Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2017 AL Central Edition

Cleveland Indians

Friday, March 17, 2017 7:42 PM GMT

Introduced in the 2015 season, my method of predicting O/U season win totals using sabermetrics projection systems have proved very profitable. Read on as we discuss the results of this year’s projections for the AL Central.

One of the most common metrics discussed in sabermetrics is WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. This metric takes into account many separate statistics and combines them into a single value indicating how much more valuable, or not, a player is compared to a replacement level player. These individual projections can be combined to create a WAR value for an entire MLB roster, and therefore a likely win-loss record for the upcoming MLB season.

I have narrowed down my WAR projection system of choice to Steamer over at fangraphs.com, and because it is a bit optimistic, I am raising the bar 3 games against futures lines for my Under calls. Using this method Under calls cashed at 88% in 2015 and 69% in 2016. Using a buffer of 5 games, Over calls cashed at 63% last year. Anything in between is a pass for me.

Let's take a look at the season record projections for the AL Central using Steamer and see if we can't uncover some betting value when compared to the season O/U futures and the overall AL Central division race.

Cleveland Rocks

If the table above looks a little funny, it is because that is the truth. Four out of the five teams are projected to finish under their O/U projections in this division, with the White Sox the loan “pass on” wager. The totals provided by Bovada also project the average win total for teams in the division to be at 79 games, making the AL Central one of the weakest overall divisions in baseball.

Cleveland is the clear favorite to take the division again this year, as their steep -400 odds indicate. Winners of 94 games last year, which flew by their 84.5 O/U set by Bovada, the bar has been raised to 92.5 games in this campaign. Their overall projected WAR for their roster has increased by 5.8 games over last year though, not 8 games as the line move indicates. For this reason, the model projects the Indians as falling short of the mark in their win totals.

The Tigers have the strongest Under lean in the AL Central and they will be looking for J.D. Martinez (2.4 WAR) to bounce back from injury to make their lineup complete. Miguel Cabrera (4.1 WAR) is also 34-years old and has only shown a bit of decline so far. He is entering the danger zone in regards to health and declining production. Winners of 86 games last year, but holding a 26-17 record in 1-run games, the Tigers were a few lucky bounces away from being .500 last season. I'll be taking the Under here with the Tigers.

Kansas City and Minnesota are right on the cusp in my model, but still Under calls. Minnesota only won 59 games last year and fell 21 games below their projection based on WAR. Their pitching staff is projected to be the worst in the division so a repeat performance is not out of the question. Kansas City was the strongest Under call in my entire model last year as they won 81 games – well below the O/U mark at 85.5. This year the markets have made a 9-game adjustment, and I'm personally going to pass as that number looks pretty sharp.

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