Welcome to the first ever update of my new tool to better project team success: xxWins! Looking at a team’s performance on offense, defense, and pitching, we’ll not only be able to project a team’s win total, but their expected run differential. Run differential is useful, but takes more time to stabilize, so this tool can allow us to create more accurate projections sooner!
For more information on the basis on xxWins, and how it goes about forecasting team success, I recommend you read my introduction piece on the tool. Even in just two weeks, there was significant movement in playoff odds and division chases that appear to be meaningful when projecting for the rest of the season. Does this line up with what the betting markets think? Let’s take a closer look!
What Teams Have Overall Deceiving Records/Expected Records?
Outperforming Based on Overall Record
- Cleveland Indians (-18 Wins/162 Games)
- Chicago Cubs (-14.49 Wins)
- Seattle Mariners (-13.2 Wins)
- San Francisco Giants (-12.62 Wins)
- Tampa Bay Rays (-11.03 Wins)
Outperforming Based on Expected Record
- San Diego Padres (-17.17 Wins)
- Chicago Cubs (-14.49 Wins)
- Toronto Blue Jays (-14.31 Wins)
- San Francisco Giants (-12.62 Wins)
- Tampa Bay Rays (-11.03 Wins)
As expected, there is significant overlap on this list, though outperforming based on one’s overall record has a much different theme than outperforming based on their expected record. For the most part, teams that have more overall wins than they should have done so without elite offenses. This is interesting, as I have noted a much greater correlation with pitching to overall wins than xWins thus far. Is this a sign that elite pitching is being undervalued? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, teams who lack both quality offense and pitching are the ones with higher xWins than expected. I’m skeptical that the Cubs and Blue Jays can sustain their current success without more pitching depth, and the Giants’ porous bullpen has dragged down a quality lineup and rotation. You’d also hope for the Padres to eventually produce more offensively, though I am much more confident in that happening.
Underperforming Based on Overall Record
- Miami Marlins (+15.75 Wins)
- Baltimore Orioles (+14.69 Wins)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (+12.49 Wins)
- New York Mets (+8.73 Wins)
- Chicago White Sox (+7.58 Wins)
Underperforming Based on Expected Record
- New York Mets (+11.67 Wins)
- Baltimore Orioles (+6.72 Wins)
- New York Yankees (+6.21 Wins)
- Cincinnati Reds (+4.62 Wins)
- Milwaukee Brewers (+3.53 Wins)
Based on this, I’d say there is a decent chance the Mets will be underpriced in the betting markets. Their pitching is equivalent to that off of 107-win team, but their offense has lagged. However, their offensive production has improved in recent weeks, and with them getting healthier in a hurry, they’re a team on the rise; the same likely will eventually be true of the Yankees. Furthermore, the White Sox have been a significantly better team – 8 wins better, than any other team in baseball, based on xxWins. With a powerful lineup and a pitching staff with front-end talent and plenty of depth, they’re starting to look like the favorite to win the World Series.
Now, it’s time to establish adjusted win totals for each team, in order to get a read of where they stand compared to the league.
It is generally a poor idea to expect teams to play as well as they currently have, which means preseason expectations still have some significance. With that in mind, I’ll be regressing each team’s xxWin pace with their projected wins from Fangraphs. Thus, we aren’t only taking into account how well each team has played this season, but their likely true talent level, hopefully leading to the most accurate projection.
It truly is remarkable how much can change in two weeks. Suddenly, the Mets, Astros, and Brewers are on the rise, whereas the Padres, Yankees, and Cardinals have seen their stocks diminish greatly. Interestingly, eight of the ten teams in the top ten consist within three divisions: AL East, AL West, NL West. The disparity of team success across divisions has been truly remarkable, and is an underrated storyline to continue to monitor. The Marlins, meanwhile, remain a team that might be undervalued, though, sadly, their odds continue to decline given their strange inability to close out games. At the bottom, the Diamondbacks and Rangers are certainly cementing their stakes when it comes to securing a top pick, but, for now, the Pirates are holding on! Based on this, there appears about 10-11 teams that are postseason worthy. Well, considering there are 10 playoff teams, that makes perfect sense. Sadly, not all of the top-ten teams will make the postseason, but there is a good chance ten of the top-11 teams make it, which is encouraging.
Now that we have looked at each team’s expected win total, let us put this tool to practice. Starting with each division, we’ll compare each team’s true chances of winning their respective division to where the betting markets have them at, hoping to find surplus value. A positive surplus value indicates that the team is underpriced relative to their true talent level, though that doesn’t simply make it a strong bet: understanding future market movement and the cost-benefit analysis of each potential bet is critical.
Since our last update, the Red Sox have seen their projected win total decrease, but they still remain maintain ground in the division due to the fall of the Yankees. Coming away with a sweep in New York was extremely crucial for their division odds, though the Rays are now the team that the betting market believes is the favorite for this division. xxWins sees Boston’s overall performance, solely based on offense and pitching, as more legitimate, though I’d never want to discount Tampa Bay, who also has the ability to have more success in one-run games than the average team.
This is by far the most lopsided division race, which is something I would not have said at the beginning of the year. There was so much to be encouraged about with the Twins’ overall roster construction, but a combination of injuries, poor pitching, and difficult luck in close games have crippled their season thus far. Interestingly, the Royals have now jumped Cleveland for projected 2nd place in this division. With a better offense and similar pitching quality, that intuitively makes sense, and would represent somewhat of a productive season for a team still in a transitionary phase.
The Angels have performed well as of late, but I would not recommend betting them to win the AL West at all: this remains a two-team race for the division. Since our last update, the Astros have taken over as the projected favorite, which is something I find unlikely to change. Their hitters are all performing much closer to expectations as of late, their pitching is now at full strength, and they simply have much more overall talent than the A’s. They’re still not a great bet, yet I don’t think their odds will be any lower than they are currently.
Go Marlins? Their pitching has been truly remarkable up to this point, and gives them quite the foundation to build upon fro the future. Sadly, they face a very difficult schedule moving forward, but I think they’re a team I’d want to buy stock into for next season. Meanwhile, the Phillies and Braves are incredibly poor-priced. Both are similarly-quality teams with 80-win projections, and, if anything, I’d give the edge to Philadelphia’s pitching depth and an improved offense with Bryce Harper now back from injury. Yet, Atlanta’s odds are +284? That doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, the market’s faith in Atlanta still has opened up value for the Mets, who, as we touched on, are certainly a team who only project to be better moving forward. Given that this is likely the last chance to bet them to win the division at reasonable odds, I’d want to jump on that opportunity.
I’m surprised that the Cardinals still are seen as potential co-favorites for this division considering that they just were swept in a four-game series by the Reds, while the Brewers and Cubs have performed very well. As we’ve touched on, xxWins is skeptical of Chicago, putting them closer to the Reds in terms of projected win total. Cincinnati is already a team that I’ve recommended investing in, so I would say to monitor Milwaukee. If their continued progress isn’t properly represented due to the Cubs’ rise, that could open up an opportunity to find surplus value.
This may come as a surprise, but the Padres are projected to be much closer to the Giants than to the Dodgers currently. They’ve leaned on pitching, yet their lack of offense has hurt them recently against more competitive teams. Meanwhile, despite the Giants’ rash of injuries, their offense has improved, though I’m a little worried about their ability to sustain that moving forward- I wouldn’t bet them currently. The Dodgers are still, rightfully priced as the favorites by a decent margin, which surprises me, though their inability to stay healthy and likelihood of improving has been widely reported on.
- Bets To Make: NYM To Win NL East (-211)
- Bets To Monitor: PHI To Win NL East (+1200), CHW To Win AL Central (-369), MIL To Win NL Central (+107)
The Astros have likely risen up the ranks in terms of AL power rankings, and I’d say this is likely a 5-6 team race. That said, the White Sox remain much better than other teams, so I’ll be monitoring their odds should they slip at any point. Boston, meanwhile, continues to hold value. We’ve already looked at their division and World Series odds, but why not go all-in at this point?
Similarly to the American League, the National League consists of a true top team, a clear second-place team, and a cluster of productive organizations to monitor closely. I have enough faith in the Padres over time to call this at least a three-team race, though since it remains likely the Dodgers ultimately win the NL West, the odds turn greatly in the favor of them and the Mets. The Giants are still underpriced, though they’re a tough team to invest in until we have a better read on how they’re overcome some notable injuries.
- Bets To Make: N/A
- Bets To Monitor: BOS To Win AL (+817), HOU To Win AL (+633), SF To Win NL (+1000)
World Series Projections/Odds
I’ll maintain by White Sox/Dodgers prediction for the World Series, and Chicago still should have better odds to win it all. The bet I like the most, however, is the Astros. They have a favorable schedule over the next few weeks, have an elite offense that is heating up, and now have significant pitching depth in their rotation. Them having lower odds than the Yankees, with Houston having a much better chance of winning the division doesn’t make sense, and I think this is certainly the lowest their odds will be. The National League offers less value, with the Mets providing much more surplus value when it comes to them simply winning the division.
Checking In On Previous “Bets”
We didn’t find as much success as we did with the award index, though I blame the NL East for that. I’m surprised the Red Sox haven’t seen their odds improve more after a sweep against the Yankees, and the same goes for the Reds after sweeping the Cardinals. Thus, even with slightly less-favorable odds, there is still plenty of value to be had in their futures, and xxWins’ current projection of the Marlins makes me feel slightly more better about that pick.
Given that there was significant change in terms of projections in just two weeks, you may have expected there to be more opportunities to find favorable bets. Unfortunately, there wasn’t, but the Red Sox still appear underpriced. Furthermore, the Astros’ World Series odds, in addition to the Mets’ NL East odds, appear to be ones that likely won’t provide as much surplus value in the future- these are the types of bets to make. Between the White Sox, the NL Central, and the Giants, there is plenty to keep an eye on of the next two weeks. At that point, we’ll be back to look at changes in projections, and how the various betting markets have responded.