A reader over on our Twitter recently brought to our attention a weekly MLB feature on ESPN, known as the 100s Tracker. They say that the purpose of this tracker is “projecting (the) date (the) Red Sox, (and) others will hit (the) century mark”. Naturally, anything about projecting baseball wins using "on-pace" grabs my attention, especially when it is from America's own entertainment and sports programming network.
If you have been following this blog during this summer, you should know that I have been fighting a bitter war against the blatant use of “on-pace” in sports analytics and arguing why it should instead be replaced by “expected wins”.
Wisdom of the crowd is more than the ill-fated television show of the same name. We have all heard the old adage, many minds are better than one, and this can be seen abundantly in nature. Across countless species, nature show us that social creatures, when working together as unified systems, can outperform the vast majority of individual members when solving problems and making decisions. Examples include bees, fish, and ants.
It should come as less of a surprise, then, that humans working together in tandem can efficiently converge decision problems, and even make accurate predictions. This theory of collective intelligence has been studied and analyzed for the past century to try and validate how, when, and in what circumstances it accurately and inaccurately predicts.
No. No, they are not.
Wait, don’t go! Hear me out. And I still have some good news for any Red Sox fans out there at the end of this post.
In case you haven’t seen, the Red Sox are in the process of breaking baseball. Over the weekend, they swept the Yankees at Fenway in what could probably be a preview of the ALDS this postseason. As of this writing, on August 7, the Red Sox have a record of 79-34, for a winning percentage of 0.699. They are in first place in the AL East, with a 9 game lead over the Yankees, who just happen to have the third best record in all of baseball.
Let us go back to a simpler time, when the Astros had yet to win a World Series, the Las Vegas Golden Knights were preparing for the expansion draft, and the hype for The Fate of the Furious was taking over the internet. I am, of course, talking about March 2017.
In my last few posts in this series, I discussed my predictions and conclusions for 2018 MLB end-of-season win totals and playoff odds. However, I decided to step back in this article and examine how this methodology works in greater detail, as well as how it applies to a season where we already know the results, the 2017 season.
Last week, I released my updated end-of-season record forecasts for each of the thirty MLB teams. In case you missed it, I highly recommend checking it out here, as well as the first part in this series released in April, where I used the small early season samples to predict a more accurate “on-pace” record for end-of-season wins.
On Twitter, someone pointed out that my predictions weren’t very revolutionary, as they matched the same conclusions that can be seen on Fangraph’s Playoff Odds website. If you take the team with highest chance of winning each division, plus the next two teams with the highest wildcard probabilities, Fangraphs had the exact same playoff picture as I did, down to Seattle making their first postseason since 2001 by snagging the second wildcard, the Nats winning the NL East despite being 5.5 games back of first at the time of data collection, and the Brewers/Diamondbacks going 1-2 with the NL wildcards.