14 April 2016

How The Orioles Can Be Projected To Win 118 Games

The Orioles received no respect from the projections this offseason. Fangraphs projected the Orioles to win only 80 games and PECOTA had them at 72. Despite the Orioles spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the offseason, the general public was not expecting much from the Orioles. Then the Orioles had a nice seven game win streak and all of a sudden the calculations shifted.

As one can imagine, some fans got excited. Jonah Keri wrote an article asking whether we might have underestimated the O’s again.  Matt Kremnitzer wrote that we should enjoy the Orioles’s suprising win streak because they are playing well and its fun. Steve Melewski joked that “Orioles are MLB's only remaining unbeaten team. Pecota is not available for comment.” It’s questionable whether Melewski will retract his statement in the unlikely event that the Orioles suffer a losing streak this season. ESPN Stats and Info reported that only 28 teams since 1903 have started 7-0 and better and 5 of those won the World Series. Eutaw Street Report and Camden Chat both decided to write articles talking about how Orioles' fans should enjoy this but that the team wasn't going to win 162 games.

Alas, CBS maliciously jinxed the Orioles by noting that they were on pace to win 162 games before Wednesday’s game. Unsurprisingly, the Orioles lost a game in which they stranded ten baserunners, had a runner thrown out at third, and scored only two runs. The dreams of a perfect season were over. As Roch said (), “the ’72 Dolphins can pop the champagne corks.” Thanks CBS.

But while the win streak may be over, its impacts on the standings remain intact. No one can deny that the Orioles are leading the AL East. Jon wrote a number of statements about teams that have gone 7-1. It turns out that the team with the worst overall result to start the season 7-1 was the 1977 Oakland Athletics. They ended the season with a 63-98 record. The most wins that a team that has started a season 7-1 is 103 shared by the 1968 Tigers, 1990 Athletics and 2002 Yankees.

Most importantly, it has also resulted in improved rankings in the projections. As Jeff Sullivan wrote, the Orioles chances of making the playoffs increased by nearly 15% from the start of the season to 4/11 and that they doubled their playoff chances. As of 4/14, Fangraphs now projects the Orioles to win 82 or 83 games (Fangraphs Playoff Odds project the Orioles to win 81.8 games while Fangraphs Projected Standings have the Os winning 83) with a 30% of reaching the playoffs while PECOTA has the Orioles as an 80 win team with a 21.9% of reaching the playoffs.  That’s a pretty large bump in the standings for only eight games. Perhaps it has something to do with the interesting tidbit that 43.3% of teams that have a seven game winning streak make it to the playoffs. Others have been more pessimistic, including this largely incoherent article from the Washington Post.

Sure, this is good news. But what if we want to be even more optimistic? Suggesting the Orioles will win ONLY 103 games is definitely harshing my buzz. It’s possible to be even more optimistic as long as we forget just about everything we know about MLB.  Forget all knowledge about current players and farm systems and historic distributions of wins in MLB.  That knowledge simply isn’t going to tell us what we want to hear. Dilbert's boss explains everything via this comic strip.

In such a case, all we’d know is that the Orioles have gone 7-1 in 2016. The chances of that happening are really low; there’s only a 3.1% chance of a random binary sequence resulting in the same outcome 7 out of 8 times and only a .7% chance of it resulting in the same outcome seven times straight. Obviously, these are highly unlikely and therefore would strongly suggest that the Orioles have a better than even chance of winning a ball game.

In order to determine the Orioles actual chances of winning a game, we’d have to resort to using basic probability. The chances of the Orioles winning a game if they go 7-1 could be derived using the following formula:

(8 choose 1) * (x ^ 8) = .5
Solving this equation leads to a result of x ~ .707

This suggests that the Orioles should have a 70.7% chance of winning any of their remaining games provided that the assumptions above are true. If so, they should be expected to win another 111 games. Add that to the 7 games that they’ve already won, and they should be expected to win 118 games. Even before yesterday’s loss, this method suggests that the Orioles were on pace to win 147 games.

Of course, this method requires us to ignore everything we know about MLB. If we take player quality into account, then it’s highly implausible that the Orioles’ players are that much better than average. If we take historical win distributions into account, then it’s easy to understand that there is a low likelihood of even excellent teams winning seven games in a row and that few teams win 100 games. If we even just used runs scored and runs allowed to determine Pythagorean wins, then the Orioles would still be expected to win ONLY 115 games. I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad result.

So, if anyone feels discouraged about yesterday’s loss, then they can take heart. This method suggests that they should never have been expected to win 162 games, despite articles suggesting that they were on that pace, but rather only 147. And even now, they should still be expected to win 118 games.

But if someone offers you a bet that the Orioles will win 118 games, myself and the other Camden Depot writers strongly urge that you take the under. 


Roger said...

I love statistics that give me the answer I want! Go O's. Personally, I'd be happy with 95. I think the most important part of the 7-1 streak is that two of the opponents were the Rays and Sox. Seems like that does a double whammy on the division. The last two games really showed the O's being over-confident - trying for extra bases when it's unwise, not getting the max benefit from the defense. Too many walks from the pitching. Missing cut off men. The game humbles you pretty quickly.

Matt Perez said...

That's the point of stats.

Agreed teams have cold and hot stretches. There's a reason there's no Golden State in baseball.