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Postseason Newsbeat

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cameron: Let’s Talk About the Phillies’ Playoff Odds (!)

According to Dave, Martin O’Malley might have a better chance of being the Democrat nominee.

See that flat line across the bottom? That’s the Phillies. Their 24-17 start hasn’t moved the needle, at all, on our forecasts expectations for their chances of reaching the postseason. Okay, that’s not exactly true; they’ve gone from a 0.1% chance of winning one of the two Wild Card spots in our preseason forecast all the way up to a 0.3% chance of getting to the play-in game now. But their odds of hanging on to the NL East? Still close enough zero to round down when displaying one decimal point.

This is, to some, puzzling. A question in my chat yesterday brought up the point that our system is far more bearish on the Phillies hot start leading to postseason success than others; Baseball Prospectus gives them a 2.3% chance of winning the division and a 7.6% chance of getting a Wild Card spot, for 10% overall odds of reaching the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight is even more bullish than that, putting them at 4% to win the NL East and 13% to reach the postseason. So why is our system so stubborn relative to others attempting to look into the same crystal ball in order to see what the final standings will look like in October?

Well, it’s worth noting that there are dramatic methodological differences between the way that we (and BP) do our forecasts and the way FiveThirtyEight is doing theirs. Our forecasts are essentially an amalgamation of individual player projections, summed up at the team level; BP does this same thing too, using their PECOTA projections where we use a mix of ZIPS of Steamer. FiveThirtyEight, on the other hand, is using Elo Ratings, which adjust up or down based on whether you win or lose a game, and how much of an upset that win (or loss) was relative to their pre-game expectations. While they used individual player projections to come up with their preseason Elo ratings, their in-season adjustments are based on responding to a team’s win-loss record.

Our system doesn’t care at all about a team’s actual record at any point in the season; it only looks at the individual player performances to try and ascertain whether there have been significant changes in expected playing time or production level to adjust the team’s expected record up or down. So far, ZIPS and Steamer look at what the Phillies players are doing and think “yeah, that’s basically what we expected.” Our preseason expected win% for the Phillies was .395; 41 games into the season, our rest-of-season expected win% for the Phillies is .396. And because they were starting from such a low baseline of expected wins, even their extra banked wins through the first six weeks don’t really change how often they make the postseason in our simulations; the strong start has taken them from 64 to 72 projected wins, but nobody’s making the playoffs at 72 wins, or anything close to it.


 

 

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