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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The table below shows for each of the NL teams their actual 2016 winning percentages (W-L%) along with their expected winning percentages (Lin W-L%), calculated using my linear formula Lin W-L% =.000579*(RS – RA) +.50, RS is runs scored and RA is runs allowed.

2017 NL Picks
My choice to win the NL East is the New York Mets. If healthy the Mets starting rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz (currently injured), and Zack Wheeler could be the best in the Major Leagues. Robert Gsellman will be a great temporary replacement for Matz. The loss of 16-game winner Bartolo Colon is a negative. The resigning of Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker bodes well for the offense. Moving Jose Reyes to third base give the Mets a dependable leadoff batter. Yes, the bullpen is a question mark and of course the health of the starting pitchers could bite the Mets. Granderson will be Granderson and produce his 20+ home runs. If healthy the Mets should increase their Lin W-L% to 0.580 from 0.538. Right on the Mets heels will be the Washington Nationals. The Nationals have a solid lineup around maybe the best two positional players in the NL shortstop Trea Turner and outfielder Bryce Harper and a starting rotation that should be top-notch, provided Stephen Strasburg stays healthy. The bullpen is a question mark. However, look for the Nationals to be one of the Wild Card teams.

My choice for the NL Central is the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are easily baseball’s most complete team. They have emerging stars all over the depth chart, an excellent rotation and bullpen, and a great defense. In 2016 their Lin W-L% was the highest in the majors which allowed them to have 103 wins. Look for over 100 wins again in 2017.The St Louis Cardinals have an experienced rotation and offensively an already balanced attack will get stronger with the addition of center fielder Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals will battle for the second Wild Card.

The Los Angeles Dodgers should repeat as NL West winners. The Dodgers brought back all the stars they needed. With Clayton Kershaw healthy and shortstop Corey Seager improving on his National League Rookie of the Year season the pitching and offense remain strong. The biggest addition for 2017 was acquiring Logan Forsythe from the Rays. Forsythe fills their hole at second base and gives them a sorely needed right-handed bat. The Dodgers should improve their Lin W-L% from last year’s 0.558 and win 93+ games in 2017. Right behind the Dodgers will be the San Francisco Giants who arguably have the best lefty-right rotation duo in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. The signing of Mark Melancon improves their bullpen. Yes, the Giants will battle the Cardinals for the second Wild Card.

To summarize the three divisional winners in the NL will be the Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers. A fight exists between the Giants, Cardinals, and Nationals for the two Wild Cards. My choice for the two Wild Card teams are the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2017 we will see a World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Last year the Cubs broke their 108-year drought and in 2017 will extend their WS winning streak to two. Yes, the Cubs will repeat as World Champions.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The table below shows for each of the AL teams their actual 2016 winning percentages (W-L%) along with their expected winning percentages (Lin W-L%), calculated using my linear formula Lin W-L% =.000579*(RS – RA) +.50, RS is runs scored and RA is runs allowed.

2017ALPredictions
 

My choice to win the AL East is the Boston Red Sox. Yes, the Red Sox lost David Ortiz and his 38-home run 2016 season. But, kudos to the Red Sox management for acquiring Chris Sale. Sale will join defending American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and David Price (if healthy) to give Boston a front-of-the-rotation combination that potentially could be the best in the Major Leagues. Sale hasn't won his own Cy Young Award, but he has finished in the top six in AL balloting each of the past five years. Two other notable moves included the signing of free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland to upgrade the infield defense and trading for Tyler Thornburg, who will serve as a setup man for Craig Kimbrel. Offensively, no one expects Moreland to replace Ortiz. However, Moreland taking over first base will allow the Red Sox to shift Hanley Ramirez into the DH role and that improved overall defense does help close the value gap between Moreland and Ortiz. Sorting out the No. 4 and 5 starter spots between Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez is a problem every team would love to have. I believe the Red Sox are the most improved team in the AL and will improve on their 2016 AL best Lin W-L% of 0.606 increasing their win total to over 95 wins.

My choice for the AL Central is the Cleveland Indians. The starting pitching should be improved over last year with the return of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to full-time duty fortifying a rotation fronted by Corey Kluber. Adding Andrew Miller as their closer to go along with Cody Allen will improve an already excellent bullpen. The signing of Edwin Encarnacion, Austin Jackson, and Chris Colabello will create more runs for the offense. With strong starters and an improved bullpen and offense, the Indians should increase their Lin W-L% to about 0.585 which would put their win total at 95 and make them a runaway winner of the Central Division.

In my opinion the AL East and AL Central have clear cut winners in the Red Sox and Indians. However, the AL West is not so clear cut. In 2016, The Texas Rangers won the division with a W-L% of 0.586. However, their Lin W-L% was only 0.505. The reason for this discrepancy is they won 36 of 47 1-run games. This will not happen again in 2017. So, I have eliminated Texas as a winner. This leaves me with the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros as my two choices. Both these teams have made notable additions. For Seattle, Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson will give them a great one-two punch at the top of the lineup setting the table for a trio of 30-homer sluggers Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager. For Houston, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Reddick will join an offense that already featured Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, giving Houston an offense that potentially stacks up to any in baseball. Seattle should improve their Lin W-L% to about 0.550 and Houston should improve their Lin W-L% from 0.515 to 0.535. Whichever pitching staff does better will determine the winner. My choice is Seattle based on my belief that King Felix Hernandez, who turns 31 in April, after a shaky 2016 will return to his throne in 2017.

To summarize, my 3 divisional winners are Boston, Cleveland and Seattle and my two Wild Card teams are Houston and Toronto. Finally, the team that will represent the AL in the 2017 WS is the Boston Red Sox. 


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

This is the first blog of a three blog series. This blog will give the reasons I use for making my MLB predictions for a new year. The second and third blogs will give my actual predictions for the three division winners and two wild card teams in each league for the 2017 season.

To recap the 2016 season these were the final standings.

2016 Results

The three division winners in the AL were BOS, CLE, and TEX. The two wild card winners were TOR and BAL. The three division winners in the NL were WSN, CHC, and LAD. The two wild cards were NYM and SFG.

My Linear Formula for the 2016 season was W% = .000579*(Runs Scored – Runs Allowed) + .50 where W% was a team’s expected winning percentage based on their (runs scored – runs allowed). Using the expected winning percentage from my formula the following would have been the final standings for 2016.

2016 Linear Formula Results
 

From my formula the three division winners in the AL would have been BOS, CLE, and SEA. The two wild card winners would have been TOR and BAL. The three division winners for the NL would have been WSN, CHC, and LAD. The two NL wild card winners would have been SFG and STL.

The only difference in the five playoff teams, comparing the actual playoff teams to my expected playoff teams from my formula, was for the AL TEX made it and SEA did not and for the NL the NYM were in and STL was out.

The reason for giving the above data is to justify why I use my formula to help me make my predictions for next year’s playoff teams based on how the runs scored and runs allowed for each team will change from the previous year. These changes in runs scored and runs allowed are estimated by looking at the new players added and the old players deleted from each team. From the addition and subtraction of players for each team I estimate a new runs scored and runs allowed for each team. Then using my Linear Formula, I arrive at a team’s estimated winning percentage for the new season.

My next two blogs will give my predictions for the two leagues for the 2017 season.

By the way using my method last year I predicted the CHC would defeat TOR in the World Series. Of course, even though TOR made the playoffs it was CLE that represented the AL in the World Series. 


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Within the last two weeks ESPN and Tim Kurjian (top ESPN sportswriter) have both come out with their top 10 list of the all-time greatest baseball players. In the final chapter of my book “Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball,” I produced my own top 10 list of the greatest all-time hitters in baseball. The 3 lists appear below.

One major difference is my list excluded pitchers and judged players only on their ability to get on base, to hit with power and to produce runs for their team. The other 2 lists included pitchers and for hitters also looked at defense and running. My list also includes a point total for each player. Points were awarded to players based on the following accomplishments:

  1. Players were given points for ranking in the top ten for their careers for the statistics AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS (OBP + SLG), Runs Created [(#H+#BB)*TB / (#AB+#BB)] , HRA (#HR/#AB), #H, #HR.
  2. Bill James’s Black-Ink Test score was used. The Black-Ink Test awards 4 points for leading the league in home runs, runs-batted-in, and batting average. Three points are awarded for leading the league in runs scored, hits, and slugging percentage. Two points are awarded for leading the league in doubles, walks, and stolen bases. One point is awarded for leading the league in games, at-bats, and triples.
  3. Bill James’s Gray-Ink Test score was used. This test awards the same points as the Black-Ink Test except points are awarded if the player finished in the top 10 in each of the statistics.Players who finished in the top ten in either test got 5 points.
  4. Special consideration was given to a player who achieved either a Triple Crown Award or a Career Triple Crown Award, who batted .380 or above for a season, who had a consecutive hitting streak of at least 40 games, who finished his career with at least 3000 hits, hit at least 50 home runs in a season, or had at least 500 career home runs.
  5. Players were given credit for winning an MVP Award.

If you are interested in how each player got their points, please read Chapter 18 in my book.

So how do these three lists compare? To no one’s surprise the BABE is number one on all 3 lists. My list has Ted second while the other 2 lists put Willie second. I can understand this since if you combine hitting with fielding and running there is a good argument that Willie was better all-around than Ted. But if you just look at hitting there can be no argument that Ted is number two. The only active player on any of the 3 lists is Albert Pujois who is on my list. Mantle appears on the other 2 lists but ranked 13th on my list with a total of 5 points. I object to the exclusion of Lou Gehrig from the top 10 ESPN list. Another objection is the exclusion of Rogers Hornsby from the other two lists. From 1921 to 1925 Hornsby had a cumulative batting average over .400. Note that even though the other two lists included pitchers only one pitcher made it on each of their lists. 

Dr Stan's Top 10 Hitters

ESPN Top Ten Baseball Players
Please comment on what players you would add.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In 2016, 2 record batting streaks have been in the news. The 2 batting streaks are Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams’ 84-game getting on-base streak. DiMaggio’s streak means he got a hit in 56 consecutive games; whereas, Williams’ streak means in 84 consecutive games he reached base with either a hit, a base-on-balls or a hit-by-pitch. The 2 players toying with these 2 streaks in 2016 were Jackie Bradley Jr. and Marcell Ozuna. Bradley’s hitting streak ended at 29 consecutive games. Ozuna’s on-base streak ended at 36 consecutive games. How does one compare different batting streaks to choose which one is the most impressive? Most impressive means harder to achieve.

In an article by Herm Krabbenhoft which appeared in the Baseball Research Journal, he compares DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak to Williams’ 84-game on-base streak. Krabbenhoft gives his answer in terms of approachability. He states, “Since DiMaggio achieved his streak in 1941, the closest any major league player has come to it was the 44-game hitting streak by Pete Rose in 1978. Forty-four is 78.6% of the way to 56. Since Williams achieved his 84-game streak in 1949, the closest any player has come to it were the 58 consecutive game on-base streak by Duke Snider in 1954 and Barry Bonds in 2003. Fifty-eight is 69% of the way to 84. So, with the above approachability considerations in mind, it can be argued that Teddy Ballgame’s 84 game on-base safely streak may be the greatest batting achievement of all.” Since Krabbenhoft’s article was published in 2004, Orlando Cabrera recorded a consecutive game on-base streak of 63 games in 2006. Sixty-three is 75% of the way to 84. This blows a hole in the approachability argument.

As a sabermetrician, I give my answer using probability theory. Which player DiMaggio or Williams, based on their statistics for that year, had the smallest probability of achieving their streak? Using the number of games played, number of plate appearances and number of successes of any player combined with the length of the streak, I created a probability formula which gives the probability of any player, based on their season’s batting statistics, duplicating any batting streak. The development of my probability formula for different batting streaks can be found in two books. In my book, Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball, published by John Hopkins Press I devote the entire Chapter 16 to comparing different batting streaks. My research on streaks was also published as Chapter 4 in the book Mathematics and Sports, published by the Mathematical Association of America. 

Applying my probability formula to both players’ streaks, here are the results.For the year 1941, the probability of Joe DiMaggio achieving his 56-game hitting streak was 0.0001 or 0.01%. For the year 1949, the probability of Ted Williams achieving his 84-game on-base streak was 0.0944 or 9.44%. For every 10,000 seasons, we would have expected DiMaggio in 1941 to accomplish his streak once while we would have expected Williams in 1949 to accomplish his streak 944 times. Ted Williams himself said, “I believe there isn’t a record on the books that will be tougher to break than Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.”

Based on the probabilities calculated above, I agree with Williams that DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is the more impressive.What about the probabilities associated with the 2016 streaks of Bradley and Ozuna? As for Bradley’s 29-game hitting streak his probability was 0.00281 or 0.281%.

Ozuna probability of a 36-game on-base streak was 0.0125 or 1.25%. Bradley’s streak is the more impressive one.

If you are wondering why Williams’ 84-game streak had such a high probability of occurring in 1949 the lengthy answer is in my book.


 


 
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