MLB Picks: Sabermetrics Help Calculate American League West Season Win Totals

SBR Staff

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 6:39 PM GMT

Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2015 6:39 PM GMT

The WAR, one of the most used sabermetrics and its usefulness when it comes to finding value on Over/Under betting. How can MLB bettors use this information when making our season win total predictions for the AL West?

Once just a tool used in the belly of the Oakland Coliseum, sabermetrics were quickly adopted by fantasy baseball nerds and GM’s alike. Anything to get an edge in rotisserie leagues or at the trading deadline is and always will be a hot commodity. There is also a good chance that tool has gone mainstream if Brad Pitt will star in a movie about it.

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

Steamer WAR Projections*

       

TEAM

OFFENSE WAR

PITCHING WAR

TOTAL

Projected Wins

O/U (Bovada)

Diff.

SEA

24.3

15.5

39.8

90.61

86.5

4.11

OAK

25.5

11.7

37.2

88.08

81.5

6.58

LAA

26.6

8.9

35.5

86.44

88.5

-2.07

TEX

18.5

10.1

28.6

79.74

77.5

2.24

HOU

18.1

9.8

27.9

79.06

75.5

3.56

*Steamer team win total calculation is based off of the statistical work of sabermetrics expert, Glenn DuPaul.

fWAR Projections (Courtesy of Fangraphs.com)

 

Team

Projected Wins

fWAR

O/U (Bovada)

Diff.

 

 

SEA

87

38.2

86.5

0.5

 

 

LAA

86

37.1

88.5

-2.5

 

 

OAK

83

35.3

81.5

1.5

 

 

HOU

78

31.1

75.5

2.5

 

 

TEX

74

29.2

77.5

-3.5

 

 

 

I used two WAR projection systems to see if they would agree and give us an edge that we could use to make our O/U MLB picks for the AL West. Let’s break down each team’s win projections:

 

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners stand out from the pack in the AL West with their elite pitching depth. The projected ERA of their pitchers ranked 6-10 in WAR on the team is under 3.5! Within this group is Taijuan Walker, only projected for 0.5 WAR, who has looked fantastic this spring and has shown the poise of a veteran. A few breakout performances and the continued success of the likes of Felix Hernandez, and the pitching projections support the idea of a 90+ win team. On offense, the Mariners have made additions (Ex: Nelson Cruz) to now have the luxury of using platoons efficiently. That is opposed to past years where players like Dustin Ackley were given full time roles (now he has veteran Rickie Weeks to take on pitchers from the left side). Both WAR projections place the Mariners Over the 86.5 Win threshold set by the futures market, and I have to agree that is the play here. At current +160 odds to take the AL West at Bovada, a wager on them winning the division seems to have value as well.

 

Los Angeles Angels: Online sportsbooks must pick an O/U number to get equal action by the betting public. Both WAR systems; however, place their win projections firmly under this number set for the public.  One of the reasons for this is the lack of pitching depth on the Angels' roster, and the projected declines in value for Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. On offense the Angels have a ‘WAR hero’ in Mike Trout, projected for 8.6 WAR in 2015! If Trout sprains an ankle this team would have serious trouble fielding a lineup that could compete with the pitching rotation of Seattle. This O/U number of 88.5 is undeserved, and I’d recommend taking a play on the Under.

 

Oakland Athletics: Why am I not surprised that Oakland projects higher than the public perception at the books? We’ve seen this play out before with GM Billy Beane, and this year will not be any different. The A’s lost Josh Donaldson to free agency, signaling to the public fire-sale mode, but they still have surprising offensive depth from a WAR prospective – especially considering the fine defense they play. Combine that with slightly above average pitching in a pitcher friendly park and you have the recipe for an above .500 team again in Oakland. With MLB Odds setting the Over/Under at 81.5, take the Over with confidence.

 

Texas Rangers: While the WAR projections on the Rangers are split in regard to O/U direction, below average pitching in the Texas heat is a recipe for trouble. An aging star in Adrian Beltre leads the team in projected WAR at 5.2. Although a notorious gamer, If Beltre can’t stay healthy for the year this offense won’t put up enough runs to support their sub-par pitching. Injuries have also plagued Texas for the last few years and this spring has been no exception, with pitching star Yu Darvish going down. With three strong teams at the top of the division and everything needing to break right, expect the Rangers to have a hard time staying less than 10 games under .500. I’d lean towards the Under set at 77.5.

 

Houston Astros: Houston has the talent on offense to surprise with their top 8 batters projecting over 1.3 WAR, including last year’s breakouts of Jose Altuve (3.2 WAR) and George Springer (2.5 WAR).  The prospects on pitching; however, are dire. Every 4th and 5th day the Astros will be relying on a replacement level starting pitcher to take the mound. They’ve been stockpiling young arms for some time, but they are still a year or two away from matching the offense in taking that step to the next level. Add that to the fact that their ballpark is a bandbox, and you’ve got a real struggle for the pitching staff. Expect high scoring games in Houston this year, especially when the Angels come to town. The one thing Houston has going for them is that public expectations are low, prompting the books to set a reasonable O/U number of 75.5. Both WAR projections are firmly over this number, and a six game improvement from last season’s effort is not too much to ask. Use the public’s low expectations to find value in the Over set at 75.5.

comment here