Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2017 AL West Edition

mike trout

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 7:46 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 15, 2017 7:46 PM UTC

Introduced in the 2015 season, my method of predicting O/U season win totals using sabermetrics projection systems has proven very profitable. Today, we discuss the results of projections for the AL West. 

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 a replacement level player. 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.

I have narrowed down my WAR projection system of choice to Steamer over at FanGraphs, and because it is a bit optimistic I am raising the bar 3 games against futures lines for my 'under' calls. Using this method, 'under' calls cashed at 88% in 2015 and 69% in 2016. Using a buffer of 5 games, 'over, calls cashed at 63% last year. Anything in between is a pass for me.

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 division race.

Angels A Lucky Angler Away From Disaster

The Angels are the strong 'over' call in this division according to my model, but when looking at what aggregates their projected WAR you see just how precarious their position is. That is because Mike Trout is projected to put up 8.3 WAR in 2017, nearly 40% of the value of the entire Angels offensive roster. When you remove Trout, the Angels in turn are the 3rd strongest 'under' call in all of the MLB in my model. Without Trout, you have a team with an offense just above Oakland, or 2nd worst in the AL West, and the worst pitching staff in the division, too. Actually, the Angels have the worst pitching staff in the division with Trout in the lineup. Either way, the injury risk here is too much for me to suggest taking the Angels over the total of 79.5 at Bovada.

One of the 'over' calls from last year in the Oakland A’s repeats itself in 2017, as they have a middling roster that probably didn’t cost them much in payroll. The bar gets lowered 2 games this year vs. last when that 'over' call failed to cash with 69 games won, and nothing really sticks out as to why they can’t get it done. Their pitching staff (ace Sonny Gray is already hurt) projects within a win of the Angels and Rangers, who have much higher bars to clear for games won at Bovada.

The Astros are a pass for my model ... barely, but the AL West is theirs to lose. A wager on them to take the division is much better spent than money on the Rangers or Mariners.

The Rangers were a huge anomaly last year as they won 95 games after being projected to win 82.75. The only other team that had a result as different from their projected total was the Twins, who won only 59 games, more than 20 below their projection. Oakland, L.A. and Houston all underperformed in division last year and the wins went to Texas. Since a deviation from the projection that large occurs at a rate of about 6%, I’m happy to take the Rangers 'under' this year and for them to return to earth.  

My home team Mariners should challenge for a Wild-Card berth, but everything will have to go right for them to do so. Like the Mets, their 'under' lean is the strongest in the model. I’ll definitely take Seattle to win 'under' 88.5 games this year, and if that wager loses my team is likely in the playoffs, and I’m happy anyway.

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