26 February 2014

Orioles Are Locked for 90+ Wins

The title is an arrangement of the tweet I received below when discussing how Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz affected Clay Davenport's projections along with my educated guess as to how Ervin Santana would change those projections:
This perspective as well as the bounty of tweets, follows, and unfollows the Depot collected in response to us being a bit nonplussed about the path chosen by the team this off season as well as to what these additions actually meant with regard to meaningful September and October baseball.  Sort of related due to the similarity in numbers between what he earned and what Nelson Cruz will earn, this Orioles Hangout poll from 2011 was something I also found interesting. When Andy MacPhail signed an old, broken down Vladimir Guerrero, it was done with an incredible amount of fan fare.  That masterstroke, according to that poll of 255 Orioles faithful, resulted in over 67% of them giving him an A- or better (89% gave it a B+ or better).

The Guerrero signing was memorable for me because of two things.  One, I had a series that year that followed Vlad's attempt up old DH mountain.  He finished with a bWAR of 0.4, good for 20th out of 25 all-time.  Two, it resulted in this article railing against my pessimistic view and suggesting that it might well be Vlad's curtain call.  In a series of tweets (of which I have no idea how to find), the author stated that me equating Vlad's 2010 offensive output with Matt Wieters' 2010 offensive output given the context of their respective defensive positions made me a "liar".  Of course, even if my opinion was faulty, that would make me simply misguided as opposed to being a liar.  Really, though, I think what the author was really trying to express was that he was very much emotionally involved with the team and highly invested to see them succeed.  That can be difficult to explain or even comprehend about oneself, so strangely calling someone a liar may suffice.

So where this leads me is about emotional expectation and the use of rather unaware projection modeling.  Why are projections unaware?  They are unable to adequately assume player usage, past (to some extent) or future injuries, weight training, etc.  Basically, all of the reasons why many folks claim that there projections are useless.  However, their inability to clearly predict the future does not mean that are worthless in terms of projecting the future.  In other words, a team projected to win 55 games will not make the playoffs.  The models know enough about the histories of player populations to realize that this event is literally almost impossible.At a projected talent bases increases, then those probabilities grow larger and should give some hope to fans (along with a dose of realism).

In order to show this, I took a projection (devised with PECOTA, ZiPS, or MARCEL) and compared that with the actual results from (2003-2011).  I did not double count years.  From 2003-2009, I used PECOTA projections I had on hand.  From 2010-2011, I used MARCEL.  From 2012-2013, I used ZiPS.  The PECOTA projection model was reported by Baseball Prospectus.  The MARCEL and ZiPS projection models were reported by Replacement Level Yankees Blog.  It may look messy to take things from so many sources, but the point here was not specifically to test a specific model.  It was to casually use models blindly under the assumption they perform rather similar.

Year        St DEV Model
All 9.3
2003 8.8 PECOTA
2004 11.7 PECOTA
2005 7.6 PECOTA
2006 7.5 PECOTA
2007 6.4 PECOTA
2008 9.7 PECOTA
2009 11.7 PECOTA
2010 9.6 MARCEL
2011 10.1 MARCEL
2012 10.9 ZiPS
2013 8.7 ZiPS
So, what does the table above mean?  Hopefully, the graphic below helps.  Each standard deviation includes a certain amount of the population.  If we assume that win deviation is normally distributed, then we would assume that a team will perform within 9.3 games better or worse about 68% of the time.  To cover 95% of all events, a range of 18.6 games better or worse would be expected.  Using this approach, you would expect a team to perform 27.9 games better or worse would happen about 1 times in about 11 seasons.  In our data set of 11 seasons, this has indeed happened only once (2004 Arizona Diamondbacks, 81 projected wins, 51 actual wins).


The last two years there has been some grumbling from the fan base that ZiPS has been unfair to the Orioles in its projections.  Both seasons, the Orioles have, as a team, outperformed the projection using ZiPS.  Of course, a sample size of two is not a powerful sample size and it would make more sense to assume that it was a statistical anomaly unless we identify some mechanism that ZiPS and/or the team projection model has issues with.  For instance, if Buck Showalter is the difference between a 69 win team and a 93 win team then neither projection system will be able to pick that up.  Additionally, Buck needs to talk to his agent because if he was worth 24 wins then he needs to be paid about 144 MM a year.

Below is a sampling of the last two seasons the Orioles enjoyed as well as Clay Davenport's current projection of the team winning 83 games after adding Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.

exWins range n stdev low high % to 93 % to 96
2012 69 66 to 72 42 8.9 -15 24 2.4 0
2013 79 76 to 82 100 9.4 -30 19 7 2
2014 83 80 to 86 123 9.5 -30 19 16.3 6.5

For better or worse, I expanded the projected win totals in order to get larger sample sizes to work with.  In that first line, the Orioles were projected to win 69 games in 2012.  The Orioles outperformed that mark by 24 games.  To make the Wild Card (93 wins is a decent number to use for that), a team at 69 wins needs to outperform by exactly 24 games.  The Orioles are the only team in that group to perform so well.  Historical events suggest a 2.4% possibility.  In 2013, the Orioles were projected to win 79 games and outperformed that mark by 6 games.  That was not good enough for the playoffs.  What they needed was in the neighborhood of outperforming their mark by 14 games.  In that data set, only seven out of 100 teams have manage to do that.  Of those seven, two did well enough to improve to a point with the divisional crown was a likelihood.

What does the history of teams in the 80 to 86 win bracket look like with respect to under and over performing their projected wins?

The above is a weighted distribution graph.  Just based on this one grouping, it appears that teams that crash, crash to varying degrees.  Perhaps, this has to do with increased play of prospects, dealing of players, or something along those lines.  Still, it holds up pretty well as data that appears normally distributed.  The Orioles would be looking to improve by 10 games over this projection, which has happened about 16% of the time in the past.  Greedy for a division crown?  That number drops to 6.5%.  Those odds would be 1 in 6 and 1 in 15, respectively.  Keep in mind that in Davenport's projection that the Orioles would need to leap frog several teams.  Briefly, it is more likely for the Orioles to over perform and another team to under perform than it is for them to over perform and two teams under perform.  That whole concept though will not be addressed in this post.

Going back to the original tweet suggesting that 90 wins are a lock, a team must to projected to win 98 games or more to have not fallen below 90 wins.  Six teams have been described as 98 win or better teams.  Six out of 330.
Proj. 90+ wins n
98+ 100% 6
97 50% 2
96 50% 2
95 67% 3
94 50% 4
93 43% 7
92 43% 7
91 50% 10
90 80% 5
For projected 83 win teams, four out of ten won 90 games.  In other words, it is possible for the Orioles to be a 90 win team.  History suggests that.  However, that same history also suggests that it is not likely.

Addendum (Model Projections)
Davenport 83-79
FG (STEAMER) 78-84
PECOTA 78-84


Bret said...

The problem with that tweet is that the Orioles had the most home runs in MLB in 2013 by a huge margin (24 more than next closest team) and had a great defense and finished tied for 4th. Home runs mean something but they don't mean nearly as much as OBP, which if anything the O's have regressed with this offseason. They let go of McLouth who was the one guy who would take a walk for Lough (10 walks in 335 plate appearances last year) and Cruz (never walked 50 times in a season). OBP leads to runs. While I think Markakis will be much better and Wieters can't be worse unless he gets polio Davis is not going to repeat 2013 and everyone else save Cruz is either the same or worse. It is up for debate whether the pitching is better but the offense looks the same to me. And the same is not a 90 win team.

Jon Shepherd said...

Someone just emailed me asking what would the standard deviation be if we set expected wins at 81 for all teams. Answer is 11.4 games. However, that can be misleading because you would expect a normal distribution around 81 for all teams in a league. You see similar distribution around a predicted win total. That those standard deviations are somewhat similar could make someone erroneously conclude them being worthless. The issue is that standard deviation is one characteristic of the population basically looking at the width of distribution with each population being anchored around a single point.

For instance, the range of outcomes for a team predicted to win 90 games is significantly different than the range of outcomes for a team predicted to win 80 games even though the standard deviation is similar.

David said...

I really love this site's intelligent analysis and I really dislike the lazy analysis done by people like this individual on Twitter.

I'm more optimistic about the 2014 Orioles than I was two weeks ago because the additions of Jimenez, Cruz, Yoon and the subtractions of whatever three players they replaced has made the 2014 Orioles a better team. They're certainly not the favorites in the East, but even your conservative numbers that give the Orioles a 16% chance of getting the Wild Card means this is the best Orioles team we've seen in a long time. I don't think a 'playoffs or bust' mentality is unwarranted.

I guess my question is, how does that 16% chance of reaching the playoffs compare to everyone else? I'd be willing to bet that outside the Tigers and Red Sox, the Orioles 16% chance is pretty solid.

Jon Shepherd said...

For a team around 83 wins, you expect something in the neighborhood of 12-16%. Other models can look a little different. For instance, FanGraphs (using STEAMER) puts the team in the high 70s leading to a 3% shot.


David said...

Those projections are alarming and tough to reconcile with what we've seen from this team the past two seasons. They're indicating that the Orioles are flat out bad, which is obviously not what we've seen the past two years from essentially the same roster.

Jon Shepherd said...

PECOTA and STEAMER seem to be more negative in their valuation of the club. When you actually go through the players, you find highly variable performance or non-existent performance and that can lead to some trouble in measuring how good a club is.

That said...I think a 78-83 range of projections is "tight". I'll go through in a later post exploring what the actual ranges are and what constitutes a tight fit or not.

Bret said...

I don't think it is quite the mathematical enterprise you are making it out to be. The 2013 Orioles won 85 games and had an 85 game phythag. They were supposed to win 85 and they won 85. Have they gotten better? When you factor in Davis' career season and almost certain regression it would hard to make the case for yes. McLouth was the one guy on the team who took a pitch, he is gone.

Main point is they guy in the tweet totally defeats his own argument. They hit homers and play defense. That is nice but it doesn't mean as much as other things, otherwise they would have been WS champs last year. Other teams get on base in the AL East - the O's don't and if anything it will be worse this year.

Jon Shepherd said...

I am not sure if we are making anything much of a "mathematical enterprise". This is simply an evaluation of projection models which are based on empirical evidence.

That said...the Pythagorean Win Expectation is an approximate as well. PWE is not a great evaluator of future talent. It simply provides a decent "normalization" of past performance.

Matt Perez said...

In my opinion, like most statistics, projections are the start and not the end of the process.

The projections are indicating that the Orioles will be a poor team because many of their players will not repeat their past years performance. The next question is why.

For example, the projections predict that Lough should be worth half of his value last year.

They predict that Manny's defense will considerably regress (or alternatively that he was ranked too high in the previous year). Brooks Robinson was worth 20 runs per season defensively from 1960-1975.

Machado was worth 33 runs defensively last season. Think he can do it again? If he can do it for fifteen years like Brooks then he's a sure-fire hall of famer. If he's "half as good", he's still a hall of famer.

Did Davis have a career year offensively? Did McLouth?

Why do the projections predict what they do?

Bret said...

The standard deviations don't mean anything if you aren't deviating from something that is solid. It may be interesting to say if the Orioles are an 85 win true talent team they have a 20 percent chance of getting to 90 or whatever. However, if you have no idea how good they are in the first place based on the fundamentals it can be anywhere between 0 and 162 wins. I certainly don't see them as a 90 win true talent team at the moment, of course they weren't in 2012 either and won 93.

Chris said...

One item that hasn't been mentioned is everyone on the orioles has gained another year of experience. This is more notable for the orioles than other teams because Nelson Cruz at 33 years old is the oldest starting player on the team. Only Alex Gonzalez is older. Everyone else on the team is 31 or younger. They have yet to hit the stage where anyone on their team will begin to decline in ability. With that said the AL East is always a battle. If the Orioles played in any other division I'd say they are a lock for 90 wins.

Jon Shepherd said...

Aging/experience curves are a part of all projection models.