Wednesday, October 07, 2009

MLB Playoff Predictions

You've all read a lot of this before, but I think it's an essential part of the process, so I'm going to repeat it. (Plus it's late, I've got stuff to do in the morning, I still don't know who the Yankees are playing, and I've got to fill the post as best as I can now...) So I'm going to start with a re-run from last year.

I'd like to begin with a new acronym, to cut down on the number of times that I have to repeat certain comments.

Any Thing Can Happen In A Short Series
ATCHIASS

You'll see it again...

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Boston Red Sox



I want to reiterate my fundamental position that a 5-7 game series tells you nothing about the relative virtues of the competing teams. I'd expect the significantly better team to win 3 of 5 significantly less than 100% of the time. Either team could win this series. Either team could lose this series. Either team could sweep this series. That goes for all the rest of them, too.

ATCHIASS

That said...

Just like last year, I think that the Angels, who finished with a better record, are not as good a team as the Red Sox. The Angels did out-score Boston, but the runs scored advantage for LAnaheim isn't as big as the runs allowed advantage for Boston. Baseball Prospectus does some standings based on not only runs scored and allowed, but adjusted for the opponents and the components* of run scoring and allowing. They think that these standings are a better representation of the quality of the teams in baseball. Boston's 3rd order record was 91-71. The Angel's was 87-75.

So I say that the Red Sox are a better team than the Angels. And they could get swept out of the playoffs over the weekend, and I'll still be saying it on Monday.

Objective rankings



In one of his abstracts, Bill James produced a play-off predictor system, based on the playoff that had occurred up to that point. Some of it makes sense, some doesn't, and I'm sure that it's less relevant than it was. But it is kind of a fun toy, so here it is, Red Sox vs. Angels:

1. 1 pt to the lead team for each half-game in the standings (LAA - 4)
2. 3 pts to the team that scored more runs (LAA - 3)
3. 14 pts to the team with fewer doubles (LAA - 14)
4. 12 pts to the team with more triples (LAA - 12)
5. 10 pts to the team with more home runs (BOS - 10)
6. 8 pts to the team with the lower team batting average (BOS - 8)
7. 8 pts to the team that committed fewer errors (BOS - 8)
8. 7 pts to the team that turned more double plays (LAA - 7)
9. 7 pts to the team that walked more batters (BOS - 7)
10. 19 pts to the team that had more shutouts (LAA - 19)
11. 15 pts to the team whose ERA was lower (BOS - 15)
12. 12 pts to the team that has been in postseason most recently or
    went further (BOS - 12)
13. 12 pts to the team that won season series (LAA - 12)

BOS - 60, LAA - 71

The Bill James Playoff predictor likes the Angels in this series.

Baseball Prospectus has another curve-fitting exercise they call the "secret sauce" ranking. This looks at teams' ranks in three sabermetric categories, with the overall higher ranked team predicted to have better post-season success. As it's a sum-of-ranks rating, lower is better.

Boston (34) over LAA (48)

The Secret Sauce favors the Red Sox. So do I.


New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins



If the Twins had had the chance to set up their rotation and rest players, I'd still pick the Yankees to sweep them. This is, on paper anyway, a huge mismatch.

Objective rankings



1. 1 pt to the lead team for each half-game in the standings (NYY - 34)
2. 3 pts to the team that scored more runs (NYY - 3)
3. 14 pts to the team with fewer doubles (MIN - 14)
4. 12 pts to the team with more triples (MIN - 12)
5. 10 pts to the team with more home runs (NYY - 10)
6. 8 pts to the team with the lower team batting average (MIN - 8)
7. 8 pts to the team that committed fewer errors (MIN - 8)
8. 7 pts to the team that turned more double plays (MIN - 0)
9. 7 pts to the team that walked more batters (NYY - 7)
10. 19 pts to the team that had more shutouts (NYY - 19)
11. 15 pts to the team whose ERA was lower (NYY - 15)
12. 12 pts to the team that has been in postseason most recently or
    went further (MIN - 0)
13. 12 pts to the team that won season series (NYY - 12)

NYY - 100, MIN - 42


Secret Sauce:

New York (14) over Minnesota (42)

The Twins will take the field tonight with Brian Duensing facing CC Sabathia. New York went 7-0 against the Twins during the regular season. It's tough to think of a reason that they won't run that up to 10-0...


St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers



The Dodgers were the best NL team of the first half, the Cardinals were close to being the best team of the second half. Under the "who's hotter" theory, the Cardinals are the bet. I've never bought that theory.

Objective rankings



1. 1 pt to the lead team for each half-game in the standings (LAD - 2)
2. 3 pts to the team that scored more runs (LAD - 3)
3. 14 pts to the team with fewer doubles (LAD - 14)
4. 12 pts to the team with more triples (LAD - 12)
5. 10 pts to the team with more home runs (STL - 10)
6. 8 pts to the team with the lower team batting average (STL - 8)
7. 8 pts to the team that committed fewer errors (STL - 8)
8. 7 pts to the team that turned more double plays (STL - 7)
9. 7 pts to the team that walked more batters (LAD - 7)
10. 19 pts to the team that had more shutouts (STL - 19)
11. 15 pts to the team whose ERA was lower (LAD - 15)
12. 12 pts to the team that has been in postseason most recently or
    went further (LAD - 12)
13. 12 pts to the team that won season series (STL - 12)

STL - 64, LAD - 65

Secret Sauce:

Los Angeles (16) over St. Louis (47)

The objective rankings suggest a close series going to the Dodgers. I'm going for a close series going to the Cardinals.


Philadelphia Phillies vs. Colorado Rockies



I think that closers are vastly overrated. That said, if you're constantly giving the ball to someone who can't close out a game, well, you're going to keep losing.

Objective rankings



1. 1 pt to the lead team for each half-game in the standings (PHI - 1)
2. 3 pts to the team that scored more runs (PHI - 3)
3. 14 pts to the team with fewer doubles (COL - 14)
4. 12 pts to the team with more triples (COL - 12)
5. 10 pts to the team with more home runs (PHI - 10)
6. 8 pts to the team with the lower team batting average (PHI - 8)
7. 8 pts to the team that committed fewer errors (PHI - 8)
8. 7 pts to the team that turned more double plays (COL - 7)
9. 7 pts to the team that walked more batters (COL - 7)
10. 19 pts to the team that had more shutouts (PHI - 19)
11. 15 pts to the team whose ERA was lower (COL - 34)
12. 12 pts to the team that has been in postseason most recently or
    went further (PHI - 12)
13. 12 pts to the team that won season series (PHI - 12)

PHI - 88, COL - 59


Secret Sauce:

Colorado (26) over Philadelphia (58)

I think that closers are vastly overrated. That said, if you're constantly giving the ball to someone who can't close out a game, well, you're going to keep losing. The Rockies move on.


Picks



I want to reiterate my fundamental position that a 5-7 game series tells you nothing about the relative virtues of the competing teams. I'd expect the significantly better team to win 3 of 5 significantly less than 100% of the time. Either team could win this series. Either team could lose this series. Either team could sweep this series. That goes for all the rest of them, too.

ATCHIASS

My baseball pundit contract requires, though, that I make predictions. This enables me to gloat about things I get right. Anything I get wrong, well, there are sure to be mitigating circumstances that we'll enable me to claim victory on them, too. ;-) (In that sense, it's kind of like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - in any cases where my predictions differ from actual reality, it's reality that's got it wrong...)

So here they are - the Lyford predictions for the ALDS and NLDS Series:

Boston over Los Angeles of Anaheim
New York over Minnesota
Colorado over Philadelphia
St. Louis over Los Angeles



* - Why do they look at "components" of run-scoring? Because there is so much "luck" involved in the game. A pitcher who strikes out three batters in an inning in which he allows three walks and a home run may give up 1, 2, 3 or 4 runs. For the offense, the HR and walks are all good outcomes of the pitcher/batter confrontation, the strike outs are bad outcomes, but the order in which they occur is critical to their applied value. Every good outcome has an inherent value. A walk puts a runner on base, makes a pitcher throw more pitches and gives another batter a chance to hit. Whether the inherent value contributes to any actual or applied value depends on order.

The same thing applies to teams as well. A team that scores 4 runs 3 times and 2 runs 3 times in a six game stretch, while allowing 3 runs three times and five runs three times might be 3-3 or 6-0. It's all about scoring big runs when your pitchers aren't pitching well, and pitching well in games when you aren't scoring much. To the extent that teams have shown that tendency or "ability," it's not consistent year-to-year, or even

Having accepted that, the way we look at players and teams hinges on a mindset.

  • A: Some players/teams are inherently "clutch," that is, they demonstrate a repeatable ability to perform better in "key" situations, and therefore produce results which exceed the value expected from the components pieces of their offensive events, or runs scored and runs allowed.

  • B: Everyone who makes it to the Major Leagues has had to perform in clutch situations many times, and has demonstrated an ability to perform in situations of mental stress. There are no players who have demonstrated a statistically significant repeatable ability to increase their performance in "key" situations. Therefore, there is no need to discard the null hypothesis, which is that team and player results are built upon a foundation of raw performance, and vary according to a certain amount of "luck."


I hold with position B.

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