Our expert MLB handicapper discusses how his preseason sabermetrics projections for team wins performed in predicting Division winners in the MLB futures markets.
In a previous article, I described the continued success of a model using sabermetrics to predict team wins against the futures markets – a system pushing 70% in some respects. In this article, let’s look at how the system did as the predictive indicator for Division and League winners, including the preseason data and narratives.
The sabermetrics model picked 2 out of the 3 division winners this year in the American League, Boston, and Cleveland, with the exception being the AL West. In that division, the model incorrectly continued the Houston Astro’s success from 2015. The model also clearly pegged Toronto as playoff worthy at a projected 89.35 wins – and they won 89 games.
Cleveland was the banner pick of the system, projected to win the AL Central by 6 games while the available odds had a great payout of +250.
“Cleveland (+250) – Cleveland’s projection last year would have suggested a pass was prudent, as the slightly over 84.5 games O/U lean came in slightly under the mark at 81 games. This year is roughly the same regarding the O/U total, although even if I would pass on the O/U wager they do have the best projected MLB odds to win the division. For that reason, there is some value here at +250 on a wager on the Indians to take the AL Central.
The Indians have all of the makings of a team that could come out of nowhere to win their projected 88 games, as they have great starting pitching projected in Corey Kluber (5.0 WAR), Carlos Carrasco (4.7 WAR), and Danny Salazar (3.2 WAR). They are also strong up the middle on offense with SS Francisco Lindor (3.5 WAR) and 2B Jason Kipnis (2.5 WAR). The Indians are my value MLB pick to take the AL Central.”
This is where it gets a little crazy, as the projection system nailed all 5 National League playoff contenders! The only hiccup in the prediction was that the system valued the Mets higher than the Nats, and Washington ended up taking the NL East with the Mets taking the Wild Card. The Cubs and Dodgers were predicted to run away with their respective divisions and they did just that. Funny how Yasiel Puig did underperform and the Dodgers won the division anyway.
“Los Angeles Dodgers (+150) – The Dodgers were another team in which the Steamer projection was correct in picking the Under, as the team came in just under the 92.5 game line in 2015. This 2016 team has a projected win total much higher, and a solid lean Over the 88.5 win-total put up at Bovada. The division odds of +150 looks to have great value this season as well.
Unlike the Angels, the Dodgers have two players with huge WAR projections that would have to go down for the team to be at risk to fall short of expectations. Those would be the super stars Clayton Kershaw (7.3 WAR) and Yasiel Puig (4.2 WAR). Given that Colorado, San Diego, and Arizona are projected to be under .500, those wins have to go somewhere in the division. Look for them to go to Los Angeles and for their win total to exceed 90 games in 2016.”
“Chicago Cubs (-150) – Steamer was correct in indicating that the Cubs would exceed the 82.5 O/U line last year, as they went on to win 97 games. This year, the line has jumped by 10 games at Bovada, to an impressive 92.5 game hurdle. That is the highest win total posted on the board for any MLB team this year. As such, the Cubs are favored to win the division with -150 odds.
The Cubs have an envious collection of superstars, with 5 players projected to accrue more than 4 WAR over the season. There are clubs that don’t have one player that will be worth more than 4 WAR this year in the MLB. That depth will allow Chicago to beat up on teams like Milwaukee, who know they don’t have what it takes to compete so are saving payroll for a better day. The team that will win the NL Central will win a ton of games, and right now there isn’t a reason to believe that won’t be the Cubs.”
I look forward to bringing refreshing the model for 2017 and bringing you guys more winning MLB futures picks!