So I actually ran two different polling projects this week. In one of them, I asked you to reflect on your 2016 fan experience. I wrote about the results of that on Thursday. In the other one, I asked you to look ahead to 2017. The question was pretty simple: For whichever given team, how many games do you expect that team to win?
I tried to make it clear I wasn’t asking about the teams with rosters as presently constructed. I wanted you to fold in some offseason expectations, some additions or subtractions. Of course, we don’t know how the real offseason will go, but we have ideas of what various teams want to do. In any case, I plan to look at numbers like these a few times before Opening Day 2017. Here goes the first analysis!
Consider these extremely preliminary 2017 fan projections. It was easy enough to convert all the polling results into an average expected-wins total. Here’s one way of looking at the data:
So that’s the whole landscape. The least-surprising part of this exercise is finding the Cubs in first place. Based on what the Cubs already are, and based on what respondents think the Cubs are additionally going to do, they’re expected to be the best team again, and by a large margin. The plot doesn’t make it perfectly clear, but the fans expect the Cubs to win about 99 games. The Red Sox and Dodgers are expected to win about 93 games. That’s a smaller gap than what we saw this year between the best team and the runner-up, but gaps like this are not easy to sustain. It speaks to the Cubs’ very obvious potential to be something sustainably dominant.
The general order of things here is not too shocking. Especially to you — you guys did all the voting. I do have one favorite quirk. In every polling project I run, I expect a certain small percentage of respondents to be trolls. And one of the options for every team in this polling project was winning at least 105 games. Practically every team got at least one vote, for that option. The Cubs got a lot of votes for that option. The Mets got six. The Braves got eight. The Yankees got five. The Reds and Phillies got one. Only the Rangers and Royals were left out. Every single team got at least a couple votes for winning fewer than 65 games. Almost every single team got at least one vote for winning at least 105 games. Not the Rangers, and not the Royals. For whatever reason, the trolls elected to leave those options alone. I’m not going to read into it, but I love any imaginable explanation.
As a different way of visualizing the same data, here are your expected standings, by division:
|AL EAST||W||AL CENTRAL||W||AL WEST||W|
|NL EAST||W||NL CENTRAL||W||NL WEST||W|
The would-be playoff teams are highlighted in yellow. Five of the division winners are expected to repeat, with the Astros moving past the Rangers. Seven of the playoff teams overall are expected to return, with the Cardinals replacing the Mets, and with the Astros and Yankees replacing the Blue Jays and Orioles. Only one of these divisions is expected to be close, but the wild cards are a different story. The Yankees might as well be tied with the Jays, and the Mariners are within a game. And the Cardinals might as well be tied with the Mets. The Pirates lurk further behind, and the Rockies are further behind still.
Now for one last way of looking at things. In this table, you see everyone’s expected win total. You also see everyone’s 2016 win total (per 162 games, for those teams who fell just short). And then, in the middle, there’s current projected win total, based on WAR. That projection is based on reasonable 25-man rosters as can be currently constructed. The expectation, meanwhile, is based on however the offseasons are expected to play out, adjusting those rosters. The table should be sortable.
|Team||2016 Wins||Projected Wins||Expected Wins|
Compared to last season, the Twins are expected to gain the most wins (+13), and the Rangers are expected to lose the most (-9). Compared to the projection, though, the Rangers have the biggest positive advantage (+6), and the Angels are at the bottom (-6). At this point in time, we can’t separate offseason expectations vs. season expectations. I don’t know if fans are skeptical of the Rangers’ player projections, or if they think the Rangers will just have a strongly positive winter. But this is among the reasons why I look forward to running a nearly identical project at the end of March. I look forward to being able to compare the data sets. My hunch here is that people definitely aren’t buying the Angels’ relatively rosy projection. People are also modestly down on the Rays.
To look at the White Sox for a moment: They’re projected to win 78 games. Last season, they won 78 games. The expectation is that they’ll win 75 games. It looks like a greater number of the respondents believe the White Sox are about to start some sort of dismantling process. Obviously, there’s no consensus yet that they’ll completely tear down, because then you’d expect to find them with an even worse record. To be observed!
Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see, and, thanks, again, for your participation. I love running projects like this, and I love that you people let me.