While there’s still plenty of baseball left to be played, certain teams have significantly deviated from our preseason expectations. As I did at last year’s All-Star Break, I’ve picked out the three teams which are most over- and underperforming their predicted & projected win totals, identified some potential reasons why, and come up with an entirely arbitrary revised projection for their end-of-season total.
Baltimore Orioles (51-36, .586 winning percentage)
BttP Prediction: 81 (.500)
Composite Projection: 77 (.475)
On Pace: 95
On Pace by Projection: 87
Third Order Winning Percentage: .521 (-.065 difference from actual)
Here we are underestimating the Orioles again. Legendary Baltimore skipper Earl Weaver touted a simple approach to winning: pitching, defense and the three-run homer. Well, the rotation isn’t all that good, and the defense doesn’t rate that highly either, so the Orioles have made up for it in that final category. They lead the league with 137 long balls and are on course to challenge the record of 264, set by the 1997 Mariners. Their third order winning percentage and rest-of-season projections don’t bode all that well for their division race, and with their boom-or-bust lineup, it’s easy to see the Red Sox or Blue Jays taking top spot. Still, with the chance of hitting several home runs on any given night, one of the league’s best players in Manny Machado, and a terrific bullpen, anything can happen.
Revised Prediction: 88-74, third place.
Texas Rangers (54-36, .600)
BttP Prediction: 87 (.537)
Composite Projection: 81 (.500)
On Pace: 97
On Pace by Projection: 90
Third Order Winning Percentage: .473 (-.127)
The Rangers obviously strongly objected to the almost universal selection of the Astros as the AL West winners, despite emerging with the division title last year. Ian Desmond has unquestionably been a terrific signing, Nomar Mazara is a human home run highlight reel, and the Beltre-Andrus-Odor infield is one of the more productive units out there. Unfortunately, after a great start for Texas and a miserable start for Houston, their state rivals have come roaring back and look much more of a threat than they did when they were double-digits off the divisional lead in mid-May. With a run differential barely in the black, the Rangers are outperforming their Pythag record by close to an incredible 12 wins. Their ace, Cole Hamels, has an ERA of 3.21 but a walk rate near the double digits, and injuries to Colby Lewis and Derek Holland leave their depth…well, shallow. The good news is that Yu Darvish is set to return to the rotation this weekend. The bad news is that the Astros probably aren’t going away.
Revised Prediction: 87-75, second place.
San Francisco Giants (57-33, .633)
BttP Prediction: 89 wins (.549)
Composite Projection: 87 (.537)
On Pace: 103
On Pace by Projection: 96
Third Order Winning Percentage: .580 (-.053)
It is an even year. The Giants have got stellar production from Buster Posey, Brandons Crawford and Belt, and Madison Bumgarner. Johnny Cueto has joined Bumgarner in a killer one-two punch at the top of the rotation, and San Francisco has the best record in the league despite missing Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, and Matt Duffy for a decent chunk of the year. Oh, and they also rate as the best defensive team in baseball, and comfortably so in the NL, by Fangraphs’ reckoning. There’s certainly been some luck, and this likely isn’t a 100-win team, but the Dodgers have a real hill to climb to gain control of the NL West down the stretch.
Revised Prediction: 95-67, first place.
Tampa Bay Rays (34-54, .386)
BttP Prediction: 83 (.512)
Composite Projection: 83 (.512)
On Pace: 63
On Pace by Projection: 72
Third Order Winning Percentage: .474 (+.088)
Oh, PECOTA. Even though the initially outlandish 90-win Rays projection was revised downwards to 87, everyone still thought PECOTA had gone a bit reverse Royals with the Rays. However, few thought it would be this bad. The prospect of a 5-way division race has evaporated over recent weeks, with the Rays losing six straight going into the break to really make their record look ugly. They’re also six games below their Pythag projection, but even accounting for that, it’s been a very disappointing three months at Tropicana Field. Chris Archer has taken a huge step backwards, and some promising peripherals for Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore have not been reflected in the results. The loss of 2015’s defensive standout Kevin Kiermaier to injury was also a huge blow, and Evan Longoria’s resurgence hasn’t been close to enough to keep this team in contention. They’re closer to a .500 team than this; that’s not going to help them much with 54 losses already banked.
Revised Prediction: 70-92, last place.
Minnesota Twins (32-56, .364)
BttP Prediction: 76 (.469)
Composite Projection: 78 (.481)
On Pace: 59
On Pace by Projection: 68
Third Order Winning Percentage: .425 (+.061)
The Twins were the only team to be on this review last year – but in the other category, after a surprisingly good 49-40 start. This year, their best player has been Eduardo Nunez. To be fair to Nunez, he is actually having a remarkably good season, but he’s the only member of the team who’s been worth even close to two wins. Miguel Sano still looks like he should be a 30-plus homer threat in the middle of the lineup for years to come, but his work in the outfield is part of the reason this team rates as one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The best the rotation has to offer is the just passable 4 ERA of Ervin Santana, while Byron Buxton still hasn’t yet figured out the secret to success in the majors. With the likes of Buxton and top pitching prospect Jose Berrios on the roster for years to come, there’s hope ahead, but not much for the second half of this season.
Revised Prediction: 62-100, last place.
Arizona Diamondbacks (38-52, .422)
BttP Prediction: 83 (.512)
Composite Projection: 81 (.500)
On Pace: 68
On Pace by Projection: 74
Third Order Winning Percentage: .472 (+.050)
The Diamondbacks traded for Shelby Miller over the offseason, with the idea that he’d be their number two starter. He’s now more likely to fill that role at Triple-A Reno, with Arizona recently sending the 25-year-old and his 7.12 ERA down to the minors after one of the most miserable first halves in recent memory. In addition to Miller’s woes, A.J. Pollock’s fractured elbow dealt a huge blow to the Diamondbacks’ chances of keeping up with the Giants and Dodgers, and although Zack Greinke has improved after a rocky start, his performance probably hasn’t quite been what Arizona was hoping for. Standout production from Paul Goldschmidt and the surprising Jake Lamb has gone to waste. Like the Rays, this is a team that should be closer to .500 than .400, but the division and even the wild card was out of sight some time ago.
Revised Prediction: 73-89, fourth place.Next post: An Open Letter to the Next Twins GM
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