Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2017 AL East Edition

Boston Red Sox

Friday, March 17, 2017 8:19 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 East.

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 East using Steamer and see if we can't uncover some betting value when compared to the season O/U futures and the overall AL East division race.

The Most Competitive Division in the MLB

While the AL Central is predicted to be the weakest division in the MLB with an average market O/U line of 79 games, the AL East is predicted to be one of the strongest with an average market O/U line of 83.5 games. So, we know where those wins are supposed to come from and this is not without precedent. The Yankees won 84 games last year, which was only good for 4th place in the division. While the Orioles (89 Wins), Blue jays (89 Wins), and Red Sox (93 Wins) all made the playoffs.

Another interesting aspect of the AL East is that their projected win totals in the model are relatively the same in 2017 as they were in 2016. Baltimore, Toronto, and New York are identical, while Tampa Bay drops two games and Boston increases two. But because Boston's O/U line at Bovada has increased 6 games over last year, they slip into the category of an Under call in my model – even though they are favored to win the division.

Tampa Bay was on Over call last year that failed spectacularly, as they only won 68 games. As with all of these projections, they do not take into consideration what happens in the event of injuries. If healthy, the Rays have the talent to be a .500 team this year, which would clear their bar of 77.5 games set at Bovada. The Yankees are in a very similar situation, and if Michael Pineda can finally put together a healthy season they are primed to clear their 82.5-game bar. They fell just short of their O/U total last year when it was set at 85.5 games.

I will be steering clear of Boston in the division odds. However, when looking at the value presented by either New York or Toronto here I may consider a split wager between those two teams to win the division. They are both over 4 to 1 odds, so even if I lose one bet I make over +200 should Boston fail to live up to expectations.

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