Saturday, August 27, 2005

Baseball: Wild Card race

I noticed something interesting while working on the probability of each team winning the Wild Card. In the AL, there are three teams currently tied for the wild card spot, the Yankees (NYY), the Athletics (OAK) and the Indians (CLE). Here are my expected records for them by seasons end. (Remember that the expected record still has a bunch of deviation around it).

TEAM Expected Season Wins
NYY 90.2
CLE 89.4
OAK 88.3

A quick note on CLE and OAK. I actually think OAK is a better team. If the season started today, I would expect OAK to win 81.7 games and CLE to win 81.1 games. The reason I have CLE expected to win more games for 2005 is due to their remaining schedule (opponents, home/away). OAK simply has a tougher schedule, and that amounts to an extra win for CLE in my formulas.

Based off of the expected season wins, one may jump to the conclusion that NYY has the best chance at winning the wild card - at least based on the same simulations that provided those expected season wins. But that's not the case. Here is my estimation of the chances of each team winning the wild card.

TEAM Wild Card Probability
NYY 29.4%
CLE 36.9%
OAK 10.4%
BOS 10.3%
MIN 5.9%
LAA 4.8%
CHW 1.9%

Although I have NYY expected to win more games than CLE, I have CLE with the best chance at winning the Wild Card. This is not so strange when you see the chances of winning their division:

TEAM Division Probability
NYY 25.9%
CLE 2.8%
OAK 28.7%

CLE has almost no chance of winning their division. Even if they play great, the best they can realistically hope for is to win the Wild Card. But with NYY and OAK, if they play great, they may actually win their divisions, and thus not win the Wild Card.

So that is why CLE is the front-runner for the wild card. If you just look at team strength, it would seem unusual. But including in their remaining record as well as their standings within their respective divisions (and the division leader's remaining schedule), the order of the probability of winning the Wild Card can be different from the order of team strength.

The NL Wild Card race is interesting too. I have 4 teams lumped very closely:

TEAM Expected Wins
PHI 86.45
FLA 85.57
HOU 85.44
NYM 85.13

Three teams from the NL East, and only one team from the Central. The Cardinals have run away with the Central crown, so there is just about zero chance the Astros can beat them for the division. However, each one of the NL East teams can still realistically win their dvision. With that in mind, my estimate of the Wild Card probabilities are:

TEAM Wild Card Probabilities
PHI 18.5%
FLA 17.7%
HOU 28.0%
NYM 13.7%
ATL 15.4%
WAS 5.2%
MIL 1.0%

HOU is now the front-runner. Also note that ATL, the NL East division-leader has a better chance of winning the Wild Card than the Mets.

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