Using Sabermetrics to Predict Team Wins: 2017 NL Central Edition

Mark Lathrop

Thursday, March 9, 2017 7:25 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 9, 2017 7:25 PM UTC

Introduced in the 2015 season, my method of predicting 'over/under' season win totals using sabermetrics projection systems has proven very profitable. Read on as we discuss the results of this year's projections for the NL Central.

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

Likely Last-Place Reds Worth 'Over' Bet

With the Cubs coming off of a World Series win, it is no surprise to see them at steep -500 division odds here. Their projected win total in my model is pushing 100 games, yet with their O/U season total sitting at 95.5 that ends up being a pass for me. The Cubs are projected to be 13 games better than anyone else in the NL Central, so if you like taking steep odds for your division pick -- have at it.

The only two strong O/U win total plays in the NL Central starts with the team projected to be at the bottom of the standings in the Cincinnati Reds. Even with the optimistic model, the Reds appear to have more than enough talent to clear 70.5 games on the season. They have four starting pitchers projected to put up more than 1 WAR, led by Anthony DeSclafani at a projected 2.5 WAR.

The 'under' call in the model for this division is for the St. Louis Cardinals. The model picked them to go 'under' their win total in 2016 and they did by 1.5 games. The bar is lower this year, as they only have to clear 84.5 wins to go 'over' their total. The Cardinals have a solid pitching staff and a pretty good lineup but they are nowhere close to that of the Cubs and should essentially split with the Pirates over the year. The Cards will also have a problem with starting pitching depth should any of their starters go down (top prospect Alex Reyes, a projected starter, already has been lost for the season). I’ve said it before, but a down year for St. Louis is finishing near .500 and that looks to be the case in 2017.

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