MLB xxWins Projection Update: August

Welcome to 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 (-12.76 Wins/162 Games)
  2. Cleveland (-12.06 Wins)
  3. San Francisco Giants (-11.77 Wins)
  4. Chicago Cubs (-9.87 Wins)
  5. St.Louis Cardinals (-9.24 Wins)

More xWins Than Expected

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (-16.97 xWins)
  2. San Diego Padres (-10.45 xWins)
  3. San Francisco Giants (-10.18 xWins)
  4. Chicago Cubs (-8.37 xWins)
  5. Houston Astros (-7.5 xWins)

The Mariners and Cleveland have benefitted from a lot of luck in one-run games. Is this due to variance or a strong bullpen? The answer probably lies in the middle, slightly closer to the latter. Meanwhile, the Giants are on such a ridiculous pace, so I wouldn’t worry about them appearing on both lists.

The most interesting team on either list, in my opinion, is the Blue Jays. Based on their xWins, you’d think they’ve been an unlucky team. At the same time, maybe their xWins are an incorrect representation of them altogether. Their offense is a powerhouse, equivalent to that of a 97-win team, yet with their pitching staff closer to a 72-win team, they are quite unbalanced, which lands them where their record has them closer to- average. The Padres, too, lack a clear strength, and if their struggles continue, could risk missing out on the playoffs altogether.

Less Wins Than Expected

  1. Miami Marlins (10.4 Wins)
  2. Baltimore Orioles (10.35 Wins)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (9.33 Wins)
  4. Chicago White Sox (5.56 Wins)
  5. Minnesota Twins (5.29 Wins)

Less xWins Than Expected

  1. New York Yankees (8.81 Wins)
  2. Baltimore Orioles (7.23 Wins)
  3. New York Mets (5.85 Wins)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates (5.10 Wins)
  5. Los Angeles Angels (3.94 Wins)

Most of these teams are bottom dwellers that should not be AS bad as they have been thus far. There are a couple interesting inclusions here, though. The Yankees and Mets each have thrived based on their pitching staff, and should see more overall team success overall; the Mets less so due to injuries. Furthermore, the Angels have continued to score runs and aren’t a major liability when it comes to pitching. They won’t make the postseason, but maybe this can provide optimism for next year.

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 group remains the same, but there are still some interesting trends within the top ten. There is a clear top-seven right now, with the Rays and Brewers jumping into that group this past month. While Milwaukee has gotten there based on pitching and defense, Tampa Bay has done so in a more conventional matter, combining high-end pitching with strong offense. Furthermore, we see the Padres (-3) continue to fall down the board, with the Yankees (+2) surging after a busy trade deadline and recent hot stretch. Further down, the Cardinals (+4) and Mariners (+3) have played much better as of late, though their playoff odds remain very slim.

Division Projections/Odds

AL East

This is probably the greatest development of the past month, with the Rays jumping the Red Sox following a sweep of them in Tampa. The betting markets now rightfully have the two teams as co-favorites to win the AL East, as it’s pretty much a coin-flip as to who ultimately comes out on top. The Yankees perhaps could make this closer than the other teams would like, but they remain seven games out as of now- they’re more of a potential long-shot bet.

AL Central

The White Sox are very good, the other teams aren’t. Moving on.

AL West

Since the last update, the Astros’ odds to win this division have essentially doubled. The A’s might have boasted the better pitching staff, but after Houston added significantly to their bullpen and their starting pitchers are now healthy, it’s easy to see why they are considered the runaway favorites to secure the AL West.

NL East

I once was a major proponent on the idea that the Mets would win the NL East relatively easily, but that time is not now. Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor headline a large contingent of injured players, which gives the Braves and Phillies a clear fighting chance to win the division. Atlanta, even without Ronald Acuna Jr., has been on the rise and doesn’t have a major weakness after trading for several veteran outfielders. The Phillies were a more optimal bet when they were (+813), and given that they have the same likelihood of winning, take the Braves if you want to pick between the two.

NL Central

Sadly, our hopes of the Reds winning the NL Central are starting to go down significantly! The Brewers, as mentioned, previously, have flourished over the past two months, and have cemented themselves as the clear division winner. Given the dominance of their top-three starting pitchers and their bullpen, watch out!

NL West

Despite what the standings would currently indicate, the Dodgers still look like the clear top dogs in the NL west, with their acquisition of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner solidifying their status. By now, it’s clear the Giants have passed the Padres, who continue to tumble and see their playoff position continue to be less of a certainty. I’m a big believer it will eventually click for the Dodgers and they’ll win the division and be the #1 seed in the NL. The question is, when?

Bets To Make: ATL To Win NL East (+575)

Pennant Odds/Projections

American League

The American League pennant race is extremely tight, with so many teams (at least four) clearly being World-Series teams. The White Sox are going to be especially difficult to beat come playoff time with such a superb all-around team and loaded bullpen, while the Astros, Rays, and Red Sox all are teams who may win the division and thus be in good position to make that push for the pennant. That is what makes the AL East race so important; the winner of it will be in much better position to win it all. Tampa Bay’s odds continue to go down to the point that betting them might not be advisable, which limits opportunities outside of the Yankees and A’s, who at best would be in the wildcard game. In other words, not a ton of excitement in terms of surplus value this time.

National League

The uncertainty within the NL West might be causing some slightly differences in the pennant odds, while the Mets appear clearly overpriced; I don’t think the Padres’ odds will stick for much longer. From the looks of it, the time to find surplus value appears to have been earlier in the season.

World Series Projections/Odds

yHonestly, this is the same story as the pennant odds. However, I do like Tampa Bay’s odds to win the World Series, especially compared to their current division and pennant odds. Of the top-seven teams that appear to be on a class of their own, they clearly offer the most value, even in a very difficult league. Remember, the can still win it all without winning the division; if you believe in them but not in their chances of winning the division at (-121), then this is a great way to still back them.

Best Bet: TB To Win World Series (+1300)

Checking In On Previous Bets

Well, I have now recommended a bet for every NL East team to win the division! I’m still confident the Dodgers surge over time to see their pennant odds become closer to even money, while we’re well covered in the American League with futures bets in some fashion on Houston, Boston, and the White Sox. Meanwhile, the long-shot bets (Reds, Yankees), although unlikely to pan out, have seen closing line value, which generally is what you’re looking for in a fine pick; they’re long shots, after all. I’m really liking the Phillies at (+813) at the moment, which has already been cut in half and may continue to go down more if the Mets continue to crumble; it’s a nice hedge with any bet made on the Mets, and if you weren’t able to get in on the Phillies, the Braves are a great backup plan.

Overview

By now, it is clear that a top-seven is emerging above the rest, with the Brewers and Rays adding themselves to the fray. Over time, I think the Dodgers, White Sox, and Astros remain the premier teams, but each league has at least multiple division winners and a wildcard winner who could win it all. In other words, grab your popcorn, and enjoy the show! First, though, look into Braves (+575) to win the NL East and Rays (+1300) to win the World Series!

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