After having the site swarmed by rabid Mariner fans over my last post, and being told left and right by horribly biased Mariner fans that my post on my Angel blog was horribly biased towards the Angels (note to self, irony is apparently not a concept taught in the school systems of the Pacific Northwest), I figured it would only be fair to take an objective look at how the AL West is projected to play out in 2010. I’ll do my best to be objective in my analysis but this is an Angel blog and I am an Angel fan, so this post will be fair and balanced in the way that Fox News is fair and balanced. One quick note before we jump into this: I am familiar with most advanced statistics, but I am by no means an expert, so if I misinterpret any of these stats, it is entirely unintentional (as far as you know). With that said, it is time to grab our slide rules and pocket protectors and see what the nerds have to say (and relax statheads, I am just joking around, I’m a software engineer by day, so I have no room to talk on the nerd front):
Alright, nerds, let’s do this.
So I am going to try and make this relatively simple and just focus on the WAR statistic as it is pretty much the accepted standard right now. Let’s take a look at how each team did last year and how well WAR says they should have done:
Angels: Real Record – 97-65, WAR Record – 92-70
Rangers: Real Record – 87-75, WAR Record – 86.5-75.5
Mariners: Real Record – 85-77, WAR Record – 83-79
Athletics: Real Record – 75-87, WAR Record – 82-80
Already things are looking bleak for the Angels who clearly overachieved according to WAR while the Mariners and Rangers bother were pretty spot on. Even worse, the A’s actually vastly underachieved and really should have been a solid team. Hey, maybe the AL West wasn’t as decrepit as all the experts said last year?
Alright, now let’s handle the projections for next season. A few caveats here are that obviously free agency and trades aren’t all done yet and I am going to have to make some assumptions about who is going to make the roster for each team, so these projections are subject to fluctuation and my bad shaky math skills since I had to do a little number crunching to get the pitcher WAR projections. So, without further adieu, here is how 2010 will look in the AL West (NOTE: I derived those standings using the CHONE projection system for the full 40-man rosters for each team and assumed an average win level of 46 wins like in 2009):
Mariners: 80.5 – 81.5
Athletics: 86.5- 75.5
Boy, now all those Mariner fans are going to be really pissed off. All that time spent telling me how the Mariners got so much statistically better and they end up getting worse to the point of finishing last in a crowded division. Of course, I’m not too happy to see the Angels barely hovering above .500 themselves. And who knew that the upstart Athletics got so much better in the off-season? Man, looking at those projections, it almost seems like they defy logic.
Maybe that is because they do kind of defy logic, and that is my general issue with relying on advanced statistical models, especially predictive ones. The real failing I see here is the ability to properly forecast young players. Just look at the Angel roster. Kendry Morales was a 4.2 WAR in 2009 but projected only at 1.7. I understand that he might of overachieved last season, but by 2.5 wins? C’mon. The same for Erick Aybar who went from a 3.8 to a 1.5. On the back of those two players alone, the Angels just dropped a full five games even if they never touched their roster.
Will Kendry really go from MVP contender to just an above average player?
Look, maybe this CHONE system ends up being right. The point I really want to make here is that stats quite often are no better than they paper they are written on or the web page they are coded on. It isn’t as simple as swapping out one part for another. The Angels losing Chone Figgins is going to have a ripple effect on the whole line-up as they search for a new catalyst much in the same way that adding Milton Bradley to the line-up and locker room in Seattle will have indirect effects throughout that team. In a vacuum, yes, he adds 1.7 wins potentially, but how many wins will he cost them when he bounces a Gatorado cooler off Ichiro’s head after he loses his temper for the umpteenth time in his career? How will Chone Figgins or Ichiro respond when one of them is asked to hit number two in the order? How will Jered Weaver respond to being the ace of the staff? Can Vladimir Guerrero rejuvenate his career in Texas? Which of the A’s young hurlers will actually develop? The answer to all those questions is “nobody knows.” We can make guesses, but really nobody’s guess is that much better than anyone else’s.
Who knows, maybe it really will be the Rangers and A’s locked into a tight race for the division title this September as the numbers suggest, or maybe, just maybe, logic and intuition will prevail and it will be the Angels coasting to another division title like they always do.
I guess we will find out in about nine months.