Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 Playoff Odds With New Playoff System

The MLB has recently announced that they will implement the new playoff system for the 2012 system, where there are now two wild card teams, and they will play each other for the right to be in the 4 team playoffs that decides who gets into the World Series, at which point it is like the playoffs before.

The Wall Street Journal today had an outside analyst use player projections to estimate the odds of a team making the playoffs, both in the old system and the new system (simulating 3,000 seasons).   The Giants saw their odds increased slightly from 53% to 57%.  They are the team viewed as most likely to make the playoffs in the NL West (which aligns with what I've been saying for most of this off-season):

NL West - Old - New
Giants - 53% - 57%
D-Backs - 27% - 32%
D-Rox - 12% - 12%
'Dres - 8% - 10%
D-gers - 6% - 7%


Giants Thoughts

I like the new system.  I did not like that the wild card teams had an equal chance of advancing as any of the division winners.  I did not like that they did not have any disadvantage relative to the division winners.  This new system fixes those problems.

Now, the wild card teams have to win a one-game series, do or die, which reduces the chances of the wild card team of advancing.  Plus, they end up most probably burning their top pitcher, which puts them at a disadvantage in the first round of the divisional playoffs (unless they have a great rotation, top to bottom, in which case, they are on equal footing for the most part).  This also gives the division winners an extra day of rest, to account for the wild card playoffs.

This analysis gives numbers to these characteristics.  The article noted that under the old system, the wild card team had a roughly 9% chance of winning the World Series.  Now it is basically chopped in half, 4.6%.  Meanwhile, the division winners still have a roughly 13.6% chance of winning the World Series.  As the WSJ noted, division winners went from 44% better chance of winning the World Series, over the wild card team, to 300% better chance.

Belying all the concern by Giants fans this off-season, the Giants have been the favorites to win the division.  This concurs with my analysis of the Giants that I have done, looking at their projected win/loss record, and my thoughts on how the other NL West teams have changed during the off-season.  The Giants led the division by a lot in terms of the odds of making the playoffs with the old system, at 53% vs. 27% for the D-backs, almost double the chances. 

The D-backs benefited the most with the new system, but only slightly, improving their chances by 5%.  The Giants gained 4%.  The total for the division of making the playoffs was only 106% in the old system, which means there was only 6% chance that an NL West team would win the wild card spot in the old system (I would estimate roughly 3% for the Giants, 2% for the D-backs, 1% for the 'Dres).  The new system only boosted that up to 118%, pushing the NL West chances at a wild card spot from 6% to 12%.  In other words, not very good chances either way.

Eyeballing, it looks like this analysis has the wild card teams coming out of the NL East, which makes sense, the Phillies, Marlins and Braves look very strong, at 66%, 60%, and 51%, respectively.  The Giants are at 57%.  This means that the NL East greatly benefitted from the new system because under the old system, the Giants were higher relative to the NL East, at 53%, where Phillies were at 55%, Marlins at 45% and Braves at 38% (gains of 11%, 15%, and 13%, respectively, whereas the Giants only gained 4%).

The Giants were one of the most likely teams to make the playoffs (and as I noted, most likely via a division title) at 57%.  The Phillies are at 66%, Cards at 60%, Miami at 60%, the only teams higher, making the Giants 4th.  The Reds were next at 52%, then Braves at 51%.  Under the old system, only the Phillies had a higher odds, 55% vs. 53%, with Cards next at 50%, in the NL. 

The NL West in this analysis is pretty much as I have been saying, with the Giants most likely on top, and the D-backs as their toughest competitor for the division title.  The Giants are at roughly 50% odds of winning the NL West, while the D-backs are at roughly 25%.  I thought that the D-Rox had some chances, but was surprised to see the D-gers even below the 'Dres.  But that also makes sense because they did not do that well last season, lost one of their top pitchers in Kuroda without replacing him, need their top two performers in Kemp and Kershaw to basically produce MVP numbers again, and don't really have any top prospects pushing to provide a boost to their team.  Lots to go wrong in that scenario for them.

Not that the Giants don't have their question marks. I will cover that in a post in a few days, but like any team, there are issues facing each and every team that they will need to overcome to succeed in any season.  I think overall, the Giants are covered for a lot of potential downfalls offensively, and thus look good there, and barring injuries that take out starting pitchers or relievers (especially closer), we should be covered regarding poorer performances (though not outright implosions) in our pitching corps. 

4 comments:

  1. Wouldn't that be "from 150% to 300%"? Just sayin'...

    Really, I see the extra wildcard as adding a team from the Eastern Division of each league, most years. Largest payrolls, and bringing TV revenues. A bit cynical, I am.

    Agreed about the division - pundits seem to be fawning over the D-backs, but I see serious regression. Can't really imagine anyone else contending this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, to be clearer, it could have been better worded the way you did it, thanks!

      I'm just used to switching back and forth between easily, so I missed that the way it was worded in the article was not as plain and simple as the way you did it. Though it is the same either way, your way is at least 100% clearer.

      Well, you are actually right, the practical effect of the new playoff system is that it puts another Eastern Division team into the playoffs, for the most part. Though the article did note that Texas got a big boost too. So, cynical or not, that is the net effect and one cannot ignore the fact that there is an East Coast bias.

      Glad to see someone agrees with me regarding D-backs. Yeah, most pundits are fawning, which I understand, given last year, but a closer examination exposes a lot of issues they will have to overcome to repeat, as well as good luck.

      I would agree with the can't really imagine anyone else contending stance, except that I felt the same the past two seasons and first the Padres had their bout of good luck, then the D-backs had their bout of good luck. And I kind of felt that the D-Rox had some good luck previously, though another part of me felt that it was the humidor. :^)

      So it seems like some team is always experiencing good luck and putting them into contention with us, so while I don't see any of them contending, I expect at least one of them to be contending, if you get my logic.

      I actually like some of the trades the 'Dres made, though I still say you can't trade a pitcher like Latos, but they have some nice young players who all look ready for their closeup, so if I had to pick any dark horse to contend, they would be the one.

      Thanks again for your clarification and for your comments.

      Delete
  2. It's the math that'll get ya every time. :-)

    A couple thoughts about perceptions - one is that, naturally, almost all media sources pander to what is familiar to the casual fan. Thus, you get Kemp, Pujols, et al on magazine covers. And D-bax stories.

    Another is, sadly, if you look at say BP's projections (I can't see them as i won't pay the money) no team gets projected for the "average wins" for first place in the NL West - so that's an example of how deviation is inevitable - for somebody. So I see how your dark horse is San Diego, it's reasonable that they will ultimately have a very good team, moreso than the Giants' competition IMHO.

    I suppose I'd put the Giants at more like 67% than 57%, but still, it's not out of the question that they could win 81 or they could win 100. Plus that devil Pythagoras, I find it analytically amusing how the difference between that calculation and what reality was in 2011 is used for whatever means the author wishes. OGC, I see your "1-run game" protestations elsewhere, and I'm on your side - why I'm rooting for Crawford to start. Low-scoring games increase the value of defense and strategy, and I think Bochy is very good in those areas. He's a good manager for the kind of team the Giants have, with the exception of his conservatism (veteran-love) in some matters.

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    Replies
    1. Bah, BP, people treat them like they walk on water, with their "deadly" accurate projection system, so deadly that in the season that they demanded that Sabean be fired, the Giants win their first World Series in San Francisco. I still have not seen them discuss this vast dichotomy between what they think will happen and what has been happening for SF. Until I do, I'm not buying their annuals anymore.

      Well, it's that old thing, you never know, just like last season. Still, I think the odds are very good that they will be in the high 80's at minimum, and should be in the 90's in wins if things go as projected.

      The "1-run game" is not protestations, it is fact that Bochy has a great career record in 1-run games and statistically significant that he is above .500 in talent. It would take about a decade of poor minus 4 or 5 wins in 1-run games before Bochy reaches .500 for his career.

      So while the D-backs are clearly a candidate for a serious regression to the mean in terms of their pythagorean, due to Gibson's great 1-run game record in 2011, as very few managers can do that in their career, Bochy is not a candidate for a serious regression, though I wouuld admit a candidate for a slight regression, hard to keep a +10 in the win column there. But he has averaged mid-single digits for his career, so he could still be nicely positive.

      And assuming the lineup hits as projected, any pythagorean regression won't affect his final win total, as the offense will be much improved over 2011.

      Delete

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