Nationals Baseball: On predictions

Friday, September 30, 2016

On predictions

The Nats won yesterday, but since the Dodgers won as well HFA is still up in the air, though heavily favoring the Nats. The most likely scenarios for the weekend are the Nats win 2 over the Marlins, who they are better than, and the Dodgers win 1 or 2 over the fighting for their lives Giants. That would be enough. I will worry though if the Nats lose tonight and the Dodgers win.

Really I only want to see one thing tonight. Bryce playing. I know some of you think he should sit as long as it's slippery out there because he coud aggravate his injury. Me, I think he should get a few games in because it's a long wait until the NLDS starts next week. Plus if you're that worried about rain-caused injuries to susceptible players I have a first-baseman, third-baseman, and left fielder that I need to talk to you about.

Murphy? He's not playing. They have him as ready for the NLDS, which is good, but not great. First, because with each game he's out the next game becomes suspect. If he plays in this series you can be fairly certain he will play in the NLDS. If he doesn't, you can't. We'll get updates next week that might clear it up - he'll run or play in a fake game or something, but on Day 162 you can't say for sure you'll see him in the NLDS and that's scary.  Second, assuming he is ready he'll go from sitting for 3 weeks to facing Clayton Kershaw. Good luck with that. There's normally an adjustment time coming back from injuries and Murphy will have none. Even if it takes Murphy just a couple games to get back to MVP level that could put the Nats in a hole that they can't climb out of.

OK on to more fun things, like mocking me (sort of)

When the season started and we were putting up predictions I put up my own. Nats win 90. Miss playoffs.  Instead, they'll win like 95 and the NL East. Oops!

Now if you want to stop there and make fun of me I guess that's your right. But I'm going to do a little deeper look at what I said to see how bad my prediction really was. Here's a teaser - the Nats win total would not be what I consider my worst prediction.

So being more specific what I did was basically say three things and add a caveat. The three things were :
  • The Nats would win 90 games
  • The Mets would win 91 games
  • The 2nd WC would win 91 games.
The caveat was "if anything bad happens to the Mets (and nothing to the Nats, or really more bad to the Mets than the Nats) the Nats should have an easy time winning the division."

Basically all predictions should be made expecting even luck with injuries for the teams involved. Anything else would be akin to wild guessing. This is not the same as saying "all teams will have the same amount of injuries". Some teams (older, injury-prone players, pitching dependent) are more likely to be affected by injuries that others.What it means is that these teams have the amount of missed time due to injuries you could reasonably expect given their make-up. For the Nats that's about what happened*. For the Mets things were worse. So taking the caveat into the equation the Nats season played out as I expected it would if the Mets were to suffer more injury losses than the Nats. The Nats would easily win the NL East. They did.

Now if you asked me what it meant for win totals I'd toss a couple more on for the Nats - say 92 and cut a handful from the Mets - say 86. For the Mets that's going to be close to dead on, but I'm still enough away from the Nats total, especially given the late season injury rush costing a win or two, that I do feel like I undersold them a bit. We'll go over it sometime after the season as a whole but I think, reading through the projection, that I didn't get the pitching right. Most of that was not figuring Roark for the year he had and pen being better than I thought. Offensively it feels like the surprises balanced the disappointments, so the read I had on that stayed pretty solid.

So, in my estimation, I had the Mets about right and undersold the Nats a couple games. Since I had the Nats losing the division by one game that probably means I should have had the Nats winning the division anyway. Oh well. I'm not bothered.

But what does bother me is the whiff on the second wild card. I said the Nats would miss the playoffs because the second WC team would win 91 games. This was mostly because in 2015 the second wild card in the NL won 97 games. 97! Well looking back that was an extreme event. In reality there have been only three times in the past four years of two Wild Cards that a 90 win team would definitely not get in. Last year's NL and the AL in 2012 and 2013. That's as many times as a 90 win team would have been first WC (2014 both leagues, 2015 AL). That's not counting this year, where it looks likely that the AL WCs will be 89/88 game winners and the NL WCs will be 87/86 game winners. Even with the prediction of 90 wins, I really should have had the Nats in as a Wild Card, maybe even hosting it. That would have been more likely with 90 wins than missing it alltogether.

Whether you consider it a mild miss, like me, or a big one, can I make up for this miss with playoff predictions? I don't know. I don't love making playoff predictions because of the inherent variability of them. I've checked past years and I can only find one in a post since 2012 where I bothered. But I guess I'll try again because I nailed that one - picking the Royals in 5 over the Mets in the Series.**

*For the season as a whole. For the playoffs it looks like they will have bad luck with injuries.

 ** Don't do the same! The safest prognosticator route is to take the favorite in the maximum number of games possible. Why? Your pick has a built in one-game cushion, meaning if the favorite wins in 6 or the underdog in 7 you can point to your prediction and say "basically right!". If the favorite wins in fewer than one less game than predicted you can still say you picked the winner correctly. Also sweeps are hard. Think about how hard it is just to sweep a random series against a nobody team mid-season. Now you have two teams of around equal talent trying to win at all costs. Hard to have it go your way three or four times in a row without it ever going the other way. You can't worry about them. So really you are only likely to "lose" if the underdog wins in a shorter series. That's a good bet to make. 

However you should throw in a random underdog winning here and there just so you can point to it for the rest of your prognosticating lives, even if it wasn't all that crazy a prediction. No one remembers you picking against a heavy favorite that wins, but you'll never let anyone forget you picked against a heavy favorite that lost.  


Chas R said...

No worries, Harper. As a believer in jinxes, I for one was happy with your prediction and became nervous when you called the division championship so early!

Just kidding... but don't pick the Nats to win anything the playoffs... just to be safe... :-)

Fries said...

My playoff prediction (assuming current Wild Cards):

Wild Card - O's over Jays and Mets over Giants

DS - O's over Rangers in 5, Sox over Indians in 4, Dodgers over Nats in 5, Cubs over Mets in 3

CS - Sox over O's in 5, Cubs over Dodgers in 5

WS - Cubs over Sox in 7

I'll be rooting for the Nats all the way, but just please let the Cubbies win and break the curse if it can't be the Nats

Harper said...

Chas R - Don't worry Chas! Wait... is that good or bad?

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

Royals over Mets in 5? Harper, I hope you've by now taken your firmly-planted tongue out of your cheek on that one... I don't see how the Mets get past the Cubs, even if they somehow get past Bumgarner in the WC game (I'm giving up on the Cards being the 2nd WC; if they need a blown call to win a game just to stay in the hunt, the odds don't feel to be in their favor).

Since you asked (or at least impliedly asked):

NLWC: Giants over Mets
ALWC: Jays over Orioles

NLDS: Nats over Dodgers in 5; Cubs over Giants in 3
ALDS: Jays over Rangers in 4; Red Sox over Indians in 4

NLCS: Cubs over Nats in 5
ALCS: Red Sox over Jays in 6

WS: Red Sox over Cubs in 7, as Papi hits a walk-off in the bottom of the 11th and then rides off into the sunset...

Hey, a boy can dream, can't he?

G Cracka X said...

Is Strasburg out of the post-season regardless? Even if the Nats improbably made it to the World Series, would he still be unavailable?

Harper said...

Don't make picks yet! Wait until WCs are set!

Gr8 - I'm saying I picked Royals over Mets in 5 last year, you know when the Royals beat the Mets in 5. Picking that this year would be far less impressive.

GX - I think so but it looks like they are going to play it by ear. The rosters get adjusted for each series so technically he can be added whenever without effecting the series before

Anonymous said...

any idea why stubhub won't accept my 12 digit barcode to tickets to game 1????? Initially got SRO but came across some actual seats they resleased yesterday and now i want to unload the SRO. Is this because the location is not official yet, etc?

I can list the tickets but the barcodes arent accepted.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Harper. Fix this!

Ric said...

@Anonymous 10:39 AM:

I'm not certain in this particular case. But I know for Springsteen, even though I had hard tickets with 12-digit barcodes, the site would only let me upload PDFs? Since I had the hard tickets, and not PDFs, I was out of luck.

Froggy said...

Looking at who I would predict makes the post season it true that Clint Robinson has not hit an extra-base hit since before the All Star break? And Revere has only put up a .564 OPS? Holy dead wood Batman!

So, I guess even though Goodwin's arm and range are not comparable to Revere, you go with him (or MAT?)over Revere, and Difo over Robinson.

Question for the group, how does post season appearance affect bonuses? Do all members on the 40 man roster get the same or do you have to be part of the 25 man roster?

Nattydread said...

Bumgarner & the Giants bail the Nats out. Magic number down to 1 as predicted by Harper. Home field is critical for this Nats team. Without the big guns, Nats haver difficulty scoring.

Dave said...

I have confidence in Max showing up. After that, I think it gets dicey. Tanner has tossed in some clunkers lately mixed in with his steady stuff. Glass Jaw Gio is a walking clunker who has inner voices taunting him more and more as he loses what little has left in the tank. He uses his left hand though. That is the only thing ha has going for him. Joe is working his way back to lasting long enough to qualify for wins. Stras is a ways away from even making the post season roster at some point. The pen is going to have options to bridge to Mark. I am less worried about that than the 3rd starter. Trea is playing out of his head thus far. I have my fingers crossed he can keep it up in a playoff series. Bryce may or may not be healthy enough to contribute, but his thumb isn't why he is baling out early causing him to be more mortal than cyborg. If Murph's butt isn't healed, this fickle offense will be in deep trouble. He has been about the only consistent threat the whole year. Tony and Werth are sort of steady steady. Zim, Espi and catcher of the day are going to be huge holes more games than not. That combo is not very confidence inspiring against Kershaw. If they get a good outing by one or two of their other starters, the Nats may play like the frustrating, punchless team that shows up a lot. The injury list is taking a huge bite out the the team. the 93 or 95 wins may be a mirage in the playoffs.

Froggy said...

Went to the game today...

We have a good team here folks. Roark is a horse. Turner is ridiculous. Difo made a play that no one makes. MAT was solid and Severino has a gun.

Feeling a lot better about the Dodgers after seeing seeing the youngsters in action.

Nattydread said...

Agree. The throw by Severino was worth the price of admission. How many games will he start over Lobaton?

Anonymous said...

If you bought the tickets through a presale they might not be resellable and so the code won't work on stub hub. I'd double check the tickets fine print.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:39,
If your SRO are hardcopy tickets maybe you can scan and save as .PDF then upload to StubHub?

Richard Parker said...

All BS. Harper is great at doing his usual spin. Joe Ross missed half a season. Bryce has been injured since about June. Stras has missed about a quarter of the season, all told. Not to mention all the late-season injuries to Murphy and Ramos, etc. During the last few starts we've had AAA pitchers covering basically every other day. This team could (and easily should) have won 98 games.

It's sad that everyone who contributed won't be there for the NLDS. I also love Harper and his blog, which I read every day (well, Monday-Friday), but in this case he just has to admit he was completely and abjectly wrong,

Robot said...

Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

The big question in my mind: Do the Cubs get swept in the NLDS or do they take it to game seven of the World Series only to lose in the ninth inning on an error by likely MVP Kris Bryant, who otherwise went 5-for-5 with two homers and a triple that game?

Harper said...

RP - If the Nats had been completely healthy - sure they could have won 98+. But teams don't usually stay completely healthy all year - that's part of the reason you don't see 100 win type teams all the time. If it makes you feel better I was abjectly wrong thinking that the Mets had slightly better base talent than the Nats. It was the other way around. I was also abjectly wrong thinking the 2nd WC would have to win 91 games or more.

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