If you are a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, or Los Angeles Dodgers, holding onto belief that your team still has time to make an impact in the playoff races, you don’t care much for projection systems and playoff odds. Cold arithmetic isn’t going to heal your wounded heart, nor will it temper your excitement should your chosen franchise string together a few wins, infusing said heart with valuable hope.
If you aren’t a fan of one of those teams, you can look at Fangraphs new projected standings/depth charts feature and laugh until your sides hurt. Because, according to “the numbers”, it’s all over but the crying.
Very similar to Baseball Prospectus’ projected standings, Fangraphs’ newest features uses ZiPS projections and their own in-house depth chart information to project the won/loss records for the entire league over the remainder of the season. Why bother even playing then, right?
The Angels, Dodgers, and Blue Jays all spent heavily this off-season in hopes of making a title run. Right now they sit with the third, fourth, and fifth worst records in baseball. They’re obviously talented clubs and ZiPS sees them playing much better baseball for the rest of the season.
The Angels are projected to play as the fifth-best team in baseball the rest of the way, winning at a .532 clip over the remaining 131 games of the season. Which is good enough for them to finish…two games under .500.
The Dodgers are in a similar boat: they’re talent projects them to win a nearly identical rate to the Angels (.531 winning % RoS) which will be good enough for a 81-81 finish to the season. The Blue Jays injuries and misfiring acquisitions should win more games than they lose for the rest of the season but still finish with just 78 wins. Ugh.
The Tigers and Rangers shake out as the best teams in the league, with the Tigers projected to finish with 96 wins, best in baseball.
Projection systems are mathematically sound structures grounded in reality. Luckily, baseball is not that. These system regress everything to the mean – they are no predictions. Predicting second half surges fueled by luck and off-the-map good play is impossible but they are certain to happen.
The Angels’ playoff odds are 17 percent. The 2012 A’s, who spent two weeks at 0 percent, didn’t have playoff odds that high until July 21.
— Sam Miller (@SamMillerBP) May 9, 2013
Most fans see the potential winning streak around every corner. Each minor move is prelude to something bigger and something brighter. Many of these projections, in their current state, will end up laughably wrong. No fan that thought or hoped that their team’s season was salvageable will read the projections and change their mind.
It’s more food for thought – evidence of how tall the task really is and how much sweeter it will be when their team pulls off the unthinkable.