Trying to predict the AL East

What Joba said
Tickets for the rest of us

Over at Baseball Crank, they’re busy previewing each division using Established Win Share Levels. You can click on that last link to get an explanation as to how this is all formulated. As Mike might say, this is some voodoo at work here. But rest assured, it’s all just for fun. I don’t think anyone seriously believes that they can fully predict how a baseball season will unfold.

About the Yankees, he says:

The Hated Yankees have run off the road in October seven years running now, but the regular season juggernaut shows no sign of stopping. A lineup with four 34-year-olds, a 36-year-old and a 37-year-old could change that in a hurry – consider even how much the Yankees lose if A-Rod drops back to .290 and 40 HR – but there’s a lot of quality bats here and the Yanks’ bench, while not great, is not quite as bare as it was for much of the late Torre years. 2008 is an exciting year for purist Yankee fans who have waited a long, long time to see the team break in a significant amount of young talent (Melky getting an everyday job, two rookie starters and maybe three if Joba slots in for Mussina), but it’s also a year of risk.

Not bad, but not a shining review. Funny, then, how the EWSL system puts the Yanks at 101-61, atop the AL East. About the Red Sox, whom the system has checking in at 88-74, he says:

I can’t quite put my finger on one single reason why the defending champs are not rated higher by EWSL, other than the loss of Curt Schilling. The rest is little things – the mid-30s wearing-down of Manny, Lowell and Varitek, the uncertainty of two rookies in the rotation, the relative lack of solid relievers after Papelbon and Okajima, the difficulty of projecting health and productivity from the erratic backgrounds of Beckett and Drew, even the decision to carry a backup catcher with a remarkable facility for accruing service time without accumulating even a single Win Share (Cash has notched zero Win Shares in four of his five big-league seasons).

There’s nothing I’d love more than to see the Sox finish with under 90 wins. No, wait, yes there is. They could always implode and finish with 70 wins. Yeah, that’d be sweet (cue dream sequence).

So let’s stack these predictions up against PECOTA:

Yankees 101 61 97 65
Red Sox 88 74 91 71
Rays 71 91 88 74
Jays 83 79 78 84
Orioles 68 94 66 96

So it seems the biggest discrepancy the system has is with the Jays and the Rays. I think it’s quite crazy to go predicting that the Rays will win 88 games this season. But if that’s what the computer says, that’s what the computer says. Me? I’m glad that the people play the game.

What we’ll probably see is a mid-ground here, with both the Jays and the Rays finishing near the .500 mark. And by “near the .500 mark” I mean I’d figure the Rays to nab between 74 and 81 games, with the Jays more in the 79 to 86 category. Still, there’s plenty that will go wrong between now and then. For the record, I’m fairly confident that the Yanks won’t win 100 games, just like I’m confident that the Red Sox will win more than 90. Should be another interesting September, especially as we close out the season at Fenway.

What Joba said
Tickets for the rest of us
  • pete

    I love the whole “i don’t get why the redsox aren’t rated higher” bit where he then goes on to list as many reasons, and each as significant, as those that every baseball analyst seems to have for why the yankees won’t make the playoffs this year. They look like the same teams to me, only the edge goes to the Yanks in my opinion because Schilling is injured and Mussina is not, and the yankees lineup still looks a bit better than the sox’s.

    • RollingWave

      a bit better is a mild understatement (lineup that is)

  • Bruno

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tampa finish over .500, but I’m not putting money on it either.
    Not that I wish them harm, but I hope Giambi and Moose hit the DL soon so Joba can get into the rotation asap and Duncan can have 1B with Matsui DH.

  • nmc

    finally. i don’t see what the Red Sox have that makes them the favorite in the AL East. the division is wide open.

  • Yankee Fan in Chicago

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Sawx finish under 90. A lot went right for them last year, and very little wrong. Career years from Papi and Beckett, Ellsbury far outperforming his minor league numbers, Pedroia having one of the best seasons by a 2nd baseman, etc.

    I dunno if the Rays will leave up to the Pecota hype, but people laughted at Pecota last season when they predicted the White Sox would only win 72 games.

    I think the Rays could easily be a .500 team. They’ve got good hitters, good starting pitching, and their defense, which was worst in the AL last season iirc, is projected to substantially better.

    If there bullpen can hold some of the leads they blew vs the Sawx last season, that alone could put the Sawx in a hole and make the Rays a lot closer to a .500 team.

    And, knock on wood, I could also see the Yanks winning 100, 101, 102 games this year. Now if only that could translate into at least a pennant . . .

  • Pingback: » Blog Archive » Pride of the Yankees 2/21/2008 The Bloggers

  • Number 27

    thought you guys would want to check this out:
    over at bronx block they have a poll for the best nickname for the big three. and ‘the big three’ isn’t an option. what’s up with that?

  • Chris

    BP is really pushing the Rays this year, and I have to agree. Years of awfulness have allowed them to stock-pile an enormous amount of talent and this is the year when it’s going to show. I’d have my money on 85-88 wins for them.

    • Mike A.

      You have their scouting people credit though, having high picks year after year means nothing if your scouts suck (see the Pirates). In their history, the Rays have only made 2 bad picks in the first round: Towsend in ’04 and Brazleton in ’01. Most of their best young arms (Davis, McGee, Sonnastine, Walker) were all drafted in the 3rd round or later. That’s good stuff.

      • Chris

        Certainly, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  • Bo

    Pecota will ruin all the credibility it has when the Rays finish with 74 wins.

  • pete

    Yahoo sports analyst Tim Brown has the red sox running away with the AL-East while the Jays and Yanks battle it out for 3rd place. Biased much? The reasons he gave essentially came down to only pitching. So lets go through it:
    Jays: arguably the best bullpen in baseball, i’ll give you that. However, 3/5 of the starting rotation is still pretty unproven, and burnett and halladay are both injury prone (Oh yeah and in a complete season last year, Wang beat halladay in every major stat but strikeouts and there wasn’t a huge difference there, yet people still think that halladay is an ace and wang isn’t).
    Sox: well they won the world series last year so aren’t they automatically going to repeat? basically we have Beckett, who has been somewhat injury prone and never until this year was he a certifiable ace, but i’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I will not, however, give that to Matsuzaka. Dice-K has pretty good stuff and pretty good control, but deffinitely weakened over the course of the season. I think he’s a decent #2, but by no means is Beckett-Dice-K a great 1-2 punch. Then we find ourselves with the same situation as the yankees, except at least the yankees’ questionable older pitcher (mussina) isn’t injured (schilling), although they do have wakefield. Lester Buccholz and Colon should be a decent back end of the rotation. Lester has pretty good stuff but some control problems and is pretty unproven, Buccholz has pretty good stuff and pretty good control, but is also pretty unproven, and Colon is, at best, the redsox answer to mike mussina.
    Yanks: Ok so there are questoin marks in their rotation. Is wang an ace? You could argue either way, but one thing is certain, he wins a ton of games in the regular season. Pettitte was dominant at times and decent the rest of the time last year, and is a great postseason pitcher, like beckett, but his overall numbers last year weren’t much better than Matsuzaka’s. Will hughes “rebound? Well let’s see, he’s healthy unlike last year, he proved over the final 2 months last year that he can pitch very well, and has looked good (for the most part) this spring. And finally, can Ian Kennedy get by with his stuff in the Majors? Well think about it. He’s the yankees’ 5th starter, so really, all he needs to do is get by. If he can pitch to a 4.5 ERA and stay healthy, he’lll probably win 15 games, and he has never pitched a full season in which his ERA was over 2.5, so more than a 2 run jump from what he usually does albeit with lesser hitters, seems unlikely.
    Now lets stack them up side-by-side (i’m only using wins because only wins count when measuring a team’s likelihood of making the playoffs):
    Beckett: probably around 20 again, Wang: probably around 19 or 20 again
    Matsuzaka: 15 or 16, Pettitte: 15 or 16
    Wakefield: 12 to 15, Hughes: 15 to 18
    Lester: 12 to 18, Kennedy: 12 to 18
    Buccholz: 7 to 18, Mussina 8 to 15
    looks pretty much exactly the same to me

    • RollingWave

      I love how Wakefield / Buchholz / Lester and McGowan / Marcum / Litsch are sure things but Moose / Hughes / Kennedy need to prove themself . as for the bullpen, it’s pretty hard to seriously project. a lot of time guys inexplicaablly threw up great or bad seasons.

  • pete

    *he has the yankees and jays battling for 2nd place, my bad

  • zack

    I refuse to buy into the Rays hype until I see them demonstrate any kind of consistency at winning and can put together all three elements: hitting, starting, and relieving. Sure, they have a lot of great young talent, but its all still really young and while they WILL, eventually, theoretically be good if the owners will shell out some $ to hold onto that talent, playing in the AL East is going to hurt their chances at .500 a lot

    • Kanst

      Ya I think thats a lot of the problems with these systems. I find it hard to estimate the Yanks at 101 wins because they play the Red Sox, Jays, and Rays 50 ish times. Those are all good teams. I feel like this year 94-95 wins will probably win teh East.

      The Rays starters are very good and they have power and speed all over their lineup, I could see them in the 78-82 win group which is a huge step forward for that franchise

      • Chris

        I thought that the projection systems adjust for division, no?

  • Luke S.


    “I’m glad that people play the game.” AMEN, brother!

    We all love our computers and try to make them extrapolate what will happen when a tricky game is played by fallible individuals running and throwing and swinging at breakneck speeds … to me it’s all so laughable, how seriously some take it. The beautiful, brilliant ’98 Yanks were the perfect example of results on the field confounding what the computer said should happen. Teams win and lose according to how their starting pitching performs. It’s the oldest and most trustworthy correlation in ball. (That’s why the Yanks promise so much this year.)

    One last rant-part and I’ll de-part. (Somewhat off-point, but not entirely) Derek Jeter is regularly reviled for his play in the field, but how come the Yanks remain so competitive with such a slouch at short? Gammons said it best (paraphrasing): “You can show me 4,675 pages of anti-Jeter material, and it won’t convince me. I’ve seen him play too much.”

    • steve (different one)

      why is it impossible that the Yankees could be even better if Jeter was a good defender?

      is Jeter as good of a hitter as Albert Pujols? would the Yankees win EVEN more games if Jeter was as good a hitter as Pujols? of course they would. yet how come they managed to stay competitive all these years with Jeter not being as good a hitter as Pujols?

      exact same argument.

    • Chris

      The Yanks succeed in spite of Jeter’s poor defense.