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Spring is nearly here, in a temporal sense, at least—in many parts of the country it certainly doesn’t feel very spring-like, but dispatches from the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues assure us that yes, spring is on its way.

Spring raises questions that only autumn can answer—who will win, and who will lose, and how it will happen along the way. I leave it to the psychics and the tarot card readers to claim otherwise. But the absence of perfect knowledge doesn’t mean perfect ignorance—we certainly know some things about how the baseball season will play out. Filled with what Tommy Bennett would call the Quantification Urge, we turn to the Playoff Odds Report.

We’ve given the report a facelift, but at the core it’s what you’re expecting. We start off by assigning each team an expected win percentage; right now this is derived from the Depth Charts, but after the season starts we will be incorporating a team’s performance into the expected win percentage, as well.

From there, using the log5 method and a Monte Carlo simulation, we simulate the results of thousands of seasons of play. Due to unbalanced schedules, we come up with win-loss records that diverge a bit from the numbers on the depth charts. We can also look to see how often a given team won its division or the wild card, and from there we compute the playoff odds.

Consulting the odds lets us put the projected standings in perspective; seeing the Red Sox listed above the Yankees, for instance, gives a certain sense of finality to the projected standings. But looking at the odds reminds us that it could very well be the other way around—or another team altogether could seize the division.

And of course events conspire to remind us how fragile these exercises really are. Yesterday the Cardinals received word that Adam Wainwright could very well miss the entire season. It’s incredible to me how just one player can shape a division race. Here are the projected odds, before and after the Wainwright injury news:

 

Before

   

After

   

Team

Division

WC

Playoffs

Division

Wildcard

Playoffs

St. Louis

51.1%

7.2%

58.3%

37.9%

6.0%

43.8%

Milwaukee

27.0%

7.9%

35.0%

32.6%

6.4%

38.9%

Cincinnati

13.2%

5.2%

18.4%

18.7%

4.3%

23.0%

Chicago

8.1%

3.1%

11.1%

10.1%

2.9%

13.0%

Pittsburgh

0.5%

0.2%

0.6%

0.7%

0.1%

0.8%

Houston

0.1%

0.0%

0.1%

0.1%

0.0%

0.2%

Losing a valuable piece like Wainwright before the season even starts turns the NL Central into a tighter race than before, with the Brewers and Reds the greatest beneficiaries. (Even the Astros seem to benefit, although not by enough to reassure most Astros fans, I imagine.)

And yet—the loss of Wainwright is not the death knell that I think some commentators expected. The Cardinals still have the best player in baseball, after all, and the NL Central is nowhere near as top-heavy as the AL East. The Cardinals still have a very good chance of making the playoffs—they’ll just have to fight a bit harder to do it.

And that, as they say, is why they play the games.

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TraderBob
2/24
So why does the loss of Wainwright in STL, cause a drop in the Wild Card chances of everyone _else_ in the division? If STL odds of winning move down a peg, doesn't that mean more wins for the remainder of the division? Each team has more games against a diminished Cards team than the rest of the NL.
Behemoth
2/24
Presumably because, in many of the cases where another team gets enough wins to get the wild card, they would now win the division because the Cards are that much weaker.
dianagramr
2/24
Tangentially, Wainwright would have possibly made 2 or 3 starts against interleague opponents, and now those particular opponents would also see their projected win totals (and playoff odds) rise ever so slightly, correct?
escapeNihlism
2/24
such an effect would be imperceptible.
dianagramr
2/24
"From there, using the log5 method and a Monte Carlo simulation, we simulate the results of thousands of season of play. Due to unbalanced schedules, we come up with win-loss records that diverge a bit from the numbers on the depth charts." ============= Given that each NL Central team plays the same number of games within the division, wouldn't the resulting % decrease in the STL division odds be spread out evenly amongst the other 5 teams? Here are the percentage changes for each team (pardon the formatting): STL 51.10% 37.90% -26% MIL 27.00% 32.60% 21% CIN 13.20% 18.70% 42% CHI 8.10% 10.10% 25% PIT 0.50% 0.70% 40% HOU 0.10% 0.10% 0% Is the difference because certain teams are better-suited matchup-wise to face a Wainwright-less team?
SkyKing162
2/24
Playoff chances aren't proportional like that. If you compare *win totals* before and after the Wainwright loss, they should be proportional, though. (I think.)
Mountainhawk
2/24
log 5 isn't linear like that.
dianagramr
2/24
Well, we don't know what the W-L% is for each team before and after Wainwright's availability, but the "division %" is a "closed" equation (for lack of a better term".
nateetan
2/24
Yeah, it adds to to 100% both before and after. You should be subtracting not dividing. 37.9 - 51.1 = -13.2% 32.6 - 27.0 = 5.6 18.7 - 13.2 = 5.5 10.1 - 8.1 = 2.0 0.7 - 0.5 = 0.2 0.1 - 0.1 = 0.0 So STL's loss basically benefits CIN and MIL equally, with a smaller benefit to CHI.
dianagramr
2/24
Yup, I did the straight subtraction first ... then I wondered why it wasn't proportional across the board. :-)
Mountainhawk
2/24
Think of it this way: If you had a perfect team that never lost, the impact on them would be 0. They go from 100% to 100%. Same is true if you had the worst team imaginable that never won. They go from 0% to 0%, no change. There is some maximum winning percentage where it helps you the most (somewhere around .525 in this case), and from there it degrades.
hiredgoon1
2/24
I'd like to know exactly what happens in the one simulated season out of 1,000 in which the Astros win the division.
dianagramr
2/24
Pujols crashes into Fielder on bang-bang play at 1B in their first meeting on May 6, and both sustain displaced bone fractures. Joey Votto, watching this on SportsCenter later than evening, trips over a chair in clubhouse while laughing, tears up his knee.
TraderBob
2/24
I notice you didn't feel the need to explain what happened to the Cubs. I guess you don't need to - with the assumption being the Cubs happened to the Cubs.
Kampfer
2/24
They are just not enough to close the gap. Maybe something like Jay Bruce hurting his shoulder trying to throw out the runner at second, but ending up hitting Ryan Braun's head causing concussion. Matt Holiday, seeing this play on TV, becomes so afraid of throwing the baseball at people ending up needing YIPS treatment... and Chris Carpenter just DL himself to visit Waino.
MilwaukeeJimii
2/24
What would the standings look like if there was a balanced schedule, i.e. if the Brewers got to play the same interleague schedule as the Cardinals? Cardinals Schedule: 6 games against Royals 3 games against Rays 3 games against Orioles 3 games against Blue Jays Brewers Schedule: 6 games against Twins 3 games against Red Sox 3 games against Rays 3 games against Yankees I'm willing to bet the Brewers would now be favored if schedules were equal.
trhoads66
2/24
Wow, that's a huge difference. 12 games against the Royals, O's, and Jays vs 12 versus the Twins, Red Sox, and Yankees. Conservatively, let's say the Brewers go 6-6 while the Cards go 9-3. That's at least a 3 game swing and could be more.
jdouglass
2/24
Colin, might you give us a sneak peek at who will be filling Wainwright's 33 starts in the next update of the depth charts and how it effects the bullpen's workload?
bornyank1
2/24
Looks like this has been updated.
jberkon
2/24
Have all Depth Charts been updated, or just this one? It still says, "Updated 2/16" on the charts.
markpadden
2/25
Please keep the "last update" date accurate.
jdouglass
2/24
It's only summing up to 1314 IP. Though I don't doubt that with McClellan, Lohse and the two-headed Batisnell in the rotation my team could find a way to lose 144 road games.
JosephC
2/25
It's predicting the karmic loss of Wainwright's vitality to cause a marked increase in rainouts as the heavens sympathetically weep wherever the Cards go.
EnderCN
2/24
I'm confused as to how the Brewers have a higher expected winning percentage yet a 5% lower chance to win the division. I'm also confused how the Cardinals can be favored by two wins before Wainwright(a 4 win player) and still end up favorites.
markpadden
2/25
I think you are misreading the table. It says that the Brewers division odds have increased from 27.0% to 32.6%.
EnderCN
2/25
No I see that, if you go to the PS odds link at the top of the page it says the Brewers have a higher expected win percentage than the Cardinals, that is what confuses me.
markpadden
3/01
Ah, I see. Valid point. I hope Colin can provide more detail on what is going on.
markpadden
2/25
"Due to unbalanced schedules, we come up with win-loss records that diverge a bit from the numbers on the depth charts." I don't follow this. What schedule assumptions are you making for the Depth Charts win-loss projections?
Mountainhawk
2/25
I thought the W-L on the depth charts was just runs scored and runs allowed expectations, not based on the schedule at all?
markpadden
2/25
Well, you need to assume something about the schedule in order to make a runs scored/allowed projection -- if it's actually a "projection" and not a simple power rating. Given that their header (on http://www.baseballprospectus.com/fantasy/dc/) is "American League, ranked by projected 2011 record," I would have assumed it uses actual schedules as a factor. But now I have no idea. Relatedly, are player projections using actual schedules, or are they assuming a league-average schedule? I sure hope it's the former -- or at very least a division-average schedule. Would not be much point in creating advanced fantasy projections if you didn't take this step.
markpadden
3/01
Can Colin (or anyone at BP) please reply with an explanation of how/why the depth charts use a different schedule projection than the PS Odds? Specifically, what is "unbalanced schedules" referring to?
Richie
2/25
I'm pretty sure the runs scored/allowed are based on schedule, ergo figuring W-L from them would also be.