Category Archives: Team Ranking

Playoff Horse Race Part 7

We did a playoff horse race post nine days ago.  I usually wait two weeks in between these  because team roster value and real team WAA moves at a glacial pace during a season.  Recently I stumbled upon a fivethirtyeight.com version of a playoff horse race table and thought it would be fun to see how it fares with this data model and, of course,  WAR.

Below is a screenshot of the ELO playoff horse race table taken 8/12/2019.  Because this ELO table changes daily a mere link will bring you current results not the table we’re comparing against.

Playoff Horse Race ELO

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OK.  Not sure what any of those numbers mean.  The above shows the top 15 teams according to Nate Silver’s ELO model.  They provide some kind of probability numbers making it a 70% chance that Dodgers, Astros or Yankees win a World Series.  Since HOU and NYA will battle each other in order to play in a WS, Nate’s model must think either HOU or NYA will easily beat LAN according to conditional probability (which I did roughly in my head).  This doesn’t make sense since they rate Dodgers best team in MLB right now.  Oops.

Playoff Horse Race WAA

TeamID W-L Total Hitters Starters Relief UR
HOU 36 47.5 21.2 18.4 7.9 12.7
LAN 38 41.8 16.7 20.5 4.5 -21.3
NYA 36 29.5 21.1 -1.6 10.0 6.7
MIN 24 29.5 15.2 7.0 7.3 -11.3
ATL 20 29.1 14.7 7.0 7.4 -15.3
CLE 24 23.4 1.1 10.3 12.0 5.7
BOS 4 21.0 23.6 -6.1 3.5 -4.3
WAS 7 16.0 7.0 8.1 0.8 12.7
OAK 16 15.9 2.9 6.2 6.9 17.7
CHN 10 14.3 6.1 8.0 0.2 2.7
NYN 4 12.2 1.3 12.8 -1.8 4.7
SLN 6 11.9 -3.7 4.8 10.8 7.7
TBA 19 10.4 -2.8 5.1 8.1 6.7
MIL 5 9.2 5.8 1.2 2.2 4.7
PHI 2 2.9 2.7 -0.7 0.9 0.7

The above table lists top 15 teams based upon real team wins minus losses (WAA) sorted by Total WAA according to this data model.  Teams in bold brown are division leaders, bold green are wild card leaders.  Hitters, Starters, and Relief are added together to make Total.

UR is in units of runs and represents Unearned runs above or below league average.  This provides some indication of team fielding.  UR is not a factor in Total WAA.  For some reason Dodgers have the worst UR of these 15 teams which could be an Achilles heal for them during playoff season.

Bold blue are leaders in each column, bold red are worst of the top 15 teams.  This was colored manually so there could be mistakes.

This model agrees with ELO making HOU, NYA, and LAN top three in value.  ELO has Atlanta ranked #11, below the Cubs.   This model has them ranked #5.  ELO has Minnesota ranked lower as well.

Both WAA and WAR tables below rely on current rosters.  I heard through the grapevine that Yankees have been suffering from many injuries.  Guys on IL don’t get counted in these tables whereas ELO may count the entire team.  I don’t know.  If NYA gets to full strength that might propel them into a virtual tie with HOU and LAN according to this data model.

Let’s see what WAR has to say about all of this.

Playoff Horse Race WAR

TeamID W-L Total Hitters Starters Relief UR
HOU 36 54.9 32.3 17.0 5.6 13.0
OAK 16 34.4 18.4 10.4 5.6 18.0
BOS 3 33.8 22.0 7.6 4.2 -4.0
NYA 38 33.7 24.1 3.3 6.3 7.0
CLE 25 33.0 17.1 9.0 6.9 6.0
MIN 24 32.5 21.3 7.5 3.7 -11.0
LAN 38 32.1 20.4 11.2 0.5 -21.0
WAS 8 31.8 17.4 11.5 2.9 13.0
ATL 20 29.9 17.3 8.3 4.3 -15.0
CHN 10 28.5 17.3 9.8 1.4 3.0
TBA 20 28.0 17.2 4.5 6.3 6.0
NYN 4 25.0 11.6 12.9 0.5 5.0
SLN 6 23.7 13.8 4.7 5.2 8.0
MIL 5 23.4 16.1 3.5 3.8 5.0
PHI 2 22.3 12.0 6.8 3.5 1.0

Update 8/13/2019:   I accidentally pulled from the wrong dataset so the table posted yesterday used old WAR data.  The above WAR table is updated to use data from today (8/13/2019).   Since baseball moves at a glacial pace the below analysis is still valid even though the numbers are different.  LAN is still middle of the pack even though ELO and WAA ranked them top tier.  According to WAR LAN is tied with NYN for the worst relief staff which is absurd.  Here is their team status:

Tm W L BAT PITCH UR
LAN 79 41 75.9 135.7 -21.0 20190813

PITCH is derived off runs scored against and the above is #1 in MLB.  LAN is by far #1 in MLB with respect to pitching based on the only stat that determines who wins a baseball game — runs.  TBA is second with a PITCH of +103 and WAR has them underrated as well.

End of Update 8/13/2019

NYA and LAN valued very low according to WAR.   Red Sox  rank #2, valued significantly higher than Yankees.  This might be due to injuries.  WAR only has one team in top tier, HOU and they are very far ahead of second place.  The rest of the field is tightly bunched.

According to WAR Atlanta is just ahead of Cubs which aligns more with ELO than this data model.  Unfortunately for HOU, the MLB Commissioner makes teams play each other instead of relying on any of these data models to determine who gets the WS trophy.

That’s all for now.  Cubs play PHI tomorrow so another matchup post to see what the Phillies and Bryce Harper have been up to.  Until then …

2019 Playoff Horse Race Part 6

We’re at the end of month 4 of 6 and past the trade deadline so let’s look at the playoff horse race using current rosters.  Below is a list of the top 15 MLB teams sorted by real team WAA; real wins minus real losses; the only stat in baseball that matters.

MLB Standings WAA

TeamID W-L Total Hitters Starters Relief UR
LAN 32 30.6 15.6 7.9 7.1 -23.1
HOU 31 35.6 15.0 16.3 4.3 9.9
NYA 30 26.8 19.7 0.3 6.8 4.9
MIN 25 37.7 21.0 8.6 8.1 -10.1
CLE 19 18.6 2.7 6.9 8.9 3.9
ATL 19 31.5 14.4 6.8 10.3 -17.1
TBA 15 10.6 -1.8 6.8 5.6 9.9
OAK 14 14.9 4.2 3.8 6.9 15.9
SLN 8 8.3 -3.5 5.6 6.3 6.9
WAS 7 18.1 8.7 7.6 1.8 12.9
CHN 7 14.1 5.9 6.3 1.9 2.9
BOS 7 24.6 24.5 -2.8 2.9 -5.1
PHI 5 4.6 2.8 0.2 1.6 0.9
MIL 3 8.4 5.6 2.1 0.6 5.9
TEX 1 12.0 8.0 4.7 -0.7 -0.1

Highlighted in bold brown are teams leading their divisions, bold green are teams eligible for a wild card as of now.  Best for each category highlighted in bold blue and worst of the top 15 teams in bold red.  These were colored manually so there may be mistakes.

Houston leads in Total WAA team value while the Dodgers lead in real Team WAA.  Minnesota has the best hitters, Cardinals the worst.  And so on.   The UR column is in units of runs, the rest of columns are in units of wins.

It is quite remarkable how under water the Dodgers and Atlanta are with unearned runs above average (UR).  Dodgers are tied for second, worst in MLB behind Seattle and Baltimore.  Right now LAN look to be odds on favorite to win an NL Pennant and possibly the World Series.  Unearned runs are bad bad bad in playoff season … hello 1984/2003 Cubs, 1986 Red Sox, etc. etc.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in October.

Houston made the biggest gains in WAA gaining 12 WAA from Part 5 of this series to now lead MLB in WAA according to this data model.  Much of this was due to Greinke’s added value and perhaps other acquisitions or players returning from injury.

Minnesota also made a 9 WAA gain from 2 weeks ago and Yankees went down which may be due to injuries.

Note: Just noticed Hamels is missing from Cubs roster and he just pitched 5 no run innings which is good.  He’ll add about 3.5 WAA to Cubs Total and Starter value.  These tables are based upon our roster source which can lag a day or two.  It does have all the trade moves made at the deadline.

MLB Standings WAR

TeamID W-L Total Hitters Starters Relief UR
LAN 32 27.9 21.9 4.3 1.7 -23.1
HOU 31 47.5 28.0 16.0 3.5 9.9
NYA 30 27.6 21.5 2.2 3.9 4.9
MIN 25 38.6 25.2 8.8 4.6 -10.1
CLE 19 27.5 16.0 6.3 5.2 3.9
ATL 19 29.2 15.1 7.7 6.4 -17.1
TBA 15 27.2 15.3 6.7 5.2 9.9
OAK 14 30.3 16.3 8.6 5.4 15.9
SLN 8 20.1 12.2 4.3 3.6 6.9
WAS 7 29.1 15.2 10.9 3.0 12.9
CHN 7 28.7 18.1 7.3 3.3 2.9
BOS 7 34.3 21.7 8.1 4.5 -5.1
PHI 5 21.4 11.0 6.8 3.6 0.9
MIL 3 22.6 15.8 4.0 2.8 5.9
TEX 1 23.5 6.3 14.7 2.5 -0.1

While this model has HOU almost tied for the lead, WAR has them clearly in the lead.  Texas now trails Houston in the Starter category, probably due to the Greinke acquisition.   Texas led Starters in Part 5 even though they are way under water with PITCH based upon runs allowed.

The lowest team WARs are Cardinals and Phillies and this model agrees.  WAR skews higher because it’s based upon Replacement value which is below average according to this model.  WAR rarely goes negative where this model does often.  In fact, around half of MLB players have negative value.

Another set of WAR/WAA comparison posts in the works and next up will be a Cubs status since we haven’t done that in a couple weeks now.  Time goes by fast but records in baseball move at a glacial pace.  Until then ….

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 ….

2019 Playoff Horse Race Part 4

It has been about 20 days since the last playoff horse race post so let’s take a look at the top 15 teams in MLB according to the only stat in baseball that matters, team wins minus losses or what this model calls team WAA.

The below table is sorted by team WAA.  Total WAA is based upon  sum of value for hitters, starters, and relief on current roster.  These numbers are related to team WAA with wins as a unit.

The numbers in the UR column have runs as a unit and represent runs above average.  This shows runs above or below league average for runs that scored due to fielding errors.  This is a measure of team fielding.  That said, here are the top 15 teams in MLB today.

2019 Playoff Horse Race 6/26/2019

TeamID WAA Total Hitters Starters Relief UR
LAN 29 28.2 9.9 15.4 2.9 -7.0
MIN 24 26.5 13.3 7.6 5.7 -2.0
NYA 23 24.8 15.6 3.0 6.1 2.0
HOU 20 21.6 5.8 10.9 4.9 12.0
ATL 14 22.9 15.5 4.9 2.5 -19.0
TBA 11 12.3 -1.4 5.8 7.9 5.0
TEX 7 11.0 6.0 7.6 -2.5 1.0
CLE 7 10.6 -1.8 5.9 6.6 -1.0
CHN 7 13.1 6.2 4.4 2.6 -3.0
BOS 7 15.4 10.3 0.5 4.6 -3.0
MIL 5 8.0 6.4 -2.7 4.3 5.0
OAK 4 11.5 7.5 0.9 3.0 8.0
PHI 3 8.5 5.6 1.3 1.6 5.0
COL 3 14.5 11.8 -0.5 3.2 12.0
SLN 2 5.3 -1.8 0.8 6.3 4.0

The main premise behind this model is:

Team WAA = Sum ( player WAA )

This means the sum of WAA counting each player based upon their time on that team equals that team’s real win/loss record (Team WAA ).   The conversion to WAA requires Pythagorean Expectation which has error.   It is very close however.

Team WAA is a seasonal stat which may or may not reflect the current roster as there will be  injuries, trades, and minor league call ups which can drastically change the current make up of a team.  The Total WAA column should match the real team WAA model and it some cases it does.

Total WAA is broken down into hitters, starters, and relief to provide some insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each of these teams as they fight for a spot in the playoffs.  Of the current division leaders the Cubs look like the weakest which is also confirmed by Total WAA column compared to the rest of the division leaders.

Still very early and a baseball season is a marathon.   Major trading hasn’t begun and the Cubs will be getting a little help in the bullpen with Craig Kimbrel.  That, however, will not move the needle enough to not be in the bottom of the 6 division leaders.  More on this in next Cubs status.

The off WordPress version of this page will allow clickable drill down into any team for any category to see how the sausage is made.  A similar WAR table may also be available because it’s important to see how these two value models differ.  Cubs status and the 2019  All Star picks gala here will be coming soon.  Until then ….

2019 Playoff Horse Race Part 3

It has been a little over two weeks since Part 2 of this series so let’s take a look at where the playoff horse race stands a little over 1/3 into the 2019 season.

The table below is the same as before except it is sorted by the only stat the MLB commissioner cares about, team WAA, team wins minus losses.   Sorting on Total WAA value according to this data model is good for career tabulations spanning many years but not for current year.

TeamID WAA Total Hitters Starters Relief UR
LAN 23 26.8 13.6 11.0 2.2 -2.9
HOU 21 14.6 2.4 8.7 3.4 11.1
MIN 20 29.0 14.5 8.8 5.7 2.1
NYA 16 15.7 6.1 5.0 4.6 1.1
TBA 13 12.8 -0.7 5.0 8.6 4.1
PHI 8 7.0 7.5 -1.5 0.9 1.1
CHN 8 13.7 6.9 5.4 1.3 -3.9
MIL 6 4.0 5.8 3.0 -4.8 1.1
ATL 5 13.4 7.4 2.9 3.1 -9.9
TEX 3 5.8 6.8 2.7 -3.6 1.1
BOS 3 13.1 6.8 1.6 4.6 -0.9
COL 2 8.6 9.7 -1.3 0.2 10.1
SLN 1 6.4 0.3 2.5 3.6 3.1
CLE 1 1.0 -7.0 3.2 4.7 -2.9
SDN 0 1.2 -2.6 2.1 1.7 1.1

Teams in bold are leading their divisions and the rest of these teams are in the Wild Card hunt as well as their own divisions.   In theory Total WAA as estimated by this data model should equal their team WAA in the WAA column.  They don’t for the following reasons.

  • Pythagorean Expectation (PE) used to estimate WAA is not completely accurate.  It is an estimation based upon run differential and many teams will be higher of lower than what PE estimates.  Real life is correct, the estimate is not correct.  Many sites claim that PE calculation represents what a team should have which is incorrect.  It only indicates whether a team is  efficient or inefficient with the runs they score.  Why that is is fodder for arguments at the pub, not for a data model.
  • Injuries:  The above is based on current 25 man rosters.  High value players who get injured, who brought their teams wins before their injury, fall off the list reducing  Total WAA.   This model does not keep track of injuries or 40 man rosters.
  • Replacement Players/Trades:  As a season progresses bad players get replaced by new guys from minors or trades.  WAA for bad players goes off the books and if they trade for a good player, positive value will go onto the books where Total WAA can exceed a team’s  real WAA.  This will become more apparent later in the season — especially as playoff season approaches when contenders stock up for the final stretch to win a World Series.

Color coding of the above table will be automated in the next part.  This is a Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) model that avoids publishing large tables with a lot of numbers.  There really is no other way to properly present this model data and hopefully color coding will make it easier to read.

All columns above are WAA, wins minus losses numbers.  The UR column is Unearned Runs Above Average which has been described over and over here.  It shows Atlanta (ATL) has the worst UR of the top 15 teams.  UR this bad usually comes back to haunt that team unless they improve by the end of the season.  HOU and COL have the best UR of the top 15 teams.

That is all for now.  Cubs start another series with SLN Friday so we’ll look into what the Cardinals have been up to.  Until then ….