You Guys Officially Don’t Like Our Royals Projection

Of all the polling projects I run here, this is the one I like the most. I’ve only done it for a couple years, now, but for me, this is the perfect kind of crowdsourcing. We’ve got our team depth charts, and we’ve got our Steamer and ZiPS projections that get blended together. So after a whole bunch of math takes place, the depth charts and the player projections get converted into projected standings. Everybody loves to look at and analyze projected standings, but sometimes there are numbers people really don’t understand or support. So I poll.

On Tuesday, I asked the FanGraphs community to evaluate the projected American League standings. On Wednesday, I asked the community to evaluate the projected National League standings. Votes have come in by the thousands, and while it’s not particularly fun to create the initial polling posts, this is when it’s all worth it. I gathered all the numbers to see what people think about the whole projected MLB landscape. Hot tip: the Royals are projected here to finish 77-85. And you guys hate that.

In each team poll, I asked whether you thought a given projection was way high, kind of high, good, kind of low, or way low. I took the results and converted the answers into numbers, so I could get an estimate of how the community would adjust a team’s projection up or down. In a few cases — like the Royals’ — I had to do some further estimation because there were a lot of votes toward one extreme. It shouldn’t make too much of a difference, give or take a tenth of a point. Here’s the meat. Here’s how many extra wins the community thinks each team deserves.


I’m going to assume this is unsurprising, and I’m assuming that in part because you’re part of the voting community. We’ve talked seemingly non-stop about whether “there’s just something about the Royals,” and the community has stated its case. Based on the votes and based on my math, the people here think the Royals’ projection should be nearly six wins higher. That’s double what the community thinks about the Blue Jays’ deserved adjustment. The crowd also thinks the projections are a little low on the Pirates and Rangers, and at the other end, the community is a little more down on the Red Sox and the Indians, in particular. The rest of the distribution is pretty close to the middle.

I’ll give this to the community — usually, when you open things up to fan voting, you get optimistic results, on average. And the results here are slightly optimistic, overall, but only to the tune of +0.2 wins per team. All the wins nearly balance out, but for the Royals, who remain an outlier. This was almost assured to happen, but now we have it as concrete math.

I know exactly how it looks to have the defending champs projected to be last in the league. I also know the Royals have defied the projections before, so a large segment of the population has been convinced. In 2013, the Royals won five more games than they were projected to win. In 2014, they won nine more games than they were projected to win. Interestingly, when I ran this project last year, the Royals were projected to finish 79-83, and the crowd thought that was only one win low. So, the crowd thought last year’s Royals, preseason, were basically a .500 ballclub. Then the Royals blew the projection away and won everything there was to be won, and that put voters over the edge. Last year, it seems, sealed the deal.

I’m assuming there’s a lot going on here. Since the Royals keep beating their projections, there’s definitely an increasing belief they just do something the numbers struggle to detect. That’s the obvious one, but there’s more. There was no actual cost to your vote, and hands down the easiest thing to do is vote for the Royals being special, because it’s psychologically comfortable to give in and follow the crowd. Even though all the voting was anonymous, voting against the Royals being weird could be perceived as argumentative. And, importantly: the Royals poll got more than 500 more votes than the next-most popular poll. The Royals are the controversial team, as projections go, and evidence suggests people came here just to vote on them. To do that implies you have a strong opinion, and the strong opinions were overwhelmingly that the Royals are being badly under-estimated.

That’s the stuff on the Royals. People think they’re better than ZiPS and Steamer do. Maybe the people are wrong, and maybe they aren’t. It’s genuinely impossible to know, but it’s interesting to see where people stand, and I think it adds real substance. What we’ve effectively done is create 2016 fan-projected standings.

Let’s look at this stuff side-by-side. We’ll start with the American League. This table ought to be sortable, and on the left, you have the ZiPS/Steamer projections. On the right, you have the fan-adjusted projections.

2016 AL Standings
Team Projections Community
Astros 88 88
Blue Jays 84 87
Red Sox 88 86
Indians 87 85
Yankees 82 83
Royals 77 83
Tigers 81 82
Rangers 80 82
Mariners 82 82
Rays 80 81
Angels 80 80
White Sox 81 80
Orioles 78 78
Twins 78 78
Athletics 78 78

By the projections on FanGraphs, the Red Sox get the AL’s best record. With the fan adjustments, that honor goes to the Astros, followed by the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays go from four behind the Red Sox to one ahead. The Royals, meanwhile, go from 10 behind the Indians to two behind. The fans would have the Astros, Blue Jays, and Indians winning their divisions, with the Red Sox and Yankees as wild-card opponents. But the Yankees are fan-projected for basically the same record as the Royals.

We’ll turn now to the National League.

2016 NL Standings
Team Projections Community
Cubs 97 95
Dodgers 94 93
Mets 90 90
Nationals 90 89
Giants 87 87
Cardinals 85 86
Pirates 84 86
Diamondbacks 80 82
Marlins 81 80
Padres 73 72
Rockies 72 71
Brewers 71 70
Reds 70 69
Braves 68 68
Phillies 64 65

The tiers are the same. There’s the same group of bad teams, the same pair of average teams, and the same group of good teams. But the fans think things will be a little tighter. Instead of a 13-win gap between the Cubs and the seventh-best team, the fans see it as a nine-win gap. The community sees the Cubs, Dodgers, and Mets as division winners, with the Nationals then playing against the Giants for the wild card. But the Cardinals and the Pirates are right there.

I’ll close with a big giant table. This one is also sortable.

Team Projection Voting Distributions
Team High by more than 4 High by 2 – 4 Good, +/- 1 Low by 2 – 4 Low by more than 4
Angels 7% 25% 37% 24% 7%
Astros 4% 23% 44% 24% 5%
Athletics 11% 32% 31% 19% 7%
Blue Jays 2% 5% 22% 43% 27%
Braves 4% 18% 48% 25% 5%
Brewers 6% 34% 43% 16% 1%
Cardinals 3% 10% 35% 37% 14%
Cubs 13% 40% 32% 9% 6%
Diamondbacks 3% 10% 35% 39% 13%
Dodgers 9% 38% 43% 8% 2%
Giants 4% 21% 44% 27% 4%
Indians 16% 45% 32% 6% 1%
Mariners 10% 26% 44% 16% 4%
Marlins 12% 38% 35% 12% 3%
Mets 4% 29% 44% 19% 4%
Nationals 7% 35% 44% 13% 2%
Orioles 5% 21% 40% 25% 9%
Padres 7% 27% 51% 13% 2%
Phillies 5% 8% 47% 31% 9%
Pirates 0% 5% 29% 50% 15%
Rangers 3% 8% 25% 42% 21%
Rays 4% 16% 36% 32% 12%
Red Sox 21% 40% 30% 7% 2%
Reds 10% 29% 44% 14% 3%
Rockies 9% 32% 48% 9% 2%
Royals 4% 1% 7% 17% 71%
Tigers 4% 13% 40% 32% 11%
Twins 6% 19% 45% 24% 6%
White Sox 11% 31% 40% 15% 2%
Yankees 4% 11% 37% 34% 13%

That’s just included for the sake of being thorough. You can see how the Royals really took off. In 19 of the 30 cases, the most popular option was the middle one, which agreed with the projection. Only the Royals had the most popular option be one of the two extreme ones. There wasn’t too much diversity of thought on the Padres or Pirates, with the Padres getting 51% support for “good” and with the Pirates getting 50% support for “low (2-4).” On the other extreme, votes were pretty well spread out for the A’s, as well as for the Rays and the Yankees. The A’s had the lowest “maximum,” at 32%. But despite that, the community still doesn’t think the A’s are very good.

Okay, that’s all! Thanks for your help. I really do appreciate it.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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6 years ago

It is only 6 games but the community projects the league to be 12 games above .500 against itself. My math seems to indicate that to be impossible.

Really if the community had agreed with the projections on the Royals it would have been 2430-2430 so it seems that for the polling removed some inherent bias of people just seeing there favorite team and automatically voting higher on those.

6 years ago
Reply to  Los

It looks like it’s due to rounding. For example the data shows people think the A’s and Mariners are definitely worse than their projections but the “voter’s projection” is still the same. I’m actually impressed it’s that close.

6 years ago
Reply to  Los

Jeff mentioned there was a 0.2 average win increase per team. 30 times 0.2 = 6 games.

6 years ago
Reply to  Los

Fangraphs projects the AL to beat the NL in interleague by 18 games. The community thinks it will be by 30 games. The average the last 2 years was 30 games.

6 years ago
Reply to  Los

I was adding up the extra wins before I even got to your comment.