MLB Picks: Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2015 AL Central Edition

SBR Staff

Thursday, March 19, 2015 6:06 PM GMT

Thursday, Mar. 19, 2015 6:06 PM GMT

We turn to sabermetrics to help us project the Season Win Totals for the 5 AL Central teams.

In this series of articles we are using one of the most common metrics discussed in sabermetrics, 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 Central 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 Central division race.

 

Steamer WAR Projections*

       

 

Team

Off. WAR

Pitching
WAR

  Total

  Projected Wins

   O/U
   (Bovada)  

Diff.

CLE

21.6

15.1

  36.7

   87.60 

     84.5

3.10

DET

22.4

13.6

  36

   86.92

     84.5

2.42

KC

22.7

11.8

  34.5

   85.47

     80.5

4.97

CWS

16

13.7

  29.7

   80.81

     81.5

-0.69

MIN

17.5

11.6

  29.1

   80.23

     72.5

7.73

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

fWAR Projections (Courtesy of Fangraphs.com)

 

 

Team

Wins

fWAR

O/U (Bovada)

Diff.

Odds to Win Division

DET

84

39.8

84.5

-0.5

+225

CLE

84

38.8

84.5

-0.5

+240

KC

79

35.5

80.5

-1.5

+450

CWS

77

31.5

81.5

-4.5

+225

MIN

74

29.9

72.5

1.5

+1800

               

 

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 Central. Let’s break down each team’s win projections:

 

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers are the slightest of favorites to win the division at +225 even as the back of their pitching rotation has a few question marks. 2011 AL Cy Young Justin Verlander has steadily regressed since putting together that award winning season (6.9 WAR) and comes off a subpar campaign in 2014 (3.3 WAR). Not able to rely on his velocity to simply blow away batters any longer, Verlander showed up to spring training 26 pounds heavier in an attempt to reinvent himself as the crafty veteran.  A great deal of pitching deficiencies can be covered up with offensive firepower though and the Tigers have just that. Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes are featured in their deep lineup. With an O/U set at 84.5 at Bovada, and both projections systems split on the lean, this futures line looks very sharp and bettors would be wise to avoid it. If we consider that the AL Central looks to be a two horse race, and the Tigers have the better roster over Cleveland in projected WAR, a bet on +225 to win the division has some value.

 

Cleveland Indians: The Indians rotation features breakout performer and 2014 AL Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber and the Indians couldn’t agree on a long term deal over the winter and he is signed to just a one year arbitration deal setting up big payday. As he doesn’t yet have 3 years of service his base salary is just $550k! That is by far the cheapest projected 4.4 WAR in the league. On offense the Indians have the surprising Michael Brantley, fresh off of a breakout 6.6 WAR 2014 season. He’s projected for some steep regression though at just 3.2 WAR. Like Detroit, both projection systems are split on the O/U of 84.5 at Bovada indicating a very sharp line.

 

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox appear to have the greatest futures value in the division with the O/U set at 81.5 by most online sportsbooks. Both projection systems have the team coming in Under this number. And trouble is already brewing with an injured Chris Sale (projected 5.3 WAR) ‘possibly’ making his April 12th start. If you take Sale out of the White Sox rotation they become one of the worst teams in the league in regards to projected pitching WAR. Outside of stud Jose Abreu, the White Sox do not have the offensive firepower to overcome below average pitching. Their below average fielding defense also doesn’t help the pitching staff either. It could get ugly in Chicago this summer and I’d recommend taking the Under of 81.5 with confidence.

 

Kansas City Royals: The surprising 2014 AL Champions bring back their team mostly unchanged this spring, and why not? Without many question marks in the lineup, the only real question is if last year was a fluke. The team is definitely not short on chemistry. An aspect of this is outlined in the projections with superb fielding defense supporting a just slightly above average pitching staff. This allows pitch-to-contact pitchers such as Jason Vargas to over perform. Our two projection systems are split on a possible lean with the O/U set at 80.5. This appears to be a sharp line and the betting public isn’t buying the idea of a repeat performance to inflate it any higher.

 

Minnesota Twins: 2014 saw Phil Hughes finally living up to the expectations bestowed upon him in Yankee pinstripes, putting up 6.1 WAR.  But the improvements didn’t end there as the entire pitching staff improved on nearly every statistical category. The addition of Ervin Santana should keep the trend of pitching improvement going in 2015. The offense doesn’t have anyone projected for more than Brian Dozier’s 2.8 WAR according to Steamer, with Joe Mauer close behind. However, it’s defense behind the pitching that is a main concern, as the Twins were 27th in the league in defense in 2014 and added fan favorite Torii Hunter to be their starting right fielder in 2015. According to defensive metrics, Torii Hunter was the worst defender in all of baseball last year. Regardless of the poor defense, both projection systems have the Twins putting up more wins than the O/U set at 72.5. It doesn’t look too unreasonable for the Twins to surpass this number when looking at MLB Odds so I’d agree there is value on the Over.

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