Monday, March 28, 2011
The 2011 Diamond Mind Projection Blowout - American League Edition
Opening Day is just days away, so it’s time to present my annual Diamond Mind Projection blowout. The idea behind this is to take several projection systems and run the 2011 season multiple times through Diamond Mind Baseball, which I consider to be the most statistically accurate baseball simulator available.
I’ve done a version of this since 2005. If you want to see how previous runs have gone, here are the links:
As you can see if you look at the prior runs, the results can be hit and miss, but that’s certainly understandable.
Before I present the projected standings, it’s disclaimer time.
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 2011 playing time. I used the rosters and depth charts available at the absolutely awesome MLB Depth Charts 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 2011, the more likely they will be to exceed these projections.
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 Brandon Webb or 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 2005 White Sox projecting to win 79 games, the 2006 Tigers projecting to win 80, or the 2010 Giants projecting to go 81-81. 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 card when it happens which is why you may see some funny decimal places in the standings that follow.
6) While the Diamond Mind engine is pretty good at giving us some variance in player and team performances over multiple simulations, it’s not quite good enough to model reality. Diamond Mind’s standard deviation for team wins is generally in the six to seven win range, but given the possible variations in playing time and in player performance, a better standard deviation is probably closer to the 10 to 13 win range. So I’ve taken the results from each set of projections (which I ran 1,000 times) and then run them through a Monte Carlo simulator 100,000 times. It won’t change the average win totals much, but it will give us a slightly higher standard deviation on team wins which will give us slightly different division and wild card percentages which should be more realistic.
7) 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. The idea behind is not necessarily to tell us how the final standings will look. Think of it more as a starting point for discussion. You can look at these and think about why you think teams will be better or worse.
OK, so now that the disclaimers are out of the way, onto the projected standings. I am showing W-L to one decimal place to deal with displayed rounding issues and so I don’t get people asking me why the wins and losses don’t add up to exactly 2430, not to imply that these results are that precise.
There’s too much crap 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 for the American League. You can follow the links below to look at the National League’s aggregate results and 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.
|TM||W||L||RS||RA||Div||WC||PL||W Std||RS Std||RA Std||W+/-||RS+/-||RA+/-|
|TM||W||L||RS||RA||Div||WC||PL||W Std||RS Std||RA Std||W+/-||RS+/-||RA+/-|
|TM||W||L||RS||RA||Div||WC||PL||W Std||RS Std||RA Std||W+/-||RS+/-||RA+/-|
W: Projected 2011 wins
L: Projected 2011 losses
RS: Projected 2011 runs scored
RA: Projected 2011 runs allowed
Div: Division win percentage
WC: Wild card win percentage
PL: Playoff percentage (Div + WC)
W Std: Wins range within one standard deviation
RS Std: Runs scored within one standard deviation
RA Std: Runs allowed within one standard deviation
W+/-: 2011 projected wins minus 2010 actual wins
RS+/-: 2011 projected runs scored minus 2010 actual runs scored (positive means they are projected to score more)
RA+/-: 2011 projected runs allowed minus 2010 actual runs allowed (negative means they are projected to allow fewer)
One thing I need to note, since it may not be obvious. Those standings are NOT saying the Tigers are going to win the AL Central with 84.6 wins. They are saying the Tigers projected to win the AL Central most frequently(31.2% of the time) and that they averaged 84.6 wins. Those are two separate things. In order to actually win the division, the AL Central winner had to win 90 games on average.
Here are the average wins for each place in the AL, plus the wild card.
|AL Wild Card||92|
Regular readers know that this whole exercise is an excuse to make fancy pie charts, so here’s how the AL division title percentages look for the aggregate in pie chart form.
I’ll run through the divisions and teams briefly:
Boston Red Sox
Average Projected Wins: 94
Division Title Percentage: 42.1%
Wild Card Percentage: 17.8%
Playoff Percentage: 59.8%
Boston projects as the best team in baseball, but they don’t project to be some 110 win juggernaut. They obviously added a couple of nice pieces in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, but they lost two very important players from last year’s team in Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez. The bulk of Boston’s projected improvement is based on the assumptions of better health from some of their key players who missed significant time last year, and on some bounce back years from some of their pitchers who struggled.
Why they might be better than projected: There’s little doubt that Adrian Gonzalez has moved from a park that suppresses offense significantly to one that boosts offense. You never know exactly how an individual player’s performance will be affected by moving to a new park, so there’s a chance that his projections may not fully capture how much he’ll benefit. So if Gonzalez is able to take more advantage of Fenway than expected, he may exceed his projections
In addition to that, while most of the projections expect some bounce back from Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, any one of them or all of them might be able to outperform their projections.
They may also get better than expected performance out of shortstop if Jed Lowrie can stay healthy and take away some of Marco Scutaro’s time.
Why they might be worse than projected: You shouldn’t read too much into spring training performance, but Beckett has looked pretty shaky. If he’s not healthy or he’s lost some zip even a modest bounce back may be asking too much. Kevin Youkilis hasn’t played a lot of 3B over the past two years, and there’s a chance his defense there might be lacking, although he’s got good numbers at 3B in his career. They may also have trouble with lefties in the late innings with their bullpen if Dennys Reyes and/or Hideki Okajima are ineffective, although Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon have generally been pretty effective against them. Their lineup may be a bit more susceptible to LHP.
New York Yankees
Average Projected Wins: 92
Division Title Percentage: 32.8%
Wild Card Percentage: 18.2%
Playoff Percentage: 51.0%
The Yankees are probably not as good as Boston, although with the error bars in any projection a gap of two wins is effectively not much of a gap. At least one NL team’s scouts seem to think the Yankees are better.
Why they might be better than projected: I’ve assumed that Jesus Montero will only get about 200 PA, but if he’s able to exceed that and play passable defense the Yankees can probably get a few more runs out of him than they would out of Russell Martin and/or Francisco Cervelli.
It’s not likely, but I don’t think anyone would be shocked to see Alex Rodriguez put up an MVP-caliber season, which is not something he’s projected to do. He’s tearing the cover off the ball in spring training, although that’s not necessarily predictive.
The Yankees’ rotation has a lot of uncertainty in it, but but if A.J. Burnett can pitch closer to how he did in 2009 and they get serviceable pitching out of Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia they’ll be in in pretty good shape. They’ve also got some intriguing arms that are long on potential in AA and AAA that may end up helping them out as the season proceeds.
Why they might be worse than projected: Derek Jeter may set the all-time record for grounding into double plays. The lineup looks strong, but they’re not particularly young and there’s a chance they’ll get worse than expected performances/missed time from some of their key players and they don’t have a ton of depth behind the starters. Jorge Posada’s bat would probably still play well at catcher, but it’s uncertain how well it’ll play as a DH. The uncertainty that may help the Yankee rotation out-perform their projections could also cause it to crash and burn.
Tampa Bay Rays
Average Projected Wins: 86
Division Title Percentage: 16.0%
Wild Card Percentage: 13.4%
Playoff Percentage: 29.4%
The Rays have won the AL East in two of the past three seasons. Despite that, the “experts” aren’t expecting a lot out of Tampa Bay since they lost their entire bullpen and Carl Crawford. Of course, those experts should probably take a look at how they built that bullpen in the first place. Most were traded for at a minimal cost or signed relatively cheaply and there’s no reason to think they can’t cobble a similarly good pen together in 2011.
Why they might be better than projected: They’ve got youth on their side with a lot of their key players. They also have a lot of flexibility with players who can play several positions and hit well, which should help mitigate any injuries or poor performances. It’s looking less likely that B.J. Upton’s going to turn into a superstar, but you never know.
Why they might be worse than projected: Some of their younger players like Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson may have some growing pains, and some of their hopes for contending are contingent on Ben Zobrist hitting a bit better than he did in 2010 coming off a back injury.
Average Projected Wins: 79
Division Title Percentage: 6.0%
Wild Card Percentage: 6.5%
Playoff Percentage: 12.5%
The Orioles may have improved more than any other team in baseball, at least if you compare their projections to their 2010 performance. Their lineup looks pretty good, and Brian Matusz looks like he’s on his way to becoming one of the best young pitchers in baseball. The Orioles played very well after Buck Showalter took over, although that in and of itself is not necessarily predictive.
Why they might be better than projected: They could see better than expected performances out of Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, all of who have been somewhat disappointing relative to expectations so far. If they can get good performances out of some of their non-Matusz young starters like Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tilman and can get a reasonable number of starts out of Justin Duchscherer their pitching could surprise.
Why they might be worse than projected: Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee have seen their best days, but still project decently, so if they underperform a bit that could hurt. There’s a non-zero chance they get nothing out of Duchscherer and some of their young starters struggle.
Toronto Blue Jays
Average Projected Wins: 74
Division Title Percentage: 3.1%
Wild Card Percentage: 3.2%
Playoff Percentage: 6.3%
The Jays projections seem low to me, although I guess that’s largely a function of playing in a tough division.
Why they might be better than projected: Jose Bautista is probably a completely different player than he was in 2008 and the first five months of 2009, but the projections don’t know that. If he’s closer to 2010 Bautista than he’s projected to be that will make the offense better. The subpar performances of Adam Lind, Travis Snyder and Aaron Hill in 2010 may be hurting their projections as well. They’ve got some interesting young arms in the rotation who could also be better than expected.
Why they might be worse than projected: The offense doesn’t look great, particularly if Edwin Encarnacion is the primary DH and Juan Rivera is the primary LF. The defense may be a bit less than great with Jose Bautista at 3B and Adam Lind at 1B.
Average Projected Wins: 85
Division Title Percentage: 31.2%
Wild Card Percentage: 6.4%
Playoff Percentage: 37.7%
A busy offseason has vaulted Detroit to the top of the projected AL Central. They’ve probably got the best pitcher in their division in Justin Verlander and one of the top hitters in baseball with Miguel Cabrera.
Why they might be better than projected: The Tigers are heavily right-handed which is a benefit in Comerica park. Rick Porcello’s raw numbers looked worse in 2010 than they were in 2009, but his FIP was actually about 0.40 runs better, so he may pitch better than a projection that doesn’t account for that would think.
Why they might be worse than projected: There’s not a lot of depth here. An injury to one of their front-line players like Cabrera or Verlander or Victor Martinez would be tough to overcome. They have some good defenders but their overall defense doesn’t look all that great. They’re counting on Phil Coke making the transition to the rotation and that’s a risk in terms of both performance and innings.
Average Projected Wins: 84
Division Title Percentage: 30.7%
Wild Card Percentage: 6.6%
Playoff Percentage: 37.3%
The Twins return essentially the same team that won the AL Central in 2010, minus J.J. Hardy but plus Joe Nathan.
Why they might be better than projected: Francisco Liriano had a very good year in 2010 and if you look at his peripherals it looks even better. However, his projections include a less than great 2009. If the reason for that 2009 was due to limitations as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery then his projections probably underrate him. Getting a full season out of Justin Morneau may also help, as I’ve assumed he’ll only play about 75% of the games due to his concussion issues.
Why they might be worse than projected: Their outfield defense isn’t very good, particularly Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer. While most projections try to account for defense when projecting pitching, they may not be penalzing the Twins enough. Morneau may miss a non-trivial amount of time, which would also obviously hurt. They’ve got Alexi Casilla penciled in as the starting SS, but he’s only played 233 innings there in his career so he may not be up for the task. They’re also counting on Tsuyohsi Nishioka at 2B, and it’s tough to know exactly how his game will translate from Japan.
Chicago White Sox
Average Projected Wins: 83
Division Title Percentage: 25.6%
Wild Card Percentage: 6.3%
Playoff Percentage: 31.9%
The White Sox added Adam Dunn, who should be a huge upgrade over what they got out of DH last year. They’ll also have a full season of Edwin Jackson.
Why they might be better than projected: The biggest reason I can think of is Edwin Jackson. He was a completely different pitcher for the White Sox that he’s been at any point in his career, although it was only 11 starts. His BB/9 was 2.16 compared to 3.86 career, and his K/9 rate jumped to 9.24 compared to 6.68. If that was due to Don Cooper’s coaching and not just a nice little run that was due more to luck than skill he could be a lot more valuable than expected. It’ll be interesting to see how Gordon Beckham does this year, as he fell off significantly from his 2009.
Why they might be worse than projected: The White Sox have generally been one of the healthiest teams in baseball, but Jake Peavy is a major injury risk based on his past history and the drop-off after him is pretty steep. They’ve got Brent Morel slated as the starting 3B. His defensive reputation is quite good, but his bat’s still an uncertain proposition.
Average Projected Wins: 74
Division Title Percentage: 8.8%
Wild Card Percentage: 2.6%
Playoff Percentage: 11.4%
The Indians are probably the youngest team in baseball. They return most of a team that was pretty bad in 2010.
Why they might be better than projected: Grady Sizemore’s trying to make his way back from injury. Prior to that he was one of the best players in baseball and if he’s able to recapture most of that and play regularly it’ll help. Their rotation is young and that may help them pitch better than projected.
Why they might be worse than projected: Aside from Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana (and a healthy Sizemore), their position players aren’t particularly great. It’s tough to see them scoring a lot of runs as presently constituted, and their defense last year was pretty lousy. A repeat of that could make their run prevention worse than projected.
Kansas City Royals
Average Projected Wins: 68
Division Title Percentage: 3.7%
Wild Card Percentage: 1.2%
Playoff Percentage: 4.9%
With Zach Greinke now in Milwaukee, it’s looking like another painful year for the Royals in 2011, but their future looks a lot brighter.
Why they might be better than projected: The Royals might have the best farm system in baseball and some of those prospects may start contributing this year.
Why they might be worse than projected: The Royals are probably not even going to sniff contention, so it may make sense to make moves with the future in mind that could hurt them in the short-term. The package they got back for Greinke doesn’t look all that great, and right now it looks like they are going to have Jeff Francoeur hitting in the middle of the lineup, something that Braves and Mets fans probably get hives about.
Average Projected Wins: 88
Division Title Percentage: 45.7%
Wild Card Percentage: 31.3%
Playoff Percentage: 51.6%
2010’s AL Champions look like the class of the AL West.
Why they might be better than projected: I’ve seen it expressed in more than one place that the Rangers need to replace Cliff Lee and that losing him is going to hurt, but is losing 109 innings of 3.98 ERA that big of a deal?
The defensive upgrade from Michael Young to Adrian Beltre at 3B is huge on paper, but projections may understate it. Derek Holland has the stuff to be better than projected and that would slot in nicely behind C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. I’ve restricted Brandon Webb to about 10 starts, so if he can make more than that and pitch as projected they’ll benefit.
Why they might be worse than projected: 2010 was Wilson’s first full season as a starter in the majors, so I suppose there’s some risk that he breaks down at some point. Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler have both shown problems with staying healthy at times and losing either of them for a significant amount of time (particularly Hamilton) would be a big blow. They may get nothing out of Webb.
Average Projected Wins: 85
Division Title Percentage: 31.3%
Wild Card Percentage: 6.1%
Playoff Percentage: 37.4%
Despite scoring 37 runs more than they allowed, the A’s finshed 2010 at 81-81. The projections expect them to be less unlucky in 2011 and pick up those 3-4 missing wins.
Why they might be better than projected: They should be a pretty good defensive team, which may not be fully captured in their pitching projections.
Why they might be worse than projected: They’ve got some health concerns in their pitching staff, and their offense isn’t great. A lot of their pitchers had ERAs well below their FIPs/xFIPs and may regress more than projected, although some of that difference is probably due to park.
Average Projected Wins: 78
Division Title Percentage: 14.9%
Wild Card Percentage: 3.6%
Playoff Percentage: 18.5%
A bad offseason following their first losing season since 2003 has the Angels projected behind Texas and Oakland. However, they’ll have a full season of Dan Haren and the return of Kendrys Morales as upgrades.
Why they might be better than projected: An outfield of Vernon Wells in LF, Peter Bourjos in CF and Torii Hunter in RF could be the best defensive OF in baseball. That could be particularly beneficial to Jered Weaver who is a fly ball pitcher. At this point it looks like Scott Kazmir the budding ace has morphed into Scott Kazmir the replacement level pitcher, but he’s still young and might be able to recapture some of his former glory.
Why they might be worse than projected: Their catching situation stinks, and they don’t have much depth behind their starters. Fernando Rodney as closer seems like a good way to lose some close games late.
Average Projected Wins: 74
Division Title Percentage: 8.1%
Wild Card Percentage: 2.2%
Playoff Percentage: 10.3%
Picked by many to be in contention in the AL West in 2010, the Mariners instead lost 101 games. They scored an abysmal 513 runs and actually over-performed their pythagorean W-L by four games. Of course, they weren’t really that bad, they just had a lot of things go wrong which means they should be better in 2011 just by dumb luck, although they still don’t look like a contender.
Why they might be better than projected: Erik Bedard looks healthy, but I’ve assumed he’ll only pitch about 15 games. If they can get a full season out of him they’ll be a bit better.
Why they might be worse than projected: Their offense still looks pretty lousy, and if they’ve decided they can’t contend they may try and flip some of their players for prospects.
For the NL edition, click here.
And there you have it, the 2011 Diamond Mind projection blowout. Results are not guaranteed.
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