We’re just passed the half-way point in the season, so it’s a good time to look back at how badly my pre-season predictions are going. What things mean: Predicted: The number of wins I thought a team would win, found in this post. Projected: The number of wins a team is currently on pace for (162 * current winning %). Pythagorean: A team’s predicted win total based on their runs scored and runs allowed. Advanced: A teams’s predicted win total based on tRA, wOBA, and defensive metrics, while accounting for their current win totals (from the latest Beyond The Box Score projected standings).
The top three teams are more or less spot on. The Jays have been better than I expected and the O’s have been worse, partly due to over optimism (I wanted the O’s to finish fourth, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually put them above Toronto) and partly due to some surprises. For the Blue Jays, it’s been Marco Scutaro having the season of his life (3.2 WAR), and Aaron Hill hitting 20 HR, and Scott Rolen hitting .328, and so on. For the O’s, it’s been some horrendous baserunning and a below average defense. I think the two teams will trend towards each other in the second half, though the O’s are almost certainly going to end up in fifth place.
I picked Cleveland to win the Central last year too. Grady Sizemore’s hurt and Fausto Carmona hasn’t bounced back, and they’re having another disappointing season. Detroit had Edwin Jackson turn into an All-Star and Chicago has a good rotation despite trading Javvy Vazquez.
I got the Angels and M’s, but the A’s young pitchers and “fixed” offense never got going (MLB worst .302 wOBA) and the Rangers defense has actually been very good, with a +14.9 UZR this year compared to an MLB worst -51.7 UZR last year.
The Mets have been ravaged by injuries and the Braves offense has been pretty pitiful at times (Jeff Francoeur and his .272 wOBA lead the team in PA). Josh Johnson is finally healthy again for Florida, and having a very fine season (2.91 FIP) . Nobody can realistically predict that a team will win 50-60 games before a seasons starts, but the Nationals have been worse than I could have expected in even a most pessimistic scenario.
Cubs OF has disappointed (Soriano & Bradley have a combined -0.7 WAR). Wandy Rodriguez is proving that ’08 wasn’t a fluke in Houston, and Miguel Tejada’s hitting .326. Neal Huntington’s gotten a lot of criticism for his work in Pittsburgh, but I don’t think many people saw 75 wins as a realistic possibility.
The Dodgers have been fantastic, and the D’Backs have been… well, often the opposite of that. The Rockies have finally assembled a pitching staff, while the Padres mostly just have Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez.
I’m way off on some teams – most notably Cleveland and the Nat’s – and have an average difference between my predictions and the projected win totals of 8.6 games. I’m off the Pythagorean totals by an average of 7.1 games, and the advanced totals by an average of 6.6 games. That sounds like a lot, but the roots mean square error for the straight projected win totals is 10.54. Last year, according to VegasWatch, that would have ranked fourth right after PECOTA, Rob Neyer, and Keith Law (by 0.02), and in front of the Over/Under lines (by 0.29) and Jeff Passan. Just as a reminder, and because it’s funny: Steve Phillips – former General Manager of an actual baseball team – picked the M’s to win 92 games (they won 60) and Buster Olney – professional baseball writer – was so far off in general (RMSE of 13.05) that it was worse than just taking the previous season’s win total from each team and leaving it as is. As VW said: “Olney’s input actually detracted from the information given. Impressive.” There should be a few exciting races going on later in the year, with the top three teams in the AL East fighting for two playoff spots (division & wildcard), the Angels and the Rangers possibly going down to the wire in the AL West, somebody eventually deciding to stop under-performing in the NL East, and pretty much everyone having some kind of shot at the NL Central. Only two teams have less than a 0.1% chance of getting to the playoffs at this point, according to Baseball Prospectus – the O’s at 0.027% and the Nationals at an even worse 0.007%. I’ll check back after the end of the season for a final tally.