Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2015 NL East Edition

SBR Staff

Saturday, April 4, 2015 6:18 PM UTC

Saturday, Apr. 4, 2015 6:18 PM UTC

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

*Steamer WAR Projections

 Team OFF. WAR Pitching WAR Total Projected Wins O/U (Bovada) Diff. WAS 24.7 18.3 43 93.71 93.5 0.21 MIA 16.9 12.9 29.8 80.91 82.5 -1.59 NYM 15.5 9.5 25 76.25 81.5 -5.25 ATL 11.2 10.1 21.3 72.66 73.5 -0.84 PHI 8.3 7.2 15.5 67.04 67.5 -0.47

*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 WAS 93 46.2 93.5 -0.5 -400 MIA 81 32.1 82.5 -1.5 +600 NYM 81 29.8 81.5 -0.5 +600 ATL 73 23.6 73.5 -0.5 +2500 PHI 69 19.7 67.5 1.5 +5000

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

Washington Nationals: The Nationals have put together one of the better pitching staffs in recent memory. Their offense is not only good at the plate, but as a whole have consistent above average defensive metrics – which makes the pitching even stronger to beat. The one batter of note with negative defensive metrics, Jayson Werth, is projected to be back by opening day after injury rehab this spring. His replacement until then could be newly acquired former Met, Matt den Dekker, who plays much better defense and is not much of a drop off from a WAR prospective. The lofty win projections for the Nats can be boiled down to this: they have the #1 projected pitching staff by WAR going against the #24, #26, #30, and #31 projected offenses in the MLB. The offense won’t be asked to do much to win games in a weak NL East. With the division odds listed at -400, Vegas also agrees on the competition. I wouldn’t advise tying up your bankroll for that long in a futures bet with that little return though, and I'm instead leaning towards the Over of 93.5, as NL East champions have not won less than 96 games the last 5 years.

Miami Marlins: Maybe we should ask Marlins’ starting pitcher Jarred Cosart about his thoughts regarding their chances this year. Cosart is currently being investigated for wagering on sports, which is not against MLB rules, as long as it is not on MLB of course. Cosart and his projected 0.7 WAR, along with the rest of the Marlins pitching staff, will have to over perform their expectations if they are to get above .500 this year. The good news is that the Marlins locked up Giancarlo Stanton for the long haul. Stanton is coming off of a 6 WAR season and is projected to be the 3rd most valuable offensive player in the MLB. The Marlins’ problem on offense is depth, and if any one of Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich, or Prado go down they are in trouble. With both projected totals very close to the O/U total of 82.5, I’ll pass on the Marlins.

New York Mets: Teams in the bottom 5 of pitching WAR in the MLB usually don’t flirt with .500, yet here we are with the Mets and an O/U of 81.5. It’s basically Matt Harvey (3.3 WAR) and everyone else in the Mets rotation. An exception to this rule last year was the Orioles, who had an offense 13 games better by WAR than what the Mets are projected to have this year. The Mets know their weakness though and have made recent trades to bolster the bullpen. With a roster markedly worse than Washington and Miami, and both projections Under the total of 81.5, that is where the betting value lies as well.

Atlanta Braves: The Braves had hopes in 2014 until September when they went on to win only 7 games in the month.That triggered a change at GM and a full blown fire sale. As a result, the Braves have some good young prospects who should assist in a rebuilding process that could peak with the opening of their new stadium in 2017. Still on the team now and 2014 standout Julio Teheran (1.8 WAR) is projected for regression. After pitching 222 innings last year you might expect that it would come simply by having his arm fall off. The modest O/U line of 73.5 in the MLB odds is within the margin of error of both projections, so I’d stay away.

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are projected to have the worst roster in the MLB by 4 to 5 games according to both WAR projection systems. Vegas knows it too, and has set the O/U line at 67.5, the only line in the 60’s. In the past five years, 3, 5, 4, 2, and 5 teams have won less than 67.5 games in a season, respectively. Count the Phillies to be one of them in 2015 and take Under 67.5. The only real question is if they will win one game against the Nationals this year.

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