AccuScore: Warning signs in the Beltway

Jonathan Lee, AccuScore

AccuScore provides baseball predictions and projections by calculating the probability teams have of winning each game, their division and making the playoffs. Using projected starting lineups, baseball predictions are created by simulating each game of the season one play at a time, 10,000 times. Visit AccuScore for weekly updates for all baseball and sports predictions.

American League

We're just one week from Memorial Day, the date most generally wait until taking the standings seriously, and both Baltimore and Cleveland are still in first place in their respective divisions. Those two teams, along with Toronto, were the only American League teams to make significant jumps in playoff probability this week with each gaining over 17 percentage points in AccuScore's projections.

Baltimore not only leads the AL East, but also has the best record in the league ahead of Texas by a game. The Orioles more than doubled their odds last week by winning four of five games on the road. This success, however, looks like it will be unsustainable with the offense being almost entirely propped up by home runs. Baltimore ranks 11th in the AL in on-base percentage (.310) and its run prevention is right in the middle of the pack. The team looks ripe for a regression.

Toronto, on the other hand, looks like it is in a better position to succeed despite currently trailing Baltimore by four games. The Blue Jays actually mirror the Orioles offensively with similar team triple-slash numbers, but that is with virtual zeroes from Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus. Both players were expected to be major contributors, but Rasmus has a .283 OBP and Lind is no longer on the major-league roster. The advantage Toronto has is in run prevention (4th best in the AL) and a deeper farm system. If even an average replacement for Lind is found at first base, the Jays could stay in this race all season.

Cleveland succeeded early on in the regular season a year ago and collapsed to finish below .500. The projections at this point are still cautious giving the team about a one in four chance of making the playoffs. The Indians have been outscored on the season and are below .500 at home to this point. Both are indicators that they are not built for a long playoff run.

American League Weekly Review Playoff % Chance
Team 14-May 20-May % Diff Win Div
Baltimore Orioles 22.9% 46.9% 24.0% 9.6%
Cleveland Indians 10.3% 27.6% 17.2% 15.6%
Toronto Blue Jays 34.5% 51.8% 17.2% 11.7%
Oakland Athletics 2.9% 8.3% 5.3% 1.4%
Boston Red Sox 2.5% 6.2% 3.8% 0.7%
Kansas City Royals 2.3% 2.8% 0.5% 1.5%
Tampa Bay Rays 92.6% 92.8% 0.2% 69.5%
Chicago White Sox 21.1% 21.2% 0.1% 10.8%
Minnesota Twins 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Seattle Mariners 8.1% 7.0% -1.1% 1.0%
Texas Rangers 99.1% 97.4% -1.6% 95.0%
Detroit Tigers 90.6% 79.8% -10.8% 72.0%
Los Angeles Angels 39.6% 13.5% -26.1% 2.6%
New York Yankees 72.8% 43.7% -29.0% 8.4%

National League

The Giants and Nationals are two teams that are having serious troubles on offense but are going in opposite directions in the NL projections this week. The Giants and Nationals have both scored 155 runs this season, but San Francisco gained 20.1 percentage points this week while Washington fell 22.8 percentage points. The change this week is basically Washington's wild-card odds transferring mostly to San Francisco.

The Giants are favored in the projections because they have a history of succeeding despite the lack of hitting. A year ago, they finished 10 games over .500 despite a negative run differential. As long as the starting rotation remains intact and healthy, the team remains a contender in the NL. Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong all project to have an ERA of 3.33 or better. Heck, even Barry Zito is pitching better of late. Also, Santiago Casilla has proven to be more than capable of replacing Brian Wilson in the closer role.

Washington, however, is really suffering from the injury bug. The Nationals offense is as weak as San Francisco's, but with a less dominant starting rotation. The NL East is also a stronger division overall, leading to the massive drop in playoff odds this week. The team is still making the postseason 47.5 percent of the time, however.

The return of Michael Morse would go a long way toward helping the offense fill the void left by the injury to Jayson Werth. Morse could return in a couple weeks. The same thing is possible for the pitching staff if Drew Storen can return to the back of the bullpen. Henry Rodriguez has struggled as the closer with three blown saves and a 4.08 ERA. The Nationals are built to win based on their run prevention, and the bullpen needs to be lights out for them to win games.

National League Weekly Review Playoff % Chance
Team 14-May 20-May % Diff Win Div
San Francisco Giants 32.8% 53.0% 20.1% 13.6%
Philadelphia Phillies 54.1% 63.5% 9.4% 23.8%
Atlanta Braves 81.1% 86.7% 5.6% 59.4%
Houston Astros 2.4% 4.3% 1.9% 2.2%
Miami Marlins 7.5% 9.4% 1.9% 1.5%
Los Angeles Dodgers 93.5% 95.3% 1.8% 85.0%
Pittsburgh Pirates 3.3% 4.4% 1.2% 2.3%
Milwaukee Brewers 8.0% 8.5% 0.6% 4.4%
San Diego Padres 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
Arizona Diamondbacks 9.2% 8.6% -0.5% 1.4%
Colorado Rockies 1.1% 0.2% -0.9% 0.0%
Cincinnati Reds 26.6% 25.3% -1.3% 14.1%
New York Mets 8.5% 6.6% -1.8% 1.0%
Chicago Cubs 8.3% 4.9% -3.4% 2.5%
St. Louis Cardinals 92.1% 80.6% -11.5% 74.5%
Washington Nationals 70.3% 47.5% -22.8% 14.3%

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