So, as you know, it’s been an exciting week. There is baseball! There is baseball, with major-league teams playing against other major-league teams, and sometimes non-major-league teams. Some players have hit dingers, and some pitchers have struck some guys out. Meanwhile, on this very website, we’ve launched 2015 playoff odds, having uploaded all the 2015 ZiPS projections. Those projections have been blended with Steamer to yield the somewhat familiar 50/50 projections that we ran with all last year.
Upon the addition of ZiPS, I ran a polling project I’d already run once before in the offseason. On Monday, I asked you to vote in polls about the 30 individual team projections. I wanted to see where people stand closer to the season, with fuller projections out there, and with a greater understanding of what the rosters are going to be. A polling project means nothing without analysis, so this is that analysis, with sufficient votes having rolled in. I don’t think waiting another few days would change anything. The post itself will probably go pretty quick, since there’s little that requires explaining.
To briefly review, this is what a team poll looked like:
This is a results distribution:
I’ve also been provided with raw numbers, and not just percentages. This is what there is to analyze.
Before getting to the full set of data, I’ll note that no team got more votes than the Blue Jays, and no team got fewer votes than the Rockies. Now, this is a reminder of some potential bias: different people voted in the polls, so this wasn’t all polling the same exact audience. But at least this time, unlike the first time, I didn’t bias the audiences myself by adding team commentary beside the polls. What does it mean that the Blue Jays got so much more participation than the Rockies? For one thing, the Blue Jays are more likely to contend this season. For another thing, the Blue Jays anecdotally seem to have a stronger online presence. And the Blue Jays had a more active offseason, doing more to drum up spring-training enthusiasm. Even though the Rockies got the fewest votes, they still got enough votes for me to safely analyze.
Now for a big, giant, hopefully sortable table. You’ll see at the end an “Avg.” column. This is my attempt to calculate the average vote, where each vote was scored 1 through 5, with 5 being “low, by more than 3 games” and 3 being “good!” An average above 3 would indicate the audience thinks more highly of the given team than the projection. The overall MLB average: 3.04.
|Team||W||Low, more than 3g%||Low, up to 3g%||Good%||High, up to 3g%||High, more than 3g%||Avg.|
And an image, for the visual learners:
Boy, there’s a lot here. I know there is. Maybe it’s overwhelming, but I also think at the core this is all pretty simple, and besides, much of this has been discussed before.
Getting the highest average vote: the White Sox, at 4.07. They beat the runner-up by 28 points, because the voters really aren’t buying the 76-win projection. As a matter of fact, the projected win total actually went down a little upon the inclusion of ZiPS, so Steamer by itself was apparently a bit more optimistic. This is old hat: the White Sox had an incredibly busy offseason, trying to build a team that can contend as soon as this year, and there’s a lot of sex appeal at the top of the roster. Things drop off quickly from there, but as you can see, three-quarters of all voters think the projection is low by some amount. A third of them think the projection is low by quite a bit. The projections weren’t impressed all winter, but, maybe they’re wrong. Even if they aren’t, there’s a level of excitement that wouldn’t have existed around the White Sox if it weren’t for the aggressive maneuvering. It doesn’t all count for nothing.
Unsurprisingly, we find the Orioles in second. Almost two-thirds of voters think the projection is low by some amount. Three out of 10 think it’s significantly underestimating the ballclub. In each of the last three years, the Orioles have exceeded what was expected of them in February and March. Digging into recent evidence doesn’t reveal much in the way of sustainability here, the numbers suggesting teams don’t have special number-defying qualities, but that research also isn’t conclusive, and it’s impossible to just forget about what the Orioles have literally just done. There are plenty of Baltimore and Showalter believers. It’s fine to be skeptical; it’s also wise to be open-minded.
Finishing out the top three are the Blue Jays, who are ahead of fourth place by a fairly wide margin. Jays fans turned out in droves, and they see a team better than one that’ll struggle to stay above .500. There’s a lot of optimism surrounding Marcus Stroman. There’s a lot of optimism surrounding Drew Hutchison, and perhaps there’s also optimism around Aaron Sanchez. There’s probably significant overlap between Jays fans and Maple Leafs fans. Said fans badly need something to be happy about, and this year’s Blue Jays could be just the thing.
Down at the other end are the Phillies, the Diamondbacks, and then the Cubs and Astros, in a tie. The Phillies get a bad score despite also being projected for the lowest win total in baseball. Maybe some of this is assuming future trades. Maybe some is hyperbole. Much, honestly, is probably just bracing for disaster. The Phillies have the means to turn around quickly, but not so quickly that 2015 won’t be a mess. The Diamondbacks are their own kind of mess, and maybe worse is that they don’t seem to realize it. Just one of 10 voters thinks the Diamondbacks should be projected for higher than 74 wins.
The Cubs are interesting — you’d think that, with all the activity and all the youth, there’s be discernible optimism. And there absolutely is optimism, but as shown here, it’s at least under some control, with the audience betting the slight under on 84 wins. Last year, the Cubs won just 73 games. And the Astros won just 70, so maybe we’re seeing people kind of reluctant to bet on huge steps forward. There’s definitely some hesitation around the Astros; they’re increasingly stocked with talent, but they haven’t figured out where it’s all going to go, and the team’s been dreadful for years.
To close this part out, I’ll point out the Padres. The Padres have operated a little like an NL version of the White Sox. The data here shows White Sox fans to be quite optimistic. It doesn’t say the same about Padres fans. But then, the Padres are also projected for seven more wins, so maybe they’d meet in the middle. Despite all the Padres’ upgrades, the feeling is that they’re about a .500 team. Just 3% of voters think the Padres’ projection is low by more than 3 games.
As a last bit, to try to capture uncertainty, this is a table of voting standard deviations, and relative standard deviations, sorted by the latter.
If you think of these as approximations of error bars, fans are in the most agreement about the White Sox, and the least about the Phillies. Just 2% of voters think the White Sox’s projection is too high by some amount. Fans don’t totally agree on how bad the Phillies are going to be. Maybe you’d prefer to sort by overall standard deviation. Then there’s uncertainty around the Orioles and Mets, and relatively little around the Twins and Pirates. The Twins and Pirates actually stand out from the group — they’re separated from the pack by about a tenth of a point. There’s a range of not even two-tenths of a point between first place and 28th.
The conclusion there being, according to fans, the Twins and Pirates might be the most predictable 2015 baseball teams. Fans think the Twins will end up predictably mediocre, and other fans think the Pirates will end up predictably competitive. Three of five voters think the Twins projection is right on. The Pirates come out almost the same. I don’t know how much this means, but I figure the fans probably have some kind of sense of things, so I don’t want to discount this all as noise.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this. You are wonderful. The rest of you are also probably wonderful. So we have arrived at the end of this project.
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.