Introduced in the 2015 season, my method of predicting 'over/under' season win totals using sabermetrics projection systems has proven very profitable. Read on as we discuss the results of this year's projections for the NL West.
One of the most common metrics discussed in sabermetrics is WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. This 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 season.
I have narrowed down my WAR projection system of choice to Steamer over at FanGraphs, 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 NL West using Steamer and see if we can't uncover some betting value when compared to the season O/U futures on MLB picks and the overall NL West division race.
Dodgers & Rest In NL West
The National League West is a division of have and have-nots it seems, with the Los Angeles Dodgers having the highest projected win total in MLB in this model at 101-plus games on Steamer. On the other hand, the San Diego Padres have the lowest win total to exceed according to Bovada at 66.5 games. Both teams end up being strong 'over' calls in my model, with projected win totals more than 5 games above the current lines in the market.
The Colorado Rockies end up being the strongest 'under' call in the division, with the most optimistic models looking to push the current O/U line of 80.5. They were an 'over' call last year that cashed comfortably so the model may have them pegged. While San Francisco is very balanced in offensive and defensive WAR projections, the Giants are at least 5 WAR below the Dodgers in both pitching and defense. For that reason, I can't suggest going with any underdog to win this division for futures odds, and the Dodgers look like the certain pick here to take the NL West.
The Diamondbacks project to have just a tad bit better offensive production than the Padres, yet are facing a bar set by Bovada 11 games higher. The Snakes also have the fourth-best projected offense in the division. For this reason, the Diamondbacks are another very strong 'under' pick for season win totals this year. Last year they were also the third-strongest 'under' call in the projection model. and they ended up going 'under' their 82.5 O/U total by more than 12 games, picking up just 69 wins in 2016.
One thing I like to double-check in these projections is the dependence on a superstar player's WAR value in getting 'over' a win total. For the Dodgers, it turns out they have enough talent on their roster to lose ace Clayton Kershaw and still exceed their O/U total in the betting markets. Just another reason to let it rip on taking the Dodgers to win the division and exceed the O/U total set at 93.5 games this year.