28 July 2015

Are the 2015 Minnesota Twins Lucky Enough to Reach the Playoffs?


The Minnesota Twins have no business being as good as they are.

By every advanced metric, the 2015 Twins are overachievers, and have been all season. On May 31st, the Twins reached their high water mark, posting a win rate of .612 and sitting pretty at 11 games above .500. That was good for the best record in the American League and second best in Major League Baseball.

To reach that lofty position, Minnesota had scored 225 runs over 49 games while allowing 204. Plug those numbers into the Pythagenpat* formula and you get an expected win rate of .546. That's good, but it's not upper echelon. With the second best win rate and only the seventh best expected win rate, we can deduce that the Twins had been at least a little bit lucky in winning the games they did.

*ExpectedWinRate = RunsScored ^ Exponent / (RunsScored ^ Exponent + RunsAllowed ^ Exponent) where Exponent = ((RunsScored + RunsAllowed) / GamesPlayed) ^ 0.287

But just how lucky were the Twins to score (and prevent) the runs they did? Turns out, very.

06 July 2015

Will Astros Go from Second-Worst to First?

The 2015 Houston Astros are among Major League Baseball's more pleasant surprises.*

*Degree of pleasantness may vary for fans of AL West competitors.

Despite early projections that they would field a below-average team, Houston currently occupies the top spot in the AL West with a three-game lead on the Los Angeles Angels. Even better, the Astros' 48-36 record at the start of play on Monday, June 6, puts them one half game behind the Kansas City Royals for the best record in the American League. Not bad for a team that tied last season's Minnesota Twins with a 70-92 record, outperforming only the hapless Texas Rangers.


My ratings system has considered the 2015 Houston Astros an average-or-better team since mid-to-late April and ranks George Springer's squad among the best in all of baseball at the approximate halfway point. At the conclusion of play on June 5th, Houston's .557 RP Score trails the Oakland Athletics (yes, really) for the AL lead by decimal points, while the two AL leaders trail only the St. Louis Cardinals (.573) and Los Angeles Dodgers (.569) on the MLB leaderboard.


Their strong record to date combines with a favorable RP Score to project a successful finish for Houston. Today's projections, based on a Monte Carlo simulation of the remainder of the 2015 season perfomed 1,024 times, incorporating my RP Score ratings and using the Log 5 method generate win probabilities, give the Astros a median win total of 90. Compared to the median projected win totals of other squads, this leaves Houston in a tie with Kansas City and trailing only the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Dodgers and Cardinals.

According to the same simulation, there is a 5% chance that the Astros log as many as 97 wins or as few as 83. Each of these totals is four better than their closest division rival, Los Angeles. This despite the fact that the Angels have slightly more home games remaining (48% vs. 47%) and a slightly easier remaining strength of schedule (.509 vs. .513).

Should these projections hold, expect the Houston Astros to make their first postseason appearance since 2005, when they fell to Ozzie Guillen's Chicago White Sox in that season's World Series. For more information on the methodology behind my RP Score ratings system and MLB projections, please visit their respective pages.

24 June 2015

St. Louis Cardinals Sitting Pretty Despite Injuries


Injuries to Matt Adams, Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright have yet to stop the juggernaut that is the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals. At the start of play on June 24, 2015, the NL Central leader remains atop the RP Score list with a rating of .580. Though this is significantly lower than their posted win rate of .657, the disparity only goes to show that the Cardinals could regress significantly toward the mean and still be the best team in baseball.

Thanks to their league-leading numbers, and thanks to the parity that currently pervades the sport, the Cards are the only team that's more likely than not to win 100 games. The latest simulation puts St. Louis' median win total at 101, with a 95% chance that they will win at least 93. Incidentally, the low end of the simulation's confidence interval its above the median projected win total of every other team.

One reason for these rosy projections, besides team quality, is the schedule: the remainder of the Cardinals' match-ups average out to a weighted RP Score of only .484, and 52% of those contests will take place at home.


And as for those injuries? Since Wainwright went down, the Cardinals have slightly improved their RP Score, from .576 to .580. Likewise, the Cards have improved their score by .008 since both Adams' and Holliday's injuries. This is a team that really knows how to pick up the slack.

06 April 2015

Playing Pepper: The 2015 Washington Nationals

Nationals Park • Photo Credit: Me

Baseball season is upon us!

At 4:05 PM EDT the Washington Nationals will open their season at home against the New York Metropolitans. As I did last year, I contributed a few words about the Nationals' upcoming season for Daniel Shoptaw at Cards Conclave. Dave Nichols at District Sports Page shares his thoughts as well.

We cover the Nats' offseason, their strengths and weaknesses, expectations for Bryce Harper, who we expect to break out and where we expect the team to be come October. Head on over and give it a look.

Rating Systems Challenge: National Championship Game Will Crown ESPN National Bracket or Lunardi RPI


This post is part of a series tracking the successes and failures of various NCAA Men's Basketball ranking systems and bracket models throughout the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Check out the full series.

The bad news is that Wisconsin's (1) upset of undefeated Kentucky (1) killed Sagarin's chances of winning the 2015 Rating Systems Challenge. The good news is that we're not done yet. Lunardi RPI, the only system to pick Duke (1) to win it all, can leapfrog to the top of the standings with a Blue Devils win tonight.


Should Wisconsin cut the nets tonight, it will be the first time since before WWII, and it will mean a victory for the ESPN National Bracket. No matter what, ten systems will have outperformed chalk this March (and April): an admirable performance.

04 April 2015

Rating Systems Challenge: Sagarin, ESPN National Bracket and Lunardi RPI Face off in Final Four


This post is part of a series tracking the successes and failures of various NCAA Men's Basketball ranking systems and bracket models throughout the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Check out the full series.

While exciting, and with the exception of Michigan State's (7) upset of Louisville (4), last week's Elite Eight action was a rather chalky affair. And since no systems picked Sparty to advance to the Final Four, the only systems that might have benefited from a low-seed victory (the preseason polls) instead fell out of contention as the Cardinals' run ended.


In fact, there are only three systems that still have a chance to win the 2015 Rating Systems Challenge: Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings, ESPN's National Bracket, and Lunardi RPI.

29 March 2015

Rating Systems Challenge: Chalky Day, Advantage Sagarin


This post is part of a series tracking the successes and failures of various NCAA Men's Basketball ranking systems and bracket models throughout the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Check out the full series.

Yesterday was a day of reckoning for several of the systems in the 2015 Rating Systems Challenge. The ten that picked Arizona (2) to upset Wisconsin (1) were disappointed, and suffered heavily in the standings.



28 March 2015

Rating Systems Challenge: Preseason Polls Gain Ground, Thanks to Louisville


This post is part of a series tracking the successes and failures of various NCAA Men's Basketball ranking systems and bracket models throughout the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Check out the full series.

In the real world, Michigan State's (7) upset of Oklahoma (3) was probably the most exciting game of the night. In the 2015 Rating Systems challenge, that game didn't even leave a mark: not a single one of the systems I'm tracking picked the Spartans or the Sooners. Instead, the most important victory by a low seed was Louisville (4), which beat the NC State Wolfpack (8) in a game that every other system gave to Villanova (1).


While the ESPN Decision Tree bracket remains atop the standings, the postseason poll brackets have moved back into respectability. The USA Today Preseason Poll bracket has moved into sixth place, while the ninth place AP Preseason Poll leads all others in possible points remaining.