December 12, 2007
Looking Back at 2007
With the closing of the Winter Meetings and the igniting of the yearly hot stove, it's once again time to examine the results from BP's Predictatron contest. Roughly equivalent to an overgrown fantasy football pick'em, Predictatron asks BP readers and staff alike to forecast the individual records of each MLB team, along with a bracket-like prediction of playoff results and the eventual World Series winner. First prize in the contest is $500 and a framed picture of Commissioner Bud Selig. With swag like that, who needs the money? Full rules can be found here.
The 2007 season was replete with Cinderella stories, collapses, renaissances, and disappointments. How did these events jive with predictions? Let's go to the divisional standings and look at how the contest participants saw 2007 shaking out.
NL East Average difference between wins and predicted wins: 4.16 Team Wins Pred. Wins Mortal Lock% Playoff% Div% WC% PHI 89 87.14 5.2% 64.3% 28.2% 36.1% NYN 88 89.94 15.1% 87.4% 64.4% 22.9% ATL 84 83.05 1.1% 17.0% 7.0% 10.0% WAS 73 62.16 53.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% FLO 71 76.22 1.3% 1.8% 0.4% 1.4%
As one of the worst collapses in baseball history, the Mets' failure to make the postseason accounted for a minus on more ballots than any other team. Even worse, 15 percent of readers placed them as their mortal lock, and were burned doubly by points subtracted. The East was also home to another ballot-beater, the Washington Nationals, as an overwhelming 53.6% of participants picked them as their NL mortal lock to win fewer than 72 games.
AL West Average difference between wins and predicted wins: 8.45 Team Wins Pred. Wins Mortal Lock% Playoff% Div% WC% ANA 94 87.03 2.7% 66.6% 66.1% 0.5% SEA 88 74.08 3.2% 0.7% 0.7% 0.0% OAK 76 84.62 1.4% 28.9% 28.3% 0.6% TEX 75 79.29 0.6% 4.9% 4.9% 0.0%
By average difference in win totals, the AL West was easily the wackiest division in 2007. The Angels provided their usual high level of competition, but few readers predicted them to dominate the west so fully. An interesting switch occurred between the (supposedly) perennially contending A's and perennially underachieving Mariners. While the A's were out of the hunt with injuries, the Mariners remained competitive until the final few weeks of the season to cap a respectable 88-win campaign. This represented the biggest difference between predicted and actual wins for any individual team.
NL Central Average difference between wins and predicted wins: 3.51 Team Wins Pred. Wins Mortal Lock% Playoff% Div% WC% CHN 85 83.10 1.2% 32.5% 31.2% 1.3% MIL 83 83.74 0.6% 37.5% 35.4% 2.0% SLN 78 83.65 0.7% 30.3% 27.2% 3.1% HOU 73 78.42 0.8% 4.5% 3.8% 0.7% CIN 72 75.70 1.8% 2.1% 2.0% 0.1% PIT 68 71.67 9.5% 0.4% 0.4% 0.0%
Readers were torn about this division, and predicted about 83 wins for each of the top three teams. Though the order was not perfect, no one team made a clear break from the others. St. Louis represented the largest difference between reality and what was predicted, largely because of a bubblegum-and-paperclips starting rotation in the wake of Chris Carpenter's injury and Anthony Reyes's ineffectiveness.
NL West Average difference between wins and predicted wins: 5.99 Team Wins Pred. Wins Mortal Lock% Playoff% Div% WC% ARI 90 85.65 2.9% 55.4% 49.2% 6.2% COL 90 76.32 1.0% 1.3% 1.2% 0.1% SDN 89 85.55 1.9% 36.1% 25.8% 10.3% LAN 82 84.54 1.9% 27.3% 22.1% 5.2% SFN 71 76.95 1.4% 2.0% 1.7% 0.4%
The NL West played host to two of the season's great stories: the late-season emergence of the Colorado Rockies and the consistent winning of the Diamondbacks in spite of their well-publicized negative run differential. While 55 percent of readers picked the Diamondbacks to make the playoffs, the average win prediction was still over four wins below their actual record. Conversely, only 1.3 percent of you picked the Rox to make the postseason, reflected in their 13.6-win difference between projection and reality.
AL East Average difference between wins and predicted wins: 3.30 Team Wins Pred. Wins Mortal Lock% Playoff% Div% WC% BOS 96 91.69 18.3% 87.3% 35.7% 51.6% NYA 94 93.38 37.7% 93.1% 63.1% 30.0% TOR 83 82.28 0.4% 4.2% 1.0% 3.2% BAL 69 73.41 4.4% 0.6% 0.2% 0.4% TBA 66 72.44 4.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
With the exception of the Red Sox capturing the divisional title, it was business as usual in the AL East. With the lowest average difference between wins and projected wins, it was evident that readers saw the Red Sox/Yankees battle as the probabilistic crapshoot it turned out to be. Both the Orioles and Devil Rays slightly underperformed their predicted wins, but overall the participants nailed this one. It's worth noting that the Yankees had the lowest individual difference between prediction and reality out of all 30 teams.
AL Central Average difference between wins and predicted wins: 3.51 Team Wins Pred. Wins Mortal Lock% Playoff% Div% WC% CLE 96 88.84 5.9% 63.7% 60.6% 3.1% DET 88 86.24 1.2% 23.4% 18.0% 5.5% MIN 79 85.71 1.7% 23.2% 18.7% 4.5% CHA 72 79.84 0.6% 3.4% 2.7% 0.7% KCA 69 67.36 17.8% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
It seems that, for our readers, the AL Central was a foregone conclusion. This was the only division in which Predictatron participants predicted the team standings in perfect order. Many BP readers wisely remembered Cleveland underperforming their Pythagorean record in 2006, and banked on their bounce back to contention. The Central also boasted the only non-Sox or Yankees team to have double digit "Mortal Lock" potential in the AL (the Royals), and they met these dim expectations by scratching out 69 wins.
Inside the Ballot of a Winner
This year's cash and Bud Selig photo go to Noel Langlois, a BP reader since 2005. Though he correctly picked the Red Sox to win it all, the real power of Noel's ballot was in his regular-season predictions, as you can see below:
He picked an outstanding 22 teams within five wins of their actual total, 14 teams within three wins, and was within one win for an astounding 10 teams. The only discrepancies of 10 games or more were the overachieving Mariners and the miraculous Rockies. Perhaps his most impressive insight was his nearly spot-on prediction for the Diamondbacks, which he pegged because of the D'Backs' wealth of young players and the "March Madness-like upset factor." He's going to use the cash to fund his annual BP subscription, and maybe even put a down payment on half of a Green Monster seat. Congratulations, Noel.
Comparison and Conclusion
As with any projection system, it's illuminating to compare the accuracy between different systems. In this case, I've compared Predictatron with preseason PECOTA and ESPN Expert predictions, which are plotted on the graph below:
R-squared values for the methods' correlation with actual wins are as follows:
For the second year in a row, Predictatron's prognostications surpassed both PECOTA's and ESPN's in accuracy. Many thanks to everyone who participated for another successful year. May your team's offseason be fulfilling, and we look forward to seeing your predictions again next April.