Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The 2013 MLB Projection Blowout
With Opening Day rapidly approaching, it’s time for my 2013 MLB projected standings blowout. The idea behind this series of posts is to try and project how the 2013 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.
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 2013 playing time. I used the rosters and depth charts available at 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 2013, 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 2012 Orioles projecting to win 70 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.
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 specific projected standings look.
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 ZiPS will have its own projected standings so these should not be considered the official version. Playing time distribution, run environments and park factors may cause some divergence between what ZiPS forecasts and what mine say. When in doubt, go with the official version.
With all the disclaimers out of the way, on to the projected standings. These are the combined results for all five projection systems. The standings are rounded to the nearest win so if the total W-L doesn’t add up to 2430-2430 that’s why.
W: Projected final 2013 wins
L: Projected final 2013 losses
RS: Projected final 2013 runs scored
RA: Projected final 2013 runs allowed
Div: Division win percentage
WC1: Wild card win percentage
WC2: Wild card win percentage
PS: Postseason percentage (Div + WC1 + WC2)
W+/-: Projected wins within one standard deviation
As noted earlier, this is NOT saying that you can win the NL West by winning 87 games. It’s saying that the team that finished in first most frequently in that division averaged 87 wins over hundreds of thousands of seasons. Here are the average win totals for each spot in each division.
Here is how each division broke down in terms of percentages using the aforementioned pie charts.
In the AL East, we’ve got the mostly tightly bunched group of teams in baseball, with just 10 wins separating Toronto at the top and Baltimore at the bottom. Toronto and Tampa Bay look like they’re neck and neck as of right now. The Yankees are already ravaged by injuries and at this point it doesn’t seem like it would take a lot for them to end up having a losing season and even finish last. Should they lose Robinson Cano or CC Sabathia for any significant amount of time that may be exactly what happens. Boston has improved quite a bit from where they were at the end of last season, although they apparently still have a ways to go. The projections are expecting a big regression from Baltimore, although they have enough talented young players with upside that they could beat their projections by quite a bit.
The AL Central basically looks like Detroit and everyone else. Kansas City and Cleveland are jockeying behind the Tigers. It’ll be interesting to see what the Indians get out of Scott Kazmir, who did not have a Steamer projection and projected pretty poorly in all the other systems. He’s throwing harder than he was when last seen in the majors and could surprise some people. For the Royals, it looks like Big Game James may not get into many big games this year, although stranger things have happened. The White Sox are projected to fall off a bit from last season, and the Twins look like they aren’t going to be very good.
There’s a new floormat in the AL West, and it’s the Houston Astros. Can they lose 100+ games for the third year in a row? The projections think they can. Houston projects to be so bad that they have essentially balanced out the league difference between the AL and NL. Last year, the AL went 1150-1118 thanks to interleague play. If you add Houston’s 55-107 to that you get a record of 1205-1225. Los Anaheim looks like the favorite here and project to win more games than any other team in baseball, with Texas a strong second. The Angels do have some concerns in their rotation, which could open the door for the Rangers. Oakland projects to fall back a bit from last year, but still should be in contention. Seattle still doesn’t look particularly good, although they should score some more runs this year, which is something.
The Nationals project as favorites in the NL East, especially now that the restrictions are off Stephen Strasburg. The Braves aren’t quite at their level, but project to be pretty good as well. The Phillies appear to be showing their age, and if Roy Halladay doesn’t bounce back they could be in trouble. The Mets don’t look good to me, especially with Johan Santana looking iffy and the Marlins may be as bad as the Astros. If Placido Polanco is hitting cleanup to ‘protect’ Giancarlo Stanton, it’s hard to see them winning 60 games.
In the Central, the Reds look like the clear favorite. The Cardinals were closer before losing Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal, but they seem like the second best team in the division. Pittsburgh and Milwaukee are neck and neck with each other and the Cubs look to be bringing up the rear.
In the West, the Dodgers are spending money like there’s no tomorrow but I’m not so sure they’re spending it all that well. They project a hair better than San Francisco but given the margin of error inherent in projections there’s really no difference in their projections. The Diamondbacks had a bizarre offseason and losing Adam Eaton for two months hurts, but they should be in the mix if a few things go their way. The Padres look a bit better than I expected, although still not good and the Rockies stink.
Usually there’s a surprise team or two in here but this year nothing really stands out. In general it seems that aside from a handful of really bad teams we’re seeing more parity. Between that and the second wild card you can pretty much see any team in baseball sneaking into the postseason. Except the Astros.
And there you have it. The 2013 projection blowout. Results are not guaranteed.
On an unrelated note, our sister site, the Replacement Level Red Sox launches today. Check them out at replacementlevelredsox.com.
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