Using Sabermetrics to Predict 2016 AL Central Edition Wins

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:05 PM GMT

Our Handicapper brings back his successful method of using sabermetrics to compare projected win totals to the O/U futures markets. Read on as he breaks down the AL Central MLB odds!

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 record projections for the AL Central using 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.

 

2016 Projections

TEAM

Projected WAR

Steamer Projected Wins

O/U (Bovada)

Diff.

Lean

CLE

37.8

88.67

84.5

4.17

Pass

MIN

29.5

80.62

78.5

2.12

Pass

CWS

31.5

82.56

80.5

2.06

Pass

DET

31.5

82.56

81.5

1.06

Under

KC

31.6

82.65

85.5

-2.85

Under

 

Kansas City Royals
Steamer projected that the 2015 Kansas City Royals would exceed their O/U total of 80.5 by 5 games, and they went ahead and cleared that by 15 games. This year, the line has been increased to 85.5 games at Bovada, while the odds to win the division are nearly even money. With the projection model coming in under 83 games, there is a significant lean on the 'Under'. The division odds also seem out of whack for the projected win totals presented.

Kansas City’s projection model is showing the greatest difference between expected wins and the O/U line. Going to the World Series will skew public perception and effect the win total a sports book has to produce to get even action. There are a few batters that are to be looked at in taking a drop in production though, off of career years, and those are Lorenzo Cain (3.5 WAR), Alex Gordon (3.8 WAR), and Kendrys Morales (0.7 WAR). But the real issue is that there is only pitcher on the roster projected to be worth more than 2 WAR – Yordana Ventura. Take 'Under' 85.5 games for the season and stay away from the division wager.

 

Cleveland Indians
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 odds to win the division. For that reason, the team is highly ranked in the MLB picks and 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 pick to take the AL Central.

 

Detroit Tigers
Detroit had a disappointing 2015, as they failed to live up to their projections and went against their over 84.5 O/U lean in winning only 74 games. This year the bar has been set a bit lower, with the O/U season win total sitting at 81.5 at Bovada. The projection model indicates the drop in the O/U line may not have been enough, and a wager on the Under has value.

Although Detroit possesses an offensive attack that is in the top half of the MLB, their pitching staff is projected to have the 2nd worst WAR in the entire MLB. The Tigers only have four pitchers on their entire roster that are projected to be worth 1 WAR or more. I know Comerica park is spacious, but the Tigers do have to play half of their games on the road after all. Take the 'Under' on the Tigers in 2016 season.

 

Chicago White Sox
Steamer projections correctly predicted that the White Sox would win less than 81.5 games in 2015, but the model this year suggests a pass is the way to go. The White Sox are predicted to be about .500 this year, in a division in which none of the teams are projected to be 4 games over or under .500. That could be an interesting proposition for a 6:1 division wager.

The issue with the White Sox is that they are projected to have the 27th ranked offense as measured by WAR. You do have Detroit, Kansas City, and Minnesota having relatively weak pitching staffs though, so there is some room for a breakout season or two in the aggregate. We are looking at names like Austin Jackson (1.1 WAR) and Melky Cabrera (0.9 WAR) here. If you are a homer, take a nibble at the +600 MLB odds of the division, otherwise pass on the Pale Hose.

 

Minnesota Twins
Steamer projections also nailed the surprise success of the Twins in 2015, correctly picking that they would win more than 72.5 games, as they came in just over the projection in winning 83 games. This season, Steamer projections are relatively unchanged, yet the O/U total has caught up to the talent level of the Twins at 78.5 at Bovada. They do have the least amount of wins projected in the division though, which gives credence to the Twins having the steepest odds to win the division at +1000.

While the Twins have the makings of a budding superstar in Miguel Sano (3.2 WAR), their pitching is the essence of mediocrity. They’ve only got two pitchers that are projected to turn in more than 2 WAR, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes. In this case, the O/U number looks pretty sharp and the division odds are not worth your time. Check out the whole list of MLS Betting Futures to check the lines for the whole league.

Must Read: American League Futures Odds Update

 

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