Using Sabermetrics to Predict 2016 AL West Season Win Totals

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 7:13 PM GMT

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016 7:13 PM GMT

The Handicapper is back with his successful method of using sabermetrics to find value in the league futures odds. Read on as he breaks down the MLB picks in the AL West!

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 West using Steamer and see if we can’t uncover some betting value when compared to the season O/U futures and the overall AL West diviwsion race.

 

2016 Projections:

TEAM

Projected WAR

Steamer Projected Wins

O/U (Bovada)

Diff.

Lean

OAK

30.4

81.49

75.5

5.99

Over

SEA

34.7

85.66

82.5

3.16

Pass

LAA

32.4

83.43

81.5

1.93

Under

HOU

38.4

89.25

87.5

1.75

Under

TEX

31.7

82.75

84.5

-1.75

Under

 

Houston Astros
Steamer based projections correctly picked that Houston would exceed 75.5 games last year, as they won 86 games on their way to a playoff berth. Now the bar has been set considerably higher, and as the AL West frontrunners at +160 to win the division, the season O/U is 87.5. My method has placed value on an under wager here on the O/U, but a division win is still not out of the question.

Players that are at risk for regressing and not performing up to WAR expectations are OF Carlos Gomez (3.1 WAR), 3B Luis Valbuena (1.6 WAR), SP Collin McHugh (2.6 WAR), and SP Doug Fister (1.2 WAR). Any one of these players not playing up to their past performances, or an injury, even for a few weeks, of SP Dallas Keuchel (4.8 WAR) or SS Carlos Correa (4.4 WAR) and the Astros should stay short of the steep 87.5 game O/U at Bovada.

 

Texas Rangers
Steamer projections correctly picked that Texas would exceed 77.5 games last year, as they came from nowhere to win 88 games. This year, the Rangers’ O/U total has been set at 84.5, while the odds to take the division again are +350 at BetOnline.

Steamer projections this year indicate an Under lean is the way to go, with a projected win total just under 83 games. A few players are picked to decline in production this year, such as Shin-Soo Choo, who is projected at just 1.6 WAR for 2016 after picking up 3.5 in 2015. Choo will turn 34 in July so that decline isn’t too hard to rationalize. The Texas rotation is good, but not deep. The 5th man in the rotation is Colby Lewis, projected for 0.6 WAR in 2016. An injury to any of the top 4 starters would be devastating for Texas.

 

Los Angeles Angels
Steamer projections correctly picked that the Angels would not win more than 88.5 games last year, and this year my method also indicates a lean on the Under is prudent. The O/U at Bovada has been set at 81.5 games, while the odds to win the division are set at +375.

The Los Angeles Trouts without Mike Trout's 9.0 WAR project a win total just above the Atlanta Braves. For reference, the Braves have an O/U listed this year at 66.5 games. Unfortunately for Angels fans, they are going to have a lost season or two with the best player in baseball on their team. Reminds me a lot of some Seattle Mariners seasons in the early 90’s with Ken Griffey Jr. One player on offense can’t fix the Angels pitching woes either. Take the under here and don’t waste your time on the division wager of the MLB picks.

 

Seattle Mariners
Steamer projected Seattle would win over 90 games last year and over the 86.5-win total at Bovada, but they disappointed bettors by coming in short and winning 76 games. This year Steamer has the Mariners coming in at about 85 wins, and with the O/U total set at 82.5, the projection model doesn’t have a strong enough indication to make a play either way. Give new GM Jerry DiPoto one year to establish a trend before wagering on the future of the Mariners.

 

Oakland Athletics
Steamer projected Oakland would win 88 games last year, and with their 68 games won, they went well under the 81.5 O/U threshold that Bovada had put up. An outlier for the projection model for sure. This year the lean is strongly on the 'Over', as the projection model has the Athletics clearing the 75.5 game O/U hurdle by six games.

As with any Billy Beane team, the Athletics have a good shot in any year to over perform. An Over win here will depend on the continuance of pitchers’ Rich Hill’s and Jesse Hahn’s success, and Josh Reddick will have to repeat his 3 WAR performance from 2015. The A’s are your typical perennial near-.500 team, which would win in the MLB odds boards with an 'Over' bet.

Must Read: Sabermetrics to Predict 2016 NL West Season Win Totals

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