One month in: projecting the future

We have now witnessed one month of baseball, and the  biggest question at this young point in the season is whether or not the trends we have witnessed to date will continue. Given that the ultimate goal of any team is to qualify for the playoffs and win the championship, the most important projection to make is that of final W-L records. This diary is an attempt to do just that.

The current standings in the NL Central are as follows:
TEAM               W-L  rate GB
Cincinnati        18-8  .692 ---
St. Louis          17-9  .654 1.0
Houston           16-9  .640 1.5
Milwaukee       15-11 .577 3.0
Chicago Cubs  14-10 .583 3.0
Pittsburgh        7-20 .259 11.5

Currently St. Louis is in position for the NL Wild Card, so the Astros are a half game and the Brewers and Reds are each 2 games out of a playoff spot. If we simply extrapolate these win rates to a full season, the final standings will be:

TEAM               W-L     rate GB
Cincinnati        112-50  .692 ---
St. Louis          106-56  .654 6.0
Houston           104-58  .640 8.0
Chicago Cubs     94-68 .583 18.0
Milwaukee          93-69 .577 19.0
Pittsburgh         42-120 .259 70.0 (<---!)

I think its safe to say that these win rates will not be sustained for a full season. Thankfully, there are stronger tools available to us in predicting a team's final W-L record. The first level one can look at is a team's pythagorean expectation, which is a prediction of a team's record based on the runs it has scored and allowed. If we use the expected win rate posted on ESPN to predict the W-L record in the remaining games for each team in the division, the projected final standings will be:

TEAM                 W-L     rate GB
St. Louis          106-56  .624 ---
Cincinnati          97-65  .598 9.0
Houston            93-69  .575 13.0
Milwaukee         92-70 .568 14.0
Chicago Cubs    80-82 .493 26.0
Pittsburgh         54-108 .332 52.0

It clearly looks as if the top NL Central teams, especially the Cubs, have been playing a little over their heads. This analysis has to be taken with a grain of salt, as:

  1. Its still early and a weekend of one team pounding another to a total of 25-2 drastically changes these projections
  2. This analysis doesn't take into account how many runs a team would be expected to score and allow given their peripherals (i.e. the sorts of offensive stats gaius keeps throwing around about low OBP but high run totals aren't included here)
  3. I haven't taken into account changes in the strength of schedule the rest of the season. It seems that the central is the strongest division in the NL thus far, so we can expect teams that have played a lot of NL Central teams to improve their records and expected records when they get to weaker opponents
  4. I've run out of time before the game and don't have time to check all my math. I did most of this in a spreadsheet, so it shouldn't be too far off...

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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