Capper Uses Sabermetrics to Predict 2016 AL East Season Win Totals

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:49 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2016 2:49 PM UTC

Our Handicapper is back with his method of using sabermetrics to predict win totals against O/U MLB odds. Read on as he breaks down the AL East!

Introduced in the 2015 season, my method of predicting O/U season win totals using two sabermetrics projection systems proved very profitable. 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 the league average. It’s such a popular metric that there are many versions of calculating and projecting it, such as fWAR (i.e. Fangraphs WAR) and Steamer. 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.

This season, I’m only using the Steamer projection system to create my win-loss totals projections. While the fWAR projections cashed over 66% of the time (20-10), there wasn’t a trend in which direction the system was stronger in. However, the Steamer projection system was stellar in indicating teams that would come in below their O/U win total (8-1 or 88.8%). Since the Steamer projections were across the board more bullish than the other systems, this year I’m including results that come within 2 games as “Under” leans. Given this same method last year the Unders would have cashed at a rate of 73.3%.

Let’s take a look at the season MLB picks and 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.


2016 Projections


Projected WAR

Steamer Projected Wins

O/U (Bovada)


































Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox were the big disappointment, both to their fans and to the Steamer projections last year on their win totals. They were predicted to win 95 games, well over the 86.5 O/U total, yet came in with just 78 wins. This year, Bovada has the O/U total at the same 86.5 games and Steamer still projects Boston to win more than 90 games this year. And even though the O/U total isn’t the highest in the division, they still have the best odds to win it because of the public.

Boston’s season came off the rails last year as they stuck too long with Pablo Sandoval and he turned in a -2.0 WAR season… the worst in the majors. That was 5 wins lower than any of his previous seasons. This season, Sandoval is projected to put up 1.6 WAR, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If Boston can get any kind of production out of their beleaguered first baseman, they should be competitive in the AL East, but given the competitive nature of the division, I’m tempted to go against the model this time around.


Toronto Blue Jays
Steamer correctly predicted that Toronto would win more than 83.5 games last year, and this year Bovada has bumped up their O/U hurdle to 87.5 wins. The projection model and my adjustment creates a slight lean to the 'under' for this season's MLB odds for the Blue Jays.

Don’t get me wrong, the Blue Jays should mash this year behind the bats of Josh Donaldson (6.1 WAR), Jose Bautista (3.6 WAR), Russell Martin (3.4 WAR), and Troy Tulowitzki (3.2 WAR). However, the fact that the Blue Jays only have one pitcher on their roster predicted to be worth more than 2 WAR is troubling. Toronto should lose enough 10-8 games to give some value to under 87.5 games this year.


New York Yankees
Steamer thought that the Yankees were more than a .500 team in 2015, and they were right as they won 87 games. This year, the Yankees are projected to win 88 games, over the 85.5 O/U listed at Bovada. The odds of the Yankees winning the division have been placed at +350.

The Yankees have only one pitcher projected to throw more than 180 innings this year by Steamer, and that is Masahiro Tanaka (3.7 WAR). That is an issue that will prevent me from making a pick on their chances against the O/U. However, the aging batters of the Yankees may just have enough left in the tank to put together a pretty decent lineup day in and day out. The value pick on the AL East champion when looking at the projections is the New York Yankees.


Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles were projected to be just above .500 according to Steamer last year, and they came in just short with 81 wins. The O/U was set at 82.5 so the over lean was a loss. This year, the Orioles are again projected to be just above .500 in the optimistic Steamer system, compared to the Bovada O/U listed at 79.5 wins. I’m inclined to pass on both the O/U and the division odds wager.

Like Toronto, Baltimore’s weakness is in their starting pitching where they only have one player projected to put up more than 2 WAR. That is a serious problem in the AL East, where high profile free agent sluggers abound. Manny Machado (6.2 WAR) anchors an offense that will keep Baltimore in games, but their pitching staff will hold them back overall this year.


Tampa Bay Rays
Steamer correctly predicted that Tampa Bay would win more than 78.5 games last year, as they won 80 games on the season. This year Bovada has their O/U set at 81.5 games and the Steamer projections have a strong lean over that amount.

The Tampa Bay offense gets most of its projected WAR value through solid field defense, which will serve to back a budding young pitching rotation. Chris Archer (4.1 WAR) is a bona fide stud and 25-year old Erasmo Ramirez (1.3 WAR) is a breakout candidate as a late rotation starter. Take over 81.5 games for Tampa as they have enough talent to win outside the competitive division and finish over .500. 


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