Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2015 AL East Edition

SBR Staff

Saturday, April 4, 2015 5:25 PM GMT

We turn to sabermetrics to help us project the Season Win Totals for the 5 AL East 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 East 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 East division race.

 

*Steamer WAR Projections

Team

Off. WAR

Pitching
WAR

Total

Projected Wins

O/U
(Bovada)

Diff.

BOS

30.3

14.2

44.5

95.17

86.5

8.66

NYY

19.4

14.6

34

84.98

81.5

3.48

TOR

23.3

10.5

33.8

84.79

83.5

1.29

BAL

23.8

9.2

33

84.01

82.5

1.51

TB

19.9

12.4

32.3

83.33

78.5

4.83

*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

BOS

86

43.7

86.5

-0.5

+175

TOR

83

39.6

83.5

-0.5

+300

TB

82

34.1

78.5

3.5

+700

NYY

82

38.4

81.5

0.5

+450

BAL

79

34.7

82.5

-3.5

+350

 

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

Click Here to Revisit Our AL East Total Wins

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox made a big splash in free agency with the additions of Pablo Sandoval (3.7 WAR) and Hanley Ramirez (3.3 WAR) over the winter. With those two, five batters have a chance at hitting 20 HR’s or more on the Red Sox roster. Newcomer Mookie Betts, has all of 52 games of MLB experience behind him, but is still projected at 3.6 WAR. He is such an important piece for Boston’s future that they are looking to sign him to an extension, even though he is already under team control through 2020. David Ortiz is being asked to be just above average at 1.9 WAR – playing at Fenway for half of his games definitely helps. Although the offense is one of the best in the MLB, the pitching staff already has question marks this spring, including a closer-by-committee approach until Koji Uehara returns from a hamstring injury. Projected 5th starter, Joe Kelly, is also injured. The Red Sox will have to either make a trade or hope a prospect can fill that spot to the tune of the 1.1 WAR that Kelly was projected to produce. Even with the questions in pitching, the Red Sox have purchased the best projected roster in the AL East. Considering that no AL East team has won the division with fewer than 86.5 wins since 1995, it looks as if taking the Red Sox +175 to win the division, and Over 86.5 wins in the MLB odds, has some value.

 

New York Yankees: The Captain has finally hung up his cleats and retired, leaving the Yankees to find their new identity. Starting pitching could be a strong suit with Michael Pineda coming back from injury in 2015. If Pineda is able to put up his projected 2.5 WAR, along with solid performances from CC Sabathia (2.5 WAR) and Masahiro Tanaka (4.1 WAR), not only could the Yankees slip into a playoff spot, they would possess a fine 7-game series rotation. On offense, the Bronx Bombers have had a tough time replacing the steady bat of Robinson Cano, now with Seattle. Third to last in the last two years in overall offense, the Yankees will need to get some type of performance out of projected 39 year-old DH Alex Rodriguez, weak-wristed Mark Tiexeira (batted .179 after the All-Star Break last year), and a 38 year-old Carlos Beltran. Jacoby Ellsbury (3.5 WAR) and Chase Headley (3.5 WAR) are great pieces to a lineup, but they won’t be able to pick up that much slack. At an O/U of 81.5 games, and projections close to par, I’d pass on both of the O/U and the division odds for the Yanks.

 

Toronto Blue Jays: Before we get too far, I’ll clarify that starting pitcher Marcus Stroman and his 2014 3.3 WAR is already out of these projections. He was projected for another repeat performance in 2015 before tearing his ACL and going under the knife. Josh Donaldson is the biggest addition on offense over the winter, and the biggest contributor too, with a projected 5.5 WAR. Catcher Russell Martin went from defense to ‘defence’ in his move to Canada, and is still projected for 3 WAR. Mariners castoff’s Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak will also try to contribute for the Blue Jays with fresh starts. It would be wise to take Smoak’s projected contributions of 0.7 WAR with a grain of salt, but Saunders (1.6 WAR) could play very well if he can stay healthy. That has yet to be determined though, as he has already had a run-in with a sprinkler head that cost him his spring training. With 84 wins last year, and an O/U of 83.5, Vegas is predicting status quo from the Blue Jays. I’m tempted to lean towards Under 83.5 wins; however, as I think at some point knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey will not be able to sustain his level of performance, and come under his projected 1.9 WAR for 2015.

 

Balitmore Orioles: Starting pitching was fantastic for the Orioles last year, but is projected to regress significantly. Some of those pitching statistics definitely can be attributed to the sub-par offense of division foes (see: Yankees). Zach Britton (0.6) WAR and Darren O’Day (0.5 WAR), fresh off of sub-2 ERA campaigns in 2014, are also projected to regress. Add to that very little additions on offense, and the removal of 2014 HR champ Nelson Cruz, and you have manager Buck Showalter crossing his fingers for another repeat of catching lightning in a bottle. I guess the bigger picture has more to do not with what the team itself did, but with Toronto and Boston making significant additions to their lineups in what is always a competitive AL East. With the projections split against the O/U, I’m looking at the very below league average projected pitching WAR as my guide to lean towards the Under of 82.5.

 

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays’ biggest offseason loss may have been manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs. In his place is local product Kevin Cash, who will become the youngest manager in MLB. The Rays also offloaded stars David Price, Wil Myers, and Ben Zobrist over the last year in an attempt to rebuild their system with low cost talent. Some of that talent is already sidelined by injury, such as Drew Smyly, who came over in the trade for David Price. On the bright side, still anchoring the offense is super-stud Evan Longoria, who is projected for 5.5 WAR. The Rays have built from within before, but it appears they are still a year or two out from contention. In a comparative argument, the Rays are projected to have the least talented roster in the AL East and have the longest odds of winning the division. With the last place AL East team producing 64, 66, 69, 69, and 74 wins over the last 5 years, I would lean heavily towards Under a season total of 78.5 wins for the Rays.