MLB Picks: Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2015 NL West Edition

SBR Staff

Thursday, March 12, 2015 2:03 PM GMT

We turn to sabermetrics to help us project the Season Win Totals for the 5 NL West teams.

In this series of articles we are using one of the most common metrics discussed in sabermetrics, WAR, or Wins Above Replacement to find value on Over/Under betting. How can MLB bettors use this information when making our season win total predictions for the NL West? 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 NL 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 NL West division race.

 

Steamer WAR Projections*

       

Team

Off. WAR

Pitching WAR

  Total

Projected Wins

O/U (Bovada)

Diff.

 

LAD

23.9

15.8

  39.7

90.51

92.5

-1.99

 

SF

21.1

10 

  31.1

82.17

84.5

-2.33

 

COL

19.7

11.4 

  31.1

82.17

71.5

10.67

 

SD

14.2

10.3

  24.5

75.77

84.5

-8.74

 

ARI

14.1

9.1

  23.2

74.50

71.5

3.00

 

                     

*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)

Delta

 

LAD

91

44.6

92.5

-1.5

 

SD

83

29.1

84.5

-1.5

 

SF

82

30.8

84.5

-2.5

 

COL

75

31.9

71.5

3.5

 

ARI

75

25.8

71.5

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 NL West. Let’s break down each team’s win projections:

 

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers pack quite a 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke combining with 8.4 projected WAR. Not only that, their balanced offense features seven players projected at 2 WAR or above! They are definitely a class above the rest of the division, and their projected win totals show it. The odds show it too with the O/U set at 92.5 and their NL West winning odds available at a steep -200 at Bovada. I believe the O/U looks very sharp and the NL West futures don’t provide much value with an experienced team like the Giants lurking. I’d stay away from both.

 

San Francisco Giants: On offense the defending champions lose a projected 3.9 WAR in the departure of Pablo Sandoval and it shows in the projected win totals. Brandon Belt is slated to fill those big shoes as he is projected for 3.3 WAR, a projection which I believe to be optimistic for the notoriously streaky batter. Fan favorite, Hunter Pence, will also have to continue his 2014 breakout campaign for the Giants to have a chance to play in October. Madison Bumgarner anchors a veteran staff projected to be just average. Those veterans include Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain, who are at an age where any pitcher is prone to injury. Only league average pitchers are on the current roster to replace them if one goes down. With the public perception lifting the O/U a bit to 84.5, and both projections signaling Under, that is wear my lean lies as well.

 

San Diego Padres: The Padres hope to improve their atrocious offense with the addition of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers. They’ll need it, as only one other batter outside of that trio is projected by Steamer to have a batting average over .248! There are some pitching aces in their division, not to mention their ‘natural’ interleague rival Seattle, which they are going to really struggle scoring runs against. Speaking of Seattle, it appears as if a third of the Padres 25-man pitching roster are Mariners rejects. The O/U of 84.5 set by most online sportsbooks is a result of the flashy additions on offense, but both projections strongly advise taking the Under. Take advantage of the value here and take Under 84.5 wins with confidence.

 

Colorado Rockies: A stunning result in my analysis here as Colorado is projected to have just as much talent as San Francisco, but the O/U is set 13.5 wins lower! One team of course is the defending champion and the other is coming off of a 66-win season, so public perception is definitely at play here. If super-stud, Troy Tulowitski, stays healthy through the summer Colorado has a chance to stay in the NL West mix for quite some time. Signs point to a strong play on Over 71.5 Wins at Bovada. At +5000 (!) a small bet on the NL West crown may open up some interesting hedging possibilities at the end of the season as well.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks are bad. Really bad. If their roster remained unchanged from 2014 they would, again, be one of the worst teams in baseball. Guess what? Their roster remains mostly unchanged from 2014. It is strange then that they have the same O/U of 71.5 as the Rockies do at Bovada. The Diamondbacks are the consensus WAR-based projection to finish last in the division and are projected to have over seven wins less than the Rockies according to Steamer. The last five seasons’ last place finishers in the NL West had 64, 74, 64, 71, and 65 wins. Reflect on those totals when looking at MLB Odds, and consider again that you can take the superior roster of Colorado above at Over 71.5 wins. The 4th place finisher’s record over the last five seasons? 66, 76, 76, 73, and 80 wins. Avoid the O/U of Arizona and bet on Colorado to get no worse than 4th place in the NL West.