MLB xxWins Projection Update: All-Star Break

Welcome the next 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?

More Wins Than Expected

  1. Seattle Mariners (-13.70 Wins/162 Games)
  2. Cleveland Indians (-12.83 Wins)
  3. Chicago Cubs (-11.14 Wins)
  4. San Francisco Giants (-9.46 Wins)
  5. St.Louis Cardinas (-8.79 Wins)

More xWins Than Expected

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (-14.27 Wins)
  2. San Diego Padres (-9.59 Wins)
  3. San Francisco Giants (-9.46 Wins)
  4. Chicago Cubs (-7.45 Wins)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays (-7.48 Wins)

How the Mariners are five games above .500 with a negative-50 run differential cannot be explained (well, outside of variance), while Cleveland has relied on their bullpen despite a poor rotation and offense. We’ve already seen the Cubs regress recently, and their pitching has a large reason to do with that. This season, pitching WAR has correlated equally with xWins as offensive runs above average has, which is a shift from previous seasons; it holds much greater significance this season, which has been a trend in recent years.

That makes me continue to be skeptical of the Blue Jays. The xxWins database believes that Toronto’s pitching staff. is equal to that of a 71.9-win team, which neutralizes the upside provided by having such an elite (93.7 wins) offense. The padres, Giants, and Rays, meanwhile, are all well-rounded teams (Giants with the top strength- offense). San Francisco is on this list mainly because they’re on such an elite pace, while the other two a) have already started to slow down as of late and b) probably are closer to high-80 win teams than premier contenders.

Less Wins Than Expected

  1. Baltimore Orioles (16.92 Wins)
  2. Miami Marlins (12.36 Wins)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (9.99 Wins)
  4. Chicago White Sox (6.30 Wins)
  5. New York Yankees (4.56 Wins)

Less xWins Than Expected

  1. Baltimore Orioles (9.64 Wins)
  2. New York Yankees (6.38 Wins)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates (5.44 Wins)
  4. Los Angeles Angels (3.52 Wins)
  5. Chicago White Sox (2.66 Wins)

It’s not too late for the Orioles to make a playoff push. Sadly Baltimore fans, it is, but, hey, Adley Rutschman is on the way and your ballpark is still amazing! I don’t see them as the bottom-feeding team they’ve appeared to be, though it’s unlikely they get any better with the trade deadline approaching.

Rather, I want to turn my attention to the American League contenders, which brings me to the Yankees. With an elite (96.6 wins) pitching staff with competent offense and defense, they should be much closer to the Rays (and even the Red Sox) than they are currently. Simply based on their talent, I’d expect improvement, yet this is the icing of the cake in that regard. Meanwhile, let’s not forget how elite the White Sox have been despite dealing with countless amount of injuries.

Power Rankings

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.

The top tier of teams remain intact, but one thing that immediately catches my eye is the shift of power in the National League among non-Dodger division winners. The Mets (-6) have struggled considerably as of late, whereas the Brewers (+3) have continued to lean on their elite pitching to rise up the ranks. From the looks of it, though, there appear to be three elite teams in baseball right now: Dodgers, White Sox, Astros. They’ve established themselves as the clear favorites to win the World Series, so if any surplus value is there on their futures, the time is now to capitalize. Also, yikes Diamondbacks!

Division Projections/Odds

AL East

The Red Sox have seen the gap between them and the Rays grow slightly larger, and this is the first time they’ve ever been considered the favorite to win the AL East in any of the updates we’ve done based on their odds. With them only 1.5 games ahead, that’s a little strange, though certainly reasonable. Yes, the Yankees and Blue Jays offer some value, but with them each 8 games behind, this seems like a division well-projected by all accounts.

AL Central

Yeah, this division is settled. Moving on.

AL West

Remember when the A’s were neck-and-neck with the Astros for the top of the AL West? Those were good times. Oakland has really struggled as of late, while Houston’s offense is equivalent to that of a 102.6-win team. Add in their improved pitching now that they are back to full health, and I fully expect them to run away with this division.

NL East

Just when I thought Mets (-219) to win the NL East was in the bag, they “Mets” themselves! I still fully expect them to win the division, though wouldn’t discount them continuing to fall as well. With Ronald Acuna Jr. out for the season and the Nationals struggling, the team that would appear to be the best bet to do so would be the Phillies. They have the easiest projected schedule of any of these teams, have a relatively well-balanced team, and are only 3.5 games out of the division. Them being priced at +813 seems a little confusing, no?

NL Central

Here come the Reds! Wait, but the Brewers keep winning too! With that in mind, the only real change becomes that the Cardinals and Cubs now have almost zero chance of winning this division, making it a true two-team race. As such, Cincinnati, who is only four games out of the division, seems to be not getting the recognition they deserve. Their offense is superior to that of Milwaukee, and as they continue to pitch better with a healthier bullpen and Sonny Gray (reinforcements at the trade deadline would be huge here), I could see them closing the gap with Milwaukee- an upcoming three game series against them will be critical.

NL West

This is supposed to be a two-team race between the Dodgers and Padres, but those pesky Giants won’t get out of the way. Los Angeles definitely appears to be the clear favorite to win this division, with the real debate being San Francisco versus San Diego. The Padres have more overall talent, but the Giants are the team that have hit better, played defense better, and pitched better. In other words, they’ve simply been the superior team simply based on performance, which is why they have a higher overall projection. That said, the real second-half surge should come from the Dodgers, especially if they can continue to get healthier (looking at you, Corey Seager).

Best Bets: CIN To Win NL Central (+613*), PHI To Win NL East (+813)

Pennant Projections/Odds

American League

To be expected, the three division winners show up as the top teams in the American League, with the White Sox and Astros taking center stage. That’d be quite the powerful ALCS, though I’m sure baseball fans would prefer Houston didn’t make it that far. From there, the American League East teams are the focus, with the Yankees coming out as the most misplaced team. Currently projected to make the playoffs, they’d certainly have an advantage in the wildcard if they got in, while they have more than enough to match up against any team. They’d be my pick of any team to make a surprising run down the stretch.

National League

It’s a good time to be in the National League West! The Reds could make a run at the NL Central crown, though the postseason field is perhaps a bit more settled than in the American League. Interestingly, despite the Giants having better division odds than the Padres, their pennant odds are significantly worse, which is notable. Plus, it’s rare for a favorite to show up as offering surplus value. This offers the perfect combination of “likely to happen” with “good value”, which is always very fascinating. The Dodgers, as mentioned, have struggled with injuries yet have the league’s best run differential, and this all indicates a very strong run down the stretch. In other words, expect their odds to be much closer to even money in the future.

Best Bets: LAD To Win NL (+200)

Longshot To Consider: NYY To Win AL (+1033)

World Series Projections/Odds

It’s weird to see the White Sox and Red Sox get so much recognition in division odds, but not so much World Series odds; the same goes for the Giants versus the Padres here. This is another spot where the Yankees offer some value, though I’d personally just stick with their pennant odds. The biggest shift here is the Astros, which was something we saw coming and it’s clear the public fears them as much as other teams likely do.

Checking In On Previous “Bets”

Ugh Mets, why? Anyways, our faith in the Red Sox definitely appears to have payed off, and the same goes for the Reds and Astros. Hopefully, New York recovers, but that’s why we have the Phillies, right? I’d expect the White Sox to have very strong odds (at least better than +275), and obviously there’s a decent likelihood that occurrence (them winning the AL) actually happens. Sure, closing line value is the goal with recommendations, yet it’s always nice when you can get the best of all worlds!

Overview

It’s very interesting to see how the betting markets have shifted with more information being gathered on every team. As of now, the Astros and White Sox are definitely seen as the favorites in the American League, and although the Dodgers are seen as that in the National League, perhaps not by enough. Meanwhile, the Yankees, based on xxWins, could be posted to make a postseason run down the stretch, and there are some interesting long shot possibilities in the National League regarding the Phillies and our beloved Reds. We’ll be back in August to look at changes in projections, and how the various betting markets have responded!

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