Before the 2015 season began, Banished to the Pen writers, Effectively Wild preview podcast guests, and numerous projection systems all offered predicted win totals for each of the 30 MLB teams; numbers that were recorded for posterity in this post, allowing us to return at the end of the season and determine if anyone got anything right.
Then the thought occurred: why wait until October to check in on the projections? Not only will it be much more fun to identify the teams that everyone was spectacularly wrong about, it might also provide a window into second half performance because for the majority of the season, projections are more accurate indicators of future performance than that pesky, deceptive trickster, a team’s actual win-loss record. I identified the three teams that have most overperformed and underperformed their composite preseason projection thus far, and offered some thoughts on whether they will continue to do so. For each of the teams, I’ve included the win total predicted by the BttP writer, the average of all the predictions and projection systems included in that preseason post, the on-pace numbers using both current winning percentage and projected winning percentage, and their third order winning percentage (a projected winning percentage based on peripheral statistics and quality of opponents faced), courtesy of the Baseball Prospectus standings page.
Kansas City Royals (52-34, .605 winning percentage)
BttP Prediction: 78 wins (.481)
Composite Projection: 77 (.475)
On Pace: 98
On Pace by Projection: 88
Third Order Winning Percentage: .565 (-.040 difference from actual)
The Royals were widely tipped to come crashing back to earth and end up somewhere around a .500 team, losing out to both Cleveland and Detroit, and perhaps Chicago too. Instead they’re dominating the AL Central and are perhaps the only team in the AL that actually looks like a sure thing for the playoffs. They need just 25 wins in the second half to match their composite projection; that would be a .329 winning percentage, the second lowest of any team. While they’ve slightly outperformed their Pythag record so far, that bullpen is still elite, their defence is exceptional and their all-contact, no-walk approach is remarkably effective.
My Revised Prediction: 92-70, first place.
Minnesota Twins (49-40, .551)
BttP Prediction: 68 (.420)
Composite Projection: 72 (.444)
On Pace: 89
On Pace by Projection: 81
Third Order Winning Percentage: .459 (-.092)
The AL Central really has confounded us all. Unlike the Royals, however, the Twins have not been a huge amount better than expected by their third order record; it’s their cluster luck that seems to be fuelling this surprising season. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are up earlier than expected, but this still doesn’t look like a .550 team and nothing other than their actual record indicates that they should be come October. It’s going to be hard not to beat the projections at this stage: the Twins barely need to play .300 ball to do so. Given the callups and the fact that they might actually try to acquire some useful pieces at the deadline, they get a boost, but it’s still hard to project a fairytale finish.
Revised Prediction: 82-80, fourth place.
St. Louis Cardinals (56-33, .629)
BttP Prediction: 91 (.562)
Composite Projection: 90 (.556)
On Pace: 102
On Pace by Projection: 97
Third Order Winning Percentage: .579 (-.050)
Obviously everyone predicted that the Cardinals would be good; it’s just that no-one predicted that they’d be a 100-win team. The Adam Wainwright-less pitching staff has been superb and the only reason that the division isn’t over is that the Pirates have also been really good. The third order record really indicates that this team more or less are what we thought, which is still comfortably a playoff team, but perhaps not a 102-win playoff team.
Revised Prediction: 96-66, first place.
Philadelphia Phillies (29-62, .319)
BttP Prediction: 64 (.395)
Composite Projection: 65 (.401)
On Pace: 52
On Pace by Projection: 57
Third Order Winning Percentage: .319 (.000)
We said the Phillies would be terrible! Everyone said the Phillies would be terrible! It’s possible everyone may have underestimated just how terrible. What’s more, this doesn’t even seem to be a slightly unlucky kind of terrible: their third order record is identical to their actual record. If they do actually manage to trade away some of their few remaining assets, especially Cole Hamels, this is only going to get worse. Don’t worry Phillies fans; the 1942 team had a .278 winning percentage, so at least it won’t be their worst season ever. Probably.
Revised Prediction: 50-112, last place.
Milwaukee Brewers (38-52, .422)
BttP Prediction: 81 (.500)
Composite Projection: 80 (.494)
On Pace: 68
On Pace by Projection: 74
Third Order Winning Percentage: .421 (-.001)
There was widespread agreement that Milwaukee was pretty much an average, .500 kind of team. Instead, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have been a disaster, the part of the infield that isn’t Adam Lind has been a collective black hole at the plate, and injuries to Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez have either taken away or clearly limited two of the best players on the team for significant periods. Oh, and they’re stuck in a division that contains three of the five best teams in the NL. The bullpen has been pretty good, though.
Revised Prediction: 72-90, fourth place.
Miami Marlins (38-51, .427 winning percentage)
BttP Prediction: 86 (.531)
Composite Projection: 80 (.494)
On Pace: 69
On Pace by Projection: 74
Third Order Winning Percentage: .500 (+.073)
Despite an All-Star first half from Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton’s 50-homer pace (Stanton in fact still leads the league in homers despite hitting the DL two weeks before the break), Miami has been a pretty uncompetitive team. There just hasn’t been anything much behind that duo, aside from Adeiny Hechavarria’s slick defending and veteran Dan Haren. Jose Fernandez already has the third-highest WAR amongst Marlins starters after making two starts. Unlike the Phillies and Brewers, the Marlins’ third order record actually does suggest they have been a little unlucky. With both Gordon and Stanton hurt, that might not be the case for much longer. At least they can’t finish last.
Revised Prediction: 71-91, fourth place.
All 30 Teams Compared
So your team isn’t performing so spectacularly that they made it onto the overperforming list, or so terribly that they fell into underperforming. Never fear: below is a graphic showing all 30 teams, sorted by actual winning percentage, but also featuring their composite projection and third order winning percentage for comparison.Next post: Rise and Fall of the New York Mets – 2015 Midseason Review
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