This may go down as the nerdiest baseball article that I ever write for this blog, but probably not as this will lead to more articles like this. My father in-law sent me an article a few weeks ago about how game 16-20 of the baseball season is when you can really predict the outcome of the season with some degree of accuracy.
This theory comes from the biggest baseball nerds, The Baseball Prospectus boys, and is covered in their latest book, EXTRA INNINGS More Baseball Between the Numbers from the Team at Baseball Prospectus. I adore this type of theory, not sure why, but it must go hand-in-hand with my love for baseball. That being said, I purchased the book, and immediately read the chapter, “When Does a Hot Start Become Real?”
I’m going to try to get to the gist of it to avoid boring many, but basically with the average wins and losses set at .500, you can accurately predict the end of season records of MLB teams within 8-games at game 16 according to the book. This formula (Current W%× 50% + .500 × 50% = W%) was derived using all seasons since 1962 when the 162-game schedule was adopted by both leagues. The strike-shortened seasons were excluded from the formula. When you get the 16th game of the season you can use the teams current winning percentage to accurately account for ½ the outcome over the league average of .500 as the mean. So if you’re playing .500 after 16 games the formula will have you finishing at 81-81. Since it’s a 50/50 formula it’s accurately predicted records ½ the time on average since 1962.
Obviously, the Red Sox rebounded last year to win 90 games, where the prediction was 66 wins, on the other hand the formula output 96 wins for Texas and that’s exactly what happened.
Something else that can be added to expand the accuracy of the formula is a three-year average win for a team, unless the team has had major roster turnover. So, when the Indians and Royals came out of the gate with a 12-4 and 10-6 starts respectively they were both playoff bound according to the formula, however if you take into account their recent histories with no significant team improvements being made it was safe to say it was a fluke; it was. The Tigers easily won the division with a dominant September.
The White Sox this season would fall under a team that has had a lot of turnover in the offseason with a lot of what-ifs that are returning positive numbers, so their average wins over the last three seasons would not be applicable for the reality of this number.
In Extra Innings they use the example of the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks who were predicted to win 77 games based on their three year average, but with so many unanswered questions with top prospects filling starting roles that should be weighted lighter than the normal 52 percent, putting a greater emphasis on their actual season record. The Diamondbacks won 90 games that year and made the playoffs.
Are you still awake? Anyway, that explains how the predictions below were calculated, which if they stand true I will have been very wrong in my preseason predictions.
We’ll take another look at this at the end of May to see what’s changed.
Well, its going to be a dogfight between the Tigers and White Sox with them both predicted to win 91 games, the Indians calculated to 86 wins, but I would say that’s more optimism than reality. Two things that need to be taken into consideration, the Manny Acta factor and they’re fielding close to the exact same team that faded last season. The division is rounded out with the Twins at 66 wins and the team I never believed was going to compete this season, the Royals at 56 wins.
This entire division is up for grabs, and if you consider what happened last season with Boston it makes it even harder to say there’s a true winner. The Blue Jays and Yankees are both predicted to finish with 91 wins and the Rays and Orioles are predicted with 86 wins. The only team that would be considered a non-contender at this point would be the Red Sox at 68 wins, but again remember last year.
Well, the Texas Rangers are going to win this one in a laugher with 106 wins with the A’s and Mariners 30 games behind them at 76 wins. The Angels are predicted to only have 71 wins at this point. The Red Sox theory may apply to Angels this season, and lets not forget that the Rangers have some injury prone players. Still, looking at Texas right now it’s pretty easy to believe this outcome.
No surprises here except the Cubs are expected to have 61 wins, nine better than Smitty’s post on our Facebook site the other day. The Cardinals are netting out at 96 wins with the Brewers and Reds both netting out at 76. The Pirates are calculated at 73 wins and the Astros with 71 wins. I still believe this division is up for grabs with either the Brewers and/or Reds making a strong push at some point this season.
The Nationals are calculated to have 101 wins; I don’t believe that for a second with the Braves behind them with 91 wins. Again, this is accurate within 8 games either way, which can make a big difference and probably will here. The Mets are at 81, the Marlins at 78, and the Phillies at the bottom with 76. I think the Phillies will make some noise and still believe the Braves will win this division.
Magic Johnson is working his magic already as the Dodgers are on fire! They are also slated for 101 wins with the Giants in second at 86 and the Rockies at 84 in third. The Diamondbacks are a close fourth at 81 and the Padres anchor the division at 61 wins. The Dodgers look really good right now, but this division will get tighter than predicted here. Still, I would not be surprised by a Dodgers division win.
When you look at the playoffs, it doesn’t look so crazy, does it? I did say in my preseason predictions that if everything clicked for the Blue Jays and White Sox they would be competing for their divisions. I think the biggest surprises for me are the Nationals and Dodgers, but let’s a take a look at the end of May where the weight on season record becomes even more of a reality.