The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The 2012 MLB Projection Blowout

Although technically, Opening Day happened last week, I decided to hold off on running my standings projections until I had a better idea of how rosters would end up looking as we approach the start of the entire MLB schedule.

The idea behind this series of posts is to try and project how the 2012 MLB season might look given what we think we may know right now.  I’ve been doing a version of this since 2005, and you can see the results by looking at the following links.

2008 Pt 1
2008 Pt 2
2009 AL
2009 NL
2010 AL
2010 NL
2011 AL
2011 NL

A quick look at the previous seasons shows that the results are hit and miss.  Projections don’t pretend to be omnisicent, so they can only tell us so much about how things play out.  Hence the following disclaimers.

1) Projection systems are inherently limited in their accuracy, particularly for pitchers. We can get a rough idea of how most players will perform by looking at their past histories and how similar players have performed, and factoring in aging and regression, but abilities/talent can change in ways that can’t be forecasted.

2) Playing time distribution in these simulations will not match actual 2012 playing time. I used the rosters and depth charts available at the absolutely awesome MLB Depth Charts plus whatever I’ve read over the offseason as my guide to set these up as realistically as possible, but it’s a possible source of error. Rosters were set up to have 35-40 or so active players per team, and to get a reasonable amount of playing time from the bench and extra pitchers, to more closely model reality. Basically, no players are set to play more than 90% of the time, starting catchers are restricted to at most about 75% of the games, and I’ve made sure teams get a non-trivial amount of starts from their 6-8 starters. The healthier a team is in 2012, the more likely they will be to exceed these projections, and vice versa.

3) We cannot predict injuries and/or roster changes. These simulations do try to adjust projected playing time based on past health issues, so someone like Erik Bedard is not expected to make 30 starts. I’ve also included random injuries which may lead to some of the outlying results you see, but there’s no way to account for all the fluctuations that will happen with rosters this season.

4) These are NOT my predictions. These are projections based on running a computer simulation hundreds of thousands of times with projection data that is inherently limited. If your favorite team doesn’t project well, don’t blame me, blame the computers and spreadsheets that projected them. I guess you can blame me for the CAIRO results if you want, otherwise you can take heart in the 2006 Tigers projecting to win 80, the 2010 Giants projecting to go 81-81 or the 2011 Diamondbacks projecting to win 73 games.  These are not meant to tell you how the season is going to play out.  I prefer to think of them more as a starting point for discussion, with a range of something like 10 wins in either direction based on how things actually end up playing out.  You can look at them and argue about why you think some teams will be better or worse.

5) Since this is all automated, I don’t break ties. I simply award all ties a share of either the division title or wild cards when it happens which is why you may see some funny decimal places in the standings that follow.

6) These are the averages of hundreds of thousands of simulated seasons, so the results will tend to regress towards the mean. The final standings will not look like this, because they only play the season once.  If the first place team in a division projects to win 85 games, it doesn’t mean 85 wins will win the division, but I’ll get into that into more detail further down in this post.

7) Even if you knew exactly what every player would do, and exactly how much they’d play, you would not get the standings right.  A few one run games or a disparate performance in more crucial situations can cause any team to over/under achieve what their stats say they should have done.  So if that’s true, you have to figure that since we have no idea what any individual player do or how much they’ll play, the margin of error on these is massive.

OK, so now that the disclaimers are out of the way, onto the projected standings. The standings are rounded to the nearest win so if the total W-L doesn’t add up to 2430-2430 that’s why.

There’s too much stuff to fit it all into one post, so I’ve created a separate post for each projection system I will use this post to show the results of the aggregate/average of all the projections. You can follow the links below to look at the individual projection systems’ results.

This year, I’m using five different projection systems.  You can click on each of the links below to get some more information about each system and to see how their projected standings look.

CAIRO, which is my own projection system.
Tangotiger’s Marcel.
The Hardball Times’s Oliver.
Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA.
Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS.

I should note that the Marcel projections used here were generated using Python code provided by Jeff Sackmann and are not the “official” projections, although they should be almost identical.  I’ll also mention that Oliver, PECOTA and ZiPS have their own projected standings so these should not be considered the official version of those forecasts.  Playing time distribution, run environments and park factors may cause some divergence between what those forecasts say and what mine say.  When in doubt, go with the official ones.

OK, enough of this palaver…let’s get this show on the road.

Div Team W L RF RA Div WC 1 WC 2 PS% W 1 Std
AL East NYA 94 68 836 711 51.7% 20.5% 10.2% 82.5% 84 - 104
AL East BOS 91 71 829 734 26.0% 23.9% 14.3% 64.2% 81 - 101
AL East TAM 89 73 765 683 19.0% 22.0% 13.5% 54.5% 79 - 99
AL East TOR 81 81 774 775 3.3% 5.9% 6.2% 15.4% 71 - 91
AL East BAL 70 92 713 819 0.1% 0.1% 0.3% 0.5% 60 - 80
Div Team W L RF RA Div WC 1 WC 2 PS% W 1 Std
AL Central DET 86 76 784 736 53.5% 1.1% 11.0% 65.6% 76 - 96
AL Central CLE 82 80 767 751 30.7% 1.6% 7.8% 40.1% 72 - 92
AL Central CHA 76 86 707 772 8.0% 1.0% 2.8% 11.8% 66 - 86
AL Central KC 75 87 705 765 5.6% 0.4% 1.6% 7.7% 65 - 85
AL Central MIN 71 91 731 822 2.1% 0.1% 0.6% 2.9% 61 - 81
Div Team W L RF RA Div WC 1 WC 2 PS% W 1 Std
AL West TEX 91 71 807 702 52.2% 9.2% 13.8% 75.2% 81 - 101
AL West LAA 90 72 741 660 43.2% 12.5% 14.8% 70.5% 80 - 100
AL West OAK 76 86 707 756 2.7% 0.9% 2.0% 5.6% 66 - 86
AL West SEA 75 87 682 741 2.0% 0.6% 1.6% 4.2% 65 - 85
AL WC1 92
AL WC2 89
Div Team W L RF RA Div WC 1 WC 2 PS% W 1 Std
NL East PHI 89 73 698 629 41.6% 14.7% 10.1% 66.3% 79 - 99
NL East ATL 87 75 714 666 27.9% 16.4% 10.3% 54.6% 77 - 97
NL East WAS 84 78 683 657 14.4% 11.4% 8.8% 34.5% 74 - 94
NL East MIA 84 78 707 681 15.5% 10.2% 8.4% 34.0% 74 - 94
NL East NYN 73 89 683 752 0.7% 0.7% 1.1% 2.5% 63 - 83
Div Team W L RF RA Div WC 1 WC 2 PS% W 1 Std
NL Central CIN 87 75 715 661 40.9% 9.6% 10.5% 60.9% 77 - 97
NL Central STL 87 75 731 679 35.2% 11.3% 10.6% 57.1% 77 - 97
NL Central MIL 84 78 699 664 22.5% 9.6% 9.5% 41.6% 74 - 94
NL Central PIT 72 90 668 752 0.9% 0.4% 0.8% 2.1% 62 - 82
NL Central CHN 71 91 656 750 0.5% 0.3% 0.6% 1.4% 61 - 81
NL Central HOU 64 98 604 756 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.2% 54 - 74
Div Team W L RF RA Div WC 1 WC 2 PS% W 1 Std
NL West SF 84 78 672 647 32.9% 4.9% 9.2% 47.0% 74 - 94
NL West ARI 84 78 693 673 31.3% 4.6% 9.0% 44.9% 74 - 94
NL West COL 83 79 747 731 27.3% 4.1% 7.6% 39.0% 73 - 93
NL West SD 76 86 647 688 4.7% 1.1% 2.1% 7.9% 66 - 86
NL West LAN 75 87 641 690 3.8% 0.9% 2.0% 6.7% 65 - 85
NL WC1 90
NL WC2 87

Div: Percentage of times team won division
WC 1: Percentage of times team won first wild card
WC 2: Percentage of times team won second wild card
PS%: Total percentage team qualified for the postseason (DIV + WC1 + WC2)
W 1 Std: Wins within one standard deviation

As noted earlier, this is NOT saying that you can win the NL West by winning 84 games.  It’s saying that the teams that finished in first most frequently in that division averaged 84 wins over hundreds of thousands of seasons.  Here are the average win totals for each spot in each division.

Div (Place): avg W Div (Place): avg W
AL East (1 ): 98 NL East (1 ): 94
AL East (2 ): 92 NL East (2 ): 88
AL East (3 ): 87 NL East (3 ): 84
AL East (4 ): 80 NL East (4 ): 79
AL East (5 ): 69 NL East (5 ): 72
Div (Place): avg W Div (Place): avg W
AL Central (1 ): 89 NL Central (1 ): 92
AL Central (2 ): 83 NL Central (2 ): 86
AL Central (3 ): 78 NL Central (3 ): 81
AL Central (4 ): 73 NL Central (4 ): 75
AL Central (5 ): 68 NL Central (5 ): 69
NL Central (6 ): 62
Div (Place): avg W Div (Place): avg W
AL West (1 ): 95 NL West (1 ): 90
AL West (2 ): 87 NL West (2 ): 85
AL West (3 ): 78 NL West (3 ): 80
AL West (4 ): 71 NL West (4 ): 76
NL West (5 ): 70

First AL Wild Card team won an average of 92 games, second won an average of 89.  For the NL, those averages were 90 and 87.

Here are the AL and NL pie charts for the average projected division winners.

Nothing really stands out to me, although I think you can find plenty of things to quibble with on the margins.  I am a bit surprised that the gap between Detroit and Cleveland is only four games, although it is the biggest gap between any first place and second place team.  The NL Central and West look like strong three team races, and the AL West looks like a tossup between Texas and the Angels.

And for fans of anyone but the Astros, I guess you can say “at least we’re not the Astros.”

--Posted at 10:59 am by SG / 94 Comments | - (0)


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Those are some nice looking inherently-biased-towards-the-Yankees pies.  Great work as always, SG

I never thought I could have too many pie charts. But I think Im all pie-charted out for today.

Shouldn’t the 0% slices not exist at all?  After all, you couldn’t sit down and eat a slice of a pie that was 0% of the total pie.

You shouldn’t give your pie charts away for breakfast.  It makes you look cheap.

They’re not really 0% slices.  They’re like 0.000000001% to 0.49999999999% slices.

I like pies.  I don’t like charts.  But I do like pie charts, particularly where, as here, they are inherently biased in favor of the Yankees.

Thank you SG, my favourite post of the year, which I celebrated of course by clicking on all three of your ads. smile

Awesome work as always.

I’d be a bit interested in seeing a figure of merit for the past predictions - the delta and rms on the Yankees projection wrt reality, for example.

Also, presumably you don’t do any hindcasting, but that would be an elegant way to illustrate point 7).

[6] What about a chart showing how many different kinds of pie you like?  Mine would be a big chart…

[9] I would have to agree with you and I would have to not disagree with you.

I’d be a bit interested in seeing a figure of merit for the past predictions - the delta and rms on the Yankees projection wrt reality, for example.

I probably say this every year, but I always intend to do something like that and never get around to it.  I’ll do something on the Yankees and include it when I do the team wrap-up.

What about a chart showing how many different kinds of pie you like?

You can do a chart like this, but you can’t do a pie chart version of it.  You could do a pie chart of the breakdown of percentages of time eating each pie, I suppose.

I do have admit, the prospect of discovering Mel Hall’s favorite kinds of pie is a frightening one.

That’s 52 percent of deliciousness.

[11] If you have each pie an equal percentage of liking, adding up to 100% you could have your pie pie chart.

Also, important question: is cheesecake a pie or a cake?

I argue that it has all the markings of a pie, and thusly, despite the misleading name, is clearly a pie.

[13]Can you like in percentages?

[14]I think the name disqualifies it from pie-dom.

[15] It has a crust with a custard based filling that simply switches out cream in favor of creamcheese.

The English language is rife with misnamed foods: sweet meats and sweetbreads being chief among them.

And if you like x number of pie types, each type is a percentage of your total pie liking capacity.

[11] Ta.  Also, re

I do have admit, the prospect of discovering Mel Hall’s favorite kinds of pie is a frightening one.

: surely it’s this, esp. given the lyrics “Swingin’ to the left/And swingin’ to the right/If I think about baseball/I’ll swing all night yeah”.

Can one have a pi pie chart for pies, reflecting the fact that the percentage of one’s liking of a given pie may be asymptotic yet symptomatic of a deeper malaise?

Cheesecake is a cake.  You can tell because it has cake in the name.  Now, you can certainly make a cheesepie if you’d like.  But then I’d argue that you had a pizza.

[19] Is deep dish pizza more of a cheesepie than ordinary flat pizza?  If so, how does the difference affect SG’s algorithm?  Isn’t it about time the training wheels came off these pie charts?  We don’t really need a Pie Traynor anymore.

[17] El.  Oh.  El.

[20] Deepdish is a casserole based on pizza.

[16] I am diametrically opposed to the concept of linear weighting in a like distribution. Eh…algorithm*.

* I needed an even 6 concepts to conflate**.

** Dammit that’s seven, now.

Because I’m a cussed old bastard, I insist on ordering a “pie” from my local pizza joint, even though these California people have no idea what that means.

[24] Given the pie milieu, shouldn’t you have said “Crusty Old Bastard” ?

{Ducks, running}

[24] Just before I left CA I found a good pizza place in Highland Park. Aside from that I really had a hard time finding good pizza out there.

[22] But isn’t a casserole with a crust just a pie?

What about whoopie pies?  They aren’t crusty like ugly johnny dickshot yet they are called pies.

[27] I think the layered aspect prevents it from being a pie.

[25]  Yes.

[26]  George’s in Glendale is acceptable despite being run by Armenians.

Finally, what about a quiche?

[30] I think a quiche sits firmly in the realm of piedom.

I’m always amazed how wide 1 standard deviation is for wins.  81-101 for a team like the Red Sox?  So they will be anywhere from average to one of the best teams in the last half decade?

[26] Finding good pizza anywhere west of Cleveland is impossible. Vegas pizza is a goddamn joke.

Guess we’ve got Chevy Nova today. Get well soon, Pinata.

[32]  So they will be anywhere from one of the best teams in the last half decade to one of the best teams of all time?


This post is going to get passed around the internet, and people will think we’re basically LoHud commenters, except with food.

[36] This was probably not the best choice of threads to have this conversation on. But it was a conversation that had to happen.

SG knows how pie charts drive us into an idiotic frenzy.

[36] Not enough Cashman bashing.

[36] They’ll be right.

[36]  Good.  Then they’ll leave us to smoke the objective pipe and complain our complaints in peace.

I forgot to say—Thank you, SG.  My mouth was full of pie.  And my typing finger had crumbs on it.

I am diametrically opposed to deep-dish pizza.

[34] It’s just ST! They don’t mean anything! Even though the season is 3 days away. ... Oh God, we’re doomed.

There goes the shutout !

Nova getting lit up by the Mets has to mean our pie is smaller now, no?

Is this the game Pettitte is supposed to pitch in?

[47] Feinsand tweet says it is tomorrow, per Pettitte.


I’m always amazed how wide 1 standard deviation is for wins.  81-101 for a team like the Red Sox?

I was thinking earlier that NYY isn’t going to win fewer than 84 games 15% of the time because if x, y, z bad things happened to drive that the team would go buy better players.  Having the figure of merit I asked for above, and comparing the real width to the projected one, would give us a sense of the feedback mechanisms that drive the low side upwards.  This ought to vary by team finances and ambition, if the latter is measurable.  For some teams if they do worse than expected then they have a sell-off, getting even worse, so I’m not sure about the asymmetry of the error.  Though I don’t see any mechanism where if x, y, z are good then the team tries to get worse, except I guess saving money on expected mid-season acquisitions because the marginal wins aren’t valuable enough over the unexpected ones to bother.  If the errors are asymmetrically driven by in-season performance, then one has to think about how any team-level smearing was done.

So, today i had a few lemon bars, which, at last for me, consisted of a firm lemony custard on a crust - BUT cut into bar shapes. 

Bar graph - pie chart.

I’m going home to have a beer.

I’m always amazed how wide 1 standard deviation is for wins.  81-101 for a team like the Red Sox?  So they will be anywhere from average to one of the best teams in the last half decade?

Well, they managed to be both at different points in 2011 and even found time to mix in some ‘biggest collapse of all-time’ at the end, so…

[51] The secret to being “Americah’s Team” is to be all things to all people.

Huh. Tie game. All we needed to do was rest the bench players and bring in the AAA manpower to match the Meh’s.

[53]  Was it A-Rod’s fault?

Thanks for everything, SG.  He and I are the only mentally stable posters here.

Jiminez-Tulo being labelled as “Most Gutless” ?

I would have to think the Pedro beat-down of 120-year old Zimmer would still rank higher.

[54] In every pitcher, on every team, there is an inner Joba waiting to erupt and serve up runs by the fistful. We found the Metses’ Joba.

Yeah thanks SG.  Great work as always and nice job getting everything wrapped up and out by the start of the season.

Venditte on the mound this very second.

[56] - Wasn’t most of the press at the time about how it was an embarrassment for Zim to attack Pedro?  You seem to be forgetting the TWN can do nothing wrong.

Is there any way that Damon will suddenly say, “Ah, screw it, sure, I’ll take a tiny deal?”  Would the Yankees even be interested anymore?

Where does everyone think Magglio, Vlad and Hideki will end up?

Will Pudge get a job as a back-up/teacher or is he done?

Also, while Passan threw in his usual extra-purple prose (a sample: “The $200 million contract? Price of doing business with a superstar. The multi-billion-dollar TV deal? Every big market will have one. Mega Millions numbers in a stick-and-ball game? Get used to it.”) he did hit on a very important piece of the puzzle with his dominoes theory. Check it out:

Votto doesn’t get the second-biggest contract ever without the Dodgers increasing every team’s value by 25 percent, and the Dodgers aren’t worth $2 billion-plus unless their television contract is worth twice that, and their TV money isn’t silly unless the Los Angeles Angels fetch $3 billion for theirs, and the Angels don’t get their largesse without Albert Pujols, and Pujols doesn’t sign for $240 million unless the Texas Rangers usurp the Angels by leveraging their TV rights into building a powerhouse, and the Rangers don’t get that idea unless the New York Yankees gild their lily with the YES Network, a stroke of genius that placed heft behind baseball’s buried treasure: local television.

His logic seems pretty darn sound there.

[62]  I guess, but I really don’t think the Dodgers are worth that much.  This looks like an A-Rod type overpay.  No one else was even close, and all that extra cash STILL didn’t get rid of McCourt.  This will end in tears.

Better say a Novena for Nova or it might be a Kaddish instead.

[60] For what it’s worth, I seem to recall thinking Zim had kind of lost it.

And I please confirm that I’m reading this chart correctly when I deduce that, IRL, BTE will win 101 games and the Yankees will win 84.

[63] There’s a lot of land included in that deal. Of course it’s also in Chavez Ravine which is quite dangerous seismically speaking.  I agree that it is mostly likely an overpay.

  I guess, but I really don’t think the Dodgers are worth that much.  This looks like an A-Rod type overpay.  No one else was even close, and all that extra cash STILL didn’t get rid of McCourt.  This will end in tears.

I believe the significant part of the Dodgers deal was not so much the actual $2 billion sale so much as it was the fact that five different groups were offering at least $1.3 billion. One team going nuts and paying $2 billion is one thing, but five groups each willing to pay at least $1.3 billion?!!? That was the news that the Wilpons used to raise some quick cash, not the actual sale. And it was that news that was a seismic shift to the way baseball franchises are valued.

[69]  Okay, I buy that.

For some reason, all this pie makes me think of the Yankees pitching staff.

Speaking of rounding into form

I just read that the Yankees rotation sucks and this year is a lost cause.  I’ll check back with you guys next year. Hopefully Cashman is fired and we resign Scott Brosius by then.

[63] Someone was willing to pay that for the Dodgers. Doesn’t that make them worth that much?

No. If you are willing to pay that for the Dodgers, then they’re worth that much.
If someone else is willing to pay that much, they’re crazy.   The best effen pie ever. I’m making 3 full sized ones Saturday. I’ve learned a lot from mrs. otf’s paternal marchegian family regarding the easter pie business. I’m very well connected for a tater chomping paddy.  Then we get to the Passover meal…..having a jewtalian for a mate is just a wonderful food bonanza.

[74]  Ask everyone who bought a house between, oh, 2005 and 2008.

By the way, SG, goddamnit, that was a TON of work you put into this. Thanks so much.

{56, 60, 65]  Zimmer put his head down and charged at Pedro, who, to his credit, stepped aside and pushed Zimmer away from him rather than throwing a punch.

[79] The whole thing was rather ridiculous. Pedro perhaps could have sidestepped him without redirecting him to the ground, but Zimmer was the instigator.

Also, thanks SG.

RS closer Andrew Bailey out for half? all? the season - he’s getting thumb surgery to reconstruct his ulnar collateral ligament, apparently damaged during a collision covering first.  Guess the AL East projections are all wrong now.

Please, please, please PLEASE let them make Aceves the closer. It would be such a waste of his talents.

[82] That would be funny.  Rather than using Bard (an effective reliever who has always struggled as a starter) to close, start Bard and use Aceves the multi-inning reliever/spot-starter as a 1-inning only-with-a-lead pitcher.  That would be loverly.

Word is Bailey is out 4-5 months. So, you’re looking at September if anything.

[82] Probably going to go Melancon. Breaks my heart, along with Aceves.

[80] One could argue that Pedro throwing at people and threatening to throw at people’s heads was the instigation.

It’s Wednesday, people ! And you know what that means.

That’s right. Andy Pettitte Day !!

All Hail Goat Boy !

[82] I have Aceves on my fantasy roster, so I am entirely in favor of that move.

[76] Holy Cow that looks good!  And huge.  You’re making 3 of them??  Is every resident of Connecticut invited to the party?

Thank you, SG!
And thanks everyone else for the pie discussion

What about spanakopita?

[90] Those are croissants.

Spanakopita is awesome, however you classify it.  Sauerkraut pie as well.

[92] I classify it as ‘borek.’

“Sauerkraut pie”

Wow, seriously?

My five-year-old loves pickles and do chua - wonder if there’s a pie made of stuff like that.

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