Jack Zduriencik almost never picked up so they are a breath of fresh air to me at least. Moreover, the position players all bring defensive versatility and generally good plate discipline. In other words, these are skilled players with limited tools, which is the opposite of who Zduriencik went after. It remains to be seen if this strategy ultimately pays off but it is a clear contrast between the two GMs.

Final Notes

The 2016 Rainiers do not have any glamorous prospects, in part because the whole Mariners system lacks those type of players at this point. However, on paper, this looks like a team that could be pretty good in AAA and should not get blown apart by a fledgling MLB team above them. This Rainiers team might have a degree of continuity that Tacoma has not seen for some time.

Rainiers lineup cards should be fun to check for a particularly geeky fan. It's relatively clear who will start regularly, but where will they line up? In particular, most of the infielders have experience at many positions and it is likely that Dipoto wants them to log innings around the diamond. I would think the defensive versatility makes this Rainiers team fun to manage, and we might get to see a bit more of Pat Listach's style and strategies.

Center field will be another fun position to watch. Boog Powell is likely to get more playing time out there than most, but both Daniel Robertson and Shawn O'Malley have experience out there and might be more likely to see time with the Mariners in the near future.

The basepaths might become a focal point as well. The Rainiers don't have many sluggers like they tended to have under Jack Zduriencik. They have quite a bit more speed though. How much will they look to use it? Does Pat Listach like running? What does Jerry Dipoto think about base stealing strategies? This Rainiers team could end up hitting a bit like the Kansas City Royals.

Bottom line, many of my best baseball memories are from Tacoma games. Minor League Baseball is fun, especially with a little knowledge of the players. The Rainiers under Jack Zduriencik had some cartoonishly flawed player who were incredibly fun to watch because when things went right they were amazing, but when they were off...they were way off (looking at you, Dan Cortes, Carlos Peguero, Jesus Montero, etc.) This year's team does not feature the same boom-or-bust potential but could put a steady, exciting product on the field, especially if they run the bases aggressively. There will be new memories made, that much is certain.

Mariners Minor League Rosters

The Mariners set their opening day roster (obviously), and once that was set they could also set their minor league rosters.

I was pretty interested to see the minor league rosters for a few reasons:

  1. I live in Tacoma, so I see quite a bit of Rainiers action in person.
  2. I enjoy following prospects in the minor leagues.
  3. Jerry Dipoto gutted the M's player development leadership.
The third point is probably the most significant. The rosters are our first real glimpse into who Dipoto and Co. like and how they plan on going about developing prospects.

Without further ado, the rosters, with some musings below:

Org Chart.pdf by Ryan Divish

Notably absent

  • Alex Jackson, Gareth Morgan, Nick Neidert - In general, recent prep picks made by the Zduriencik regime appear ticketed for extended spring training. This is not necessarily a lack of confidence in any of their abilities, but rather a preference for slower development. Just about anybody would push along players more slowly than Jack Zduriencik. He was about as aggressive as they come at promoting players through the minors.

Clinton (low A)

  • Rayder Ascanio received surprising playing time (at least to me) in spring training the last few years. Both the Zduriencik and Dipoto regimes seem to see something they like in him. This is his first taste of full season pro ball. Don't be surprised if he doesn't hit much because Clinton plays in a pitcher's league. Low strikeout totals would be a good sign.
  • Braden Bishop will probably get some press coverage because he went to the University of Washington. Scouting reports on him out of college raved about his defensive ability but wondered how well his bat would do. My initial guess is that Dipoto does not believe much in Bishop's bat. My gut is that Zduriencik would have placed Bishop a level higher to get his hitting in the more friendly California League confines and to push his development. But then again, Zduriencik tended to push every prospect he liked at an uncomfortably fast rate with generally poor results.
Bakersfield (high A)
  • Stock is rising: Drew Jackson tore up the Northwest League in Everett last year, and apparently Dipoto is a believer. This is one of the more aggressive roster placements he made in the minors. Jackson's trajectory and skillset, very early on, remind me some of Chris Taylor. Austin Cousino, Joe DeCarlo, and Gianfranco Wawoe also find themselves promoted from last season, suggesting that they are on the bona fide prospect track.
  • Stock is falling: Tyler Marlette, Tyler Pike, and Austin Wilson all seemed like reasonable candidates to open up in AA. Pike is recovering from an arm injury and overall tough year, so perhaps that played into the decision to start him in high A. The same can't be said for Marlette or Wilson. Frankly, I wonder if Dipoto sees Austin Wilson as a real prospect at this point given this assignment.
Jackson (AA)
  • Stock is rising: Tyler O'Neill has a chance to blossom and become known beyond the Mariners organization. He put up huge power numbers in high A last year. With similar production in AA he will assert himself as the best hitting prospect the Mariners have. If you pay attention to one player in the whole minor league system in 2016, this is the guy to pick. Tim Lopes also got promoted from Bakersfield and could garner more attention with a solid season in Jackson.
  • Stock is falling: Steven Baron, Sam Gaviglio, and Jordan Pries all logged time in AAA last year, with Baron even reaching the majors. They are all likely considered organizational depth at this point with these assignments.
Tacoma (AAA)
  • Dario Pizzano quietly hit well in AA last year and has now matriculated to the last level before the majors. He probably is too low on the outfield depth chart to make it to the majors this year, but another good season with the bat might get him some attention. He hasn't received enough notoriety to this point, and I am excited to watch him in Tacoma.
  • Jonathan Aro and Donn Roach were minor league signings, and maybe not exactly prospects, but nonetheless players whom could reach the majors this year if they play well in Tacoma.
  • Paul Fry had a monster year out of the bullpen last year in Bakersfield and Jackson. He is also left-handed. He does not garner nearly enough attention with how good he is and how close he is to the majors. He is among the reasons to think that Charlie Furbush's oft-injured (but highly effective) pitching arm might get traded in the not-so-distant future.
  • Mike Zunino and James Paxton are known contributors who both have things to work on. They might be among the first test cases for how much better (or worse?!) the new Mariners player development system under Jerry Dipoto works. Both are clearly talented, and with a little polishing could contribute at the Major League level.
I will likely dive deeper with the Rainiers tomorrow. All in all, it seems that Dipoto and Co. are more cautious with their minor league promotions than Zduriencik was, which is a breath of fresh air. There are also some early hints at players they particularly like, as well as some they believe in a bit less. Ultimately, what will be most interesting is how players fare under new tutelage.

Well, That Happened

The Mariners were due to lose an opening day. For all their struggles in the past decade, the one thing they did exceedingly well is win on opening day. They were vying for their tenth (?!) straight win on opening day this afternoon, deep in the heart and heat of Texas.

So, I suppose the Mariners were not true to the blue with their 3-2 loss opening up the 2016 season. However, it certainly felt like a true to the blue kind of game.

The Mariners will not have another loss like this opener. It was an absurd level of strange.

The Mariners only allowed one hit all day, and even that was a measly blooper. On a different day we could have been talking about a no-hitter, which will get buried in all the other opening day stories. The Rangers struggled mightily to square up pitches hurled from King Felix and newly minted lefty reliever Mike Montgomery.

Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager both went deep off of Cole Hamels. Granted, both were solo shots (echoes of last year's dinger-happy offense), but Hamels is far from the easiest southpaw for lefties to tee off against. The heart of the M's order dealt legitimate damage against one of the better pitchers in baseball.

Really, it is hard to dial up a loss out of this collection of performances the M's put together today. Yes, there were some troubling walks and errors, but that was it. It's difficult for an offense to bunch together walks and errors to make a big inning. Literally everything that was bad about this game for the Mariners happened to all happen in the bottom of the fifth inning, and that was just enough to give the Rangers the victory.

Give the Rangers credit for making their awkwardly explosive fifth inning stick, but this opening day loss stings hard. It is probably a bit too strong to say the Mariners should have won today, but they certainly could have. I would not have complained if the Mariners had found a way to win.

This was only game 1 on the season, with a whopping 161 more to go. On some level the oddity of this opening game should be whisked away and forgotten. It was very strange. It won't happen again. It didn't do anything to suggest the Mariners cannot contend.

However, I think the Mariners are about a .500 team that will battle with a large handful of teams for a wild card spot. On paper, it sure looks like every game will count in the American League with how bunched the whole league looks. That's why today's loss stings so much. It is hardly a nail in the coffin, but with so many mediocre teams battling for only a few spots, the luckiest teams will rise to the top. Lady luck shined down on the Rangers today and left the Mariners wondering what could have been. Nobody in this year's American League can afford to many funky losses like the Mariners just suffered.

MLB Projected Standings

No April Fool's post for me. My prank was not posting through February and March. I got all you folks that kept checking in!

I am bringing back a regular post I have done in years past, though it has been several years now. Every Friday I aim to deliver MLB projected standings with a bit of commentary. It is a fun post to put together and a nice way for me to stay in touch with happenings around baseball. I hope it is at least as much fun to read. Today's the day to roll out the first projection because next Friday we will have the first update with actual games in the books!

The Model
(skip if you want to get straight to the preseason predictions)

My model takes a team's existing record and tacks on wins and losses based on a projection for how they will do the rest of the season. So, in this preseason run of the projections, the wins and losses are based entirely on the projection. However, at the end of the season, the model will be completely based on a team's existing record because there will be no remaining games to project. So, over the course of the season, the projection becomes gradually less and less weighted.

Projecting a team's remaining games is driven by two major components: how good the team is and how good their opponents are. Estimates of team talent are taken from Fangraph's rest of season (RoS) WAR projections for teams. WAR is the most encompassing stat of all skills available, so I use it in the model.

To convert WAR into an expected win percentage, I first find the average WAR total for a team in baseball and treat that as a .500 winning percentage. This should make sense as a perfectly average WAR would suggest a perfectly average team that wins and loses the exact same amount of games. Then I compare a team's actual WAR total to the average WAR total. If a team's WAR total is, say, 10 larger than the average WAR, then we would expect that team to be 10 wins above .500. Each team's WAR total is compared to the average WAR in this manner until we obtain expected winning percentage for every team.

WAR aims to eliminate context as much as possible, but for projecting records the context is important. For instance, the Cubs on paper appear to be a really good team, so they would be expected to win more games than an average team. However, not only do the Cubs have the good fortune of being better than many (or maybe all) of their opponents, they also never have to face themselves. In general, this means that good teams not only should perform better against average competition, but they also tend to play "softer" schedules because their schedules do not include themselves. Similarly, bad teams often play "tougher" schedules because they do not get to play themselves.

My model incorporates the strength of divisional opponents, the interleague division a team faces, and then the strength of opponents in the other divisions intraleague proportionally to the number of games a team plays each of these major groups within their schedule. The strength of these groups is determined by the projected WAR total of teams, based on the process mentioned before. It should be noted that WAR totals will change as we get more data on individual players during the season, and so this model indirectly incorporates breakout performances, sudden declines, significant injuries, and major trades.

Finally, a team's expected winning percentage is increased or decreased proportionally according to the strength of their remaining schedule. So, if a team is expected to face exactly .500 opponents, then their expected win percentage does not move at all. However, if they face weaker opponents, then their winning percentage is bumped up. Similarly, stronger opponents nudge it down. All of these conversions are done proportionally so that the system remains closed - in other words, the structure of the model guarantees that summing all of the wins and losses together will come up with an exact .500 record for all of baseball. This is important since every game must have both a winner and a loser.

Once a team has a projected win percentage it is multiplied by the number of games remaining in their schedule to figure out how many projected wins remain. Those are tacked on to the games they have already won to obtain their projected win total. The projected loss total is simply 162 (all the games in a season) minus their projected win total.

This is the one time I will dive in with details about how the model works. In future weeks I will get straight to the results. Transparency with the model is important though, and I even see several places I could dig further into how the model works. Anyway...

MLB Projected Standings, Preseason

Astros, 85-77, 0 GBIndians, 85-77, 0 GBRed Sox, 84-78, 0 GB
Mariners, 80-82, 5 GBWhite Sox, 81-81, 4 GB     Yankees, 83-79, 1 GB
Angels, 80-82, 5 GBTigers, 80-82, 5 GBBlue Jays, 82-80, 2 GB
Rangers, 79-83, 6 GBTwins, 80-82, 5 GBRays, 80-82, 4 GB
Athletics, 79-83, 6 GB     Royals, 79-83, 6 GBOrioles, 80-82, 4 GB
Dodgers, 89-73, 0 GBCubs, 89-73, 0 GBMets, 88-74, 0 GB
Giants, 85-77, 4 GBCardinals, 84-78, 5 GBNationals, 86-76, 2 GB
Diamondbacks, 79-83, 10 GB     Pirates, 83-79, 6 GBMarlins, 80-82, 8 GB
Padres, 76-86, 13 GBReds, 77-85, 12 GBBraves, 73-89, 15 GB
Rockies, 76-86, 13 GBBrewers, 75-87, 14 GBPhillies, 72-90, 16 GB

Wild card play-in games: Blue Jays at Yankees, Giants at Nationals
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Indians, Red Sox vs. Astros
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Mets vs. Dodgers

Some musings:
  • Preseason projections when using WAR always look a little bunched up. It's a result of regression to the mean. Basically by definition playoff teams exceed expectations in statistical models.
  • With that said, the American League looks especially bunched up again this year. If that was simply a result of the projection system than the NL would be similarly bunched, but it isn't. The AL East in particular looks incredibly wide open.
  • The National League has a stratified look with rather clear "first" and "second" divisions. Only the Marlins and Diamondbacks do not fall neatly into one of the two categories.
  • The Astros, Indians, Dodgers, and Cubs should all be considered legitimate favorites to win their divisions. None of them are so much beyond their divisional opponents to say they are prohibitive favorites though.
  • The Indians being frontrunners should probably be flagged with an asterisk. The Royals and WAR do not get along. They have looked like a middling team on paper the last two years but have back-to-back World Series with a championship to show for it. It's possible that the Royals are lucky, but the gap between their actual results and projections is noteworthy, and has been for two years now. Consider me skeptical of their projection this year too.
Next Friday we will find out how much movement only a few games make, even ones supposedly less meaningful early in the season.