2019 Playoff Horse Race Part 5

Now that we’re way past the halfway point to the season let’s do another Playoff Horse Race post and look at the top 15 MLB teams based upon the only stat in baseball that matters, team WAA or Wins minus Losses.

MLB Standings 7/20/2019

TeamID W-L Total Hitters Starters Relief UR
NYA 30 34.0 18.3 5.7 10.1 7.6
LAN 30 37.7 18.1 16.2 3.5 -15.4
HOU 25 25.7 8.4 11.8 5.5 7.6
MIN 22 28.4 12.3 9.3 6.7 -11.4
ATL 19 26.9 15.4 7.6 3.9 -18.4
CLE 16 15.9 -0.3 7.1 9.1 1.6
OAK 14 23.4 11.7 4.0 7.6 11.6
TBA 12 13.9 -1.3 7.0 8.1 5.6
CHN 9 11.5 3.6 4.9 3.0 -0.4
BOS 8 20.3 15.2 1.4 3.7 -5.4
WAS 6 14.4 7.0 9.8 -2.4 6.6
SLN 4 4.7 -4.8 2.6 7.0 4.6
PHI 4 2.4 2.6 0.4 -0.6 6.6
TEX 3 16.1 10.0 5.3 0.8 0.6
MIL 3 12.9 7.8 3.3 1.8 3.6

Highlighted in tan are the six current division leaders, green are the current Wild Card leaders.  Cubs currently in last of those six teams in both real WAA and Total WAA based upon team rosters.  Hitters, Starters, and Relief are in units of wins or WAA.  Those are added together to make Total WAA column.

The UR column is in units of runs above average which are  league average unearned runs minus team unearned runs.  A team that accumulated more than league average unearned runs like Atlanta and Los Angeles above will have a negative value.  This column was added to provide some perspective about fielding as a team.  Errors are the only fielding metric linked to runs that an official scorekeeper keeps track of.

Total WAA column should reflect real wins and losses.  Real wins and losses are seasonal stats accumulated by all players who played for that team during a season.  Total WAA and LSR columns are based upon current rosters.

Since players get hurt, traded, and moved to and from the minors during a season, roster WAA will deviate from real seasonal WAA, the only stat MLB Commish cares about when determining who gets in the playoffs.

As of now,  Cubs are fielding a low tier playoff team, with only two NL Wild Cards below them in both real and roster WAA.  There are a little over two months to go so that can change and finishing strong helps.  Hamels and Contreras returning will boost Starter and Hitter value respectively but not near enough to propel them into a top playoff tier team.

Compared to the White Sox however, Cubs fans have nothing to complain about.  Let’s see this same table using the WAR value system.

MLB Standings WAR 7/20/2019

TeamID W-L Total Hitters Starters Relief
NYA 30 33.6 20.8 6.7 6.1
LAN 30 31.6 22.9 9.0 -0.3
HOU 25 35.4 20.4 10.1 4.9
MIN 22 32.5 22.8 6.3 3.4
ATL 19 23.8 15.1 5.9 2.8
CLE 16 23.7 12.3 6.2 5.2
OAK 14 30.8 18.7 7.1 5.0
TBA 12 27.2 14.4 7.1 5.7
CHN 9 23.5 14.7 5.6 3.2
BOS 8 31.3 17.8 9.3 4.2
WAS 6 24.8 12.4 11.0 1.4
SLN 4 16.8 10.4 2.8 3.6
PHI 4 16.0 9.4 5.9 0.7
TEX 3 28.0 9.2 14.4 4.4
MIL 3 23.2 15.1 5.5 2.6

The two systems are eerily similar.  WAR skews higher because it’s zeroed on replacement players and not average like this data model.  A WAR “replacement” player would be considered below average by this data model. If you add all player WAR together it comes to 1000 even.  This data model adds to zero exactly.   For most players these two value systems agree.  WAR has strange idiosyncrasies with certain players and it undervalues relief.  Due to law of large numbers, the idiosyncrasies differences become blips or noise in overall team value.

WAR has Cubs almost tied with ATL for Total roster value making both teams, teams who could face each other in NLDS, as lower tier.  This model has Atlanta valued mid tier, slightly higher than HOU.  Houston has highest Total WAR and this model grants Los Angeles with that honor as of today (7/20/2019).   Texas has the best starting rotation according to WAR which is odd and differs greatly from this data model which has LAN #1.

Tm W L BAT PITCH UR
TEX 50 47 43.9 -54.5 0.6
LAN 65 35 69.4 96.4 -15.4

Above are team status lines for Texas Rangers (TEX)  and Los Angeles that shows PITCH derived from seasonal run differential for the two teams.  Although run differential is a seasonal number, there is no way TEX has  improved that much to be the highest valued rotation in MLB.  The LAN record clearly shows Dodgers with extremely above average pitching right now.   WAR has TEX combined Relief and Starters much greater than their hitting which also contradicts run differential.  This is clearly an outlier mistake either in the script that makes these tables or WAR.  I just double checked the scripts and its not them.

Fortunately for the Cubs MLB requires teams to actually play the games instead of handing the Commissioner’s trophy to the best team on paper.  A lot can happen in the dog days of August and September call up season.  Here was NL East on 7/20/1969, back when the Apollo 11 guys were on the moon.

NL_East 7-20-1969

Tm W L BAT PITCH UR
CHN 61 37 76.2 40.6 8.4
NYN 53 39 -21.4 50.6 14.4
SLN 49 48 -39.9 51.6 12.4
PIT 47 48 15.6 -32.4 10.4
PHI 39 55 -21.4 -34.4 1.4
WAS 31 65 -40.4 -57.4 -16.6

Cubs were +24 and Mets +14 with sub average hitting and slightly better pitching and fielding than Cubs.  Not sure what team Neil Armstrong rooted for.  Here’s how that season ended …

NL_East 1969

Tm W L BAT PITCH UR
NYN 100 62 -20.7 96.6 22.8
CHN 92 70 59.8 43.6 5.8
PIT 88 74 52.3 3.7 4.8
SLN 87 75 -57.7 107.6 13.8
PHI 63 99 -16.7 -80.4 -8.2
WAS 52 110 -73.7 -102.4 -28.2

… and that was that.  Note: WAS, the franchise tag for Washington, were the Montreal Expos in 1969.  Also team Unearned Runs above average (UR) was much more extreme back then because there were significantly more errors made.

Here’s the NL Central today, 50 years later.

NL Central 7-20-2019

Tm W L BAT PITCH UR
CHN 53 44 25.4 44.5 -0.4
SLN 50 46 -36.1 43.4 4.6
MIL 51 48 11.9 -25.4 3.6
PIT 45 51 -12.6 -41.4 1.6
CIN 43 52 -45.1 65.5 10.6

Cubs have a balanced team with above average BAT and PITCH just like the 1969 Cubs had.  Cardinals have sub average BAT and above average PITCH just like the 1969 Mets had.

Ruh roh!

That’s all for now.  Cubs status, a run down of their current roster coming next.  In the off WordPress site drill down links to team status for every team above will be available with a click.  Until then ….