Using Sabermetrics to Predict 2016 NL West Season Win Totals

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:31 PM GMT

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016 6:31 PM GMT

Our baseball Handicapper is back with his successful system of using sabermetrics to project team win totals against O/U MLB betting lines. Read on as he breaks down the NL 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 and personal MLB picks for the league. 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 NL West using 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.

 

2016 Projections

TEAM

Projected WAR

Steamer Projected Wins

O/U (Bovada)

Diff.

Lean

LAD

47.9

98.46

88.5

9.96

Over

COL

25.3

76.54

70.5

6.04

Over

SD

26.3

77.51

73.5

4.01

Pass

SF

39

89.83

89.5

0.33

Under

ARI

29.8

80.91

82.5

-1.59

Under

 

San Francisco Giants
Steamer projections correctly picked that San Francisco would win under 84.5 games last year, just barely, as the Giants won 84 games in 2015. This season Bovada has upped the ante quite a bit, posting an O/U win total of 89.5. My threshold puts that in a category where I am leaning towards the 'Under'. San Francisco is also favored to win the division this year with +125 odds.

San Francisco’s chances of winning the division and getting to 90 wins is resting on the shoulders of newly acquired Johnny Cueto (3.5 WAR) and Jeff Samardzija (2.4 WAR). If either one of those free agent arms fails to live up to expectations the Giants don’t have the depth to keep up with a 90 win pace. Add to that the always present chance that aging veterans Jake Peavy and Matt Cain go down to injury, and the 'Under' lean makes more sense in the MLB odds boards.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers were another team in which the Steamer projection was correct in picking the Under, as the team came in just under the 92.5 game line in 2015. This 2016 team has a projected win total much higher, and a solid lean 'Over' the 88.5 win-total put up at Bovada. The division odds of +150 looks to have great value this season as well.

Unlike the Angels, the Dodgers have two players with huge WAR projections that would have to go down for the team to be at risk to fall short of expectations. Those would be the super stars Clayton Kershaw (7.3 WAR) and Yasiel Puig (4.2 WAR). Given that Colorado, San Diego, and Arizona are projected to be under .500, those wins have to go somewhere in the division. Look for them to go to Los Angeles and for their win total to exceed 90 games in 2016.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks
Steamer projections correctly picked that the Diamondbacks would exceed their 71.5 O/U total, as they won 79 games on the year. Their 2016 O/U bar has thus been set higher at 82.5 for the 2016 season over at Bovada, while the division odds has been set at +300. The system indicates a lean towards the 'Under' is the way to go in 2016.

Arizona was the winners of the offseason free agent pitcher lottery, signing Zack Greinke (4.2 WAR) to be the ace of their rotation. It is the back of the rotation; however, that is full of pitchers that will have to step up a notch for Arizona to pass the Giants and Dodgers. We’ve also got Patrick Corbin (2.5 WAR) in a second year after Tommy John surgery as a #2. The Diamondbacks also only have 4 batters in their lineup that are projected as every day starters by Steamer. Take 'Under' 82.5 at Bovada and stay away from the division wager.

 

San Diego Padres
The Padres were one of the locks indicated by the projection system last year, as they were projected to win almost 9 less games than the 84.5 O/U total listed at Bovada. They ended up winning only 74 games in 2015, as the wager was won by July. The shift in public perception because of last season has the bar set much lower this season, with an O/U sitting at 73.5. That total is close enough to the projections that I’m going to take a pass on the O/U, not to mention suggesting that bettors stay away from the division odds.

 

Colorado Rockies
Colorado was the other side of the coin as compared to the Padres, as they were picked to win just 71.5 games at Bovada, but Steamer had them projected at 82. The strong 'Over' lean fell flat on its face as the Rockies won only 68 games in 2015. This year, the Rockies have an even lower bar at Bovada with the O/U set at 70.5 games. That puts the lean solidly in the Over category again.

The Rockies suffer from some bad roster construction, but they still have a pitching staff that is projected to put up just as much WAR as the Diamondbacks, who are being asked to win 12 more games in O/U terms. They also have one of the best 3B in the MLB in Nolan Arenado, and he shouldn’t have an issue putting up his projected 4.3 WAR. The floor is set pretty low here, and an Over wager is worth a flier at least.

Must Read: National League Schedule Strenght Analysis

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