The Changes In Postseason Odds From Yesterday

Note: This morning, I noticed that Baseball Prospectus did a piece with the same basic premise. We aren’t trying to copy their content; both of us just had the same idea. Go read their piece too.

Yesterday, a bunch of teams made trades, and a bunch of conclusions were drawn about what these trades mean. The Angels did nothing and are now screwed! The Cardinals will now run away with the NL Central! Good luck competing with the Orioles now, Blue Jays!

As we’ve written countless times over the years, though, one individual baseball player doesn’t matter very much in the grand scheme of things, and two months of one individual baseball player really doesn’t matter all that much. As you might expect, the postseason odds from today look an awful lot like the postseason odds from yesterday, even after all the trades were processed and the depth charts updated. Good teams got a little more good and bad teams occasionally got a little worse, but there were no seismic shifts in our future expectations.

However, there were some changes, and it’s worth looking at what changed the most. To note; we ware not isolating the effects of solely the trade a team made, but the entire effects of all of the moves on the league yesterday, as well as the games played last night. So, it’s not quite correct to say that the complete difference in odds from yesterday to today was due to Player X’s acquisition, since we’re also incorporating some changes in the standings from yesterday morning as well.

Caveats aside, let’s get to some data.

Biggest Improvements in Division Odds

St. Louis Cardinals: +5.9%
Toronto Blue Jays: +3.4%
Los Angeles Dodgers: +2.6%
Los Angeles Angels: +2.6%
New York Yankees: +1.6%

The biggest improvement of the day goes to the team who acquired John Lackey, though not because Lackey was the best player moved. The Cardinals were just in the sweet spot where additions make the biggest difference, as they’re in a dog fight with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, and they did more to upgrade than their competitors.

Also, they won yesterday while the Pirates lost, and you can see the difference that even one game swing in the standings can make based on the three teams who followed St. Louis as the biggest gainers from yesterday. The Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Angels are all going to appear on various deadline recaps in the “losers” column, since they didn’t make any upgrades yesterday, but all three teams did something even more impactful; win a baseball game.

The Blue Jays, for instance, saw the Orioles acquire Andrew Miller to bolster their bullpen, while they themselves stood pat. People will talk about yesterday was a good day for the O’s in the division race, but in reality, a one-game change in the standings based on Toronto’s win and Baltimore’s loss is likely far more impactful than acquiring Andrew Miller. The Orioles, even while making a trade, had a bad day yesterday relative to the Blue Jays, who did nothing, because of what happened on the field.

Biggest Losses in Division Odds

Pittsburgh Pirates: -5.9%
Baltimore Orioles: -3.2%
Oakland Athletics: -2.7%
San Francisco Giants: -2.6%
Cleveland Indians: -2.0%

Well, there’s where the Cardinals improvement in division odds came from. Their gain corresponds exactly to Pittsburgh’s loss, but again, this isn’t just about the Lackey trade; this is that the Pirates lost a game on St. Louis in the race too. Certainly, the Cardinals getting better while the Pirates stood still doesn’t help either, and the combination of both made this a particularly bad day for Pittsburgh.

But look at who is in third. Yep, the Oakland A’s, the team who traded for Jon Lester. They didn’t get worse, of course, but the Angels won yesterday, narrowing the A’s lead to just two games. In terms of winning their division, acquiring Lester will absolutely help, but the Angels losing last night might have helped even more. If you’re curious, I did note yesterday after the trade — but before the Angels win — that the A’s divisional odds had improved from 70% to 71%, so even if the Angels had been off, the Lester trade still wouldn’t have moved the needle for the A’s all that much. Swapping out a good outfielder for a good pitcher just doesn’t make you that much better.

Biggest Improvements in Wild Card Odds

Seattle Mariners: +9.4%
San Francisco Giants: +3.4%
Oakland A’s: +2.6%
Cincinnati Reds: +2.6%
Pittsburgh Pirates: +1.8%

Few people are probably going to proclaim the Mariners winners of the trade deadline, but no one improved their chances of reaching the postseason more than Seattle. By both beating the Indians and by replacing a pair of replacement level outfielders with actual useful players, the team improved it’s place in the standings and it’s talent base at the same time. One could argue that it’s not going to be enough — after all, even a 27% chance of winning the second Wild Card isn’t really great odds — but the Mariners made the kinds of moves that a bubble second Wild Card team should make. They gave themselves a chance to win this year without harming their future, or at least, harming it any more than they did when they signed Robinson Cano to block Nick Franklin.

The A’s and Pirates improve their Wild Card odds essentially by lowering their divisional odds, so this is something of a fake improvement for both. It’s more of a shift in odds from the more important playoff position to the weaker playoff position.

Biggest Losses in Wild Card Odds

Cleveland Indians: -5.4%
Atlanta Braves: -5.0%
Tampa Bay Rays: -2.4%
Los Angeles Angels: -2.2%
Toronto Blue Jays: -1.7%

The Indians lost and traded away Asdrubal Cabrera, who might not be great but is definitely better than Mike Aviles. They’re punting their season, essentially, not wanting to give up the chance to land some potentially useful assets for a chance to play the Angels or A’s on the road even if they win the second wild card.

But the most interesting number here belongs to Tampa Bay. The Rays didn’t play yesterday, so this mostly reflects their loss of David Price. It’s easy to think that trading away David Price ended their playoff run, but really, their odds of making the Wild Card game are not so different today than they were yesterday. Granted, they only had 7% odds yesterday, so there was only so far for them to fall, but this minor change is again a good reminder of the marginal gains and losses that can be made at this point in the season. And it’s not like the Rays are replacing Price with some scrub from the minors; they’re replacing him with a league average big league starter, so they really aren’t that much worse today than they were before trading Price.

Biggest Gains in Championship Odds

Detroit Tigers: +2.0%
Los Angeles Dodgers: +0.8%
Seattle Mariners: +0.6%
New York Yankees: +0.3%
St. Louis Cardinals: +0.1%

And here is why the Tigers acquired David Price. They already were extremely likely to make the playoffs, but putting Price on their roster made them — according to our forecasts — the best team in baseball going forward. A two percent swing might not sound like much, but we’re talking about a two percent improvement in achieving the team’s ultimate goal. Yesterday was a good day for the Tigers.

Biggest Losses in Championship Odds

Washington Nationals: -0.9%
Cleveland Indians: -0.6%
Los Angeles Angels: -0.5%
Toronto Blue Jays: -0.5%
Tampa Bay Rays: -0.4%

The Tigers gain had to come from somewhere, and it certainly wasn’t going to come from the Astros or Phillies. With the Tigers and A’s both getting better, the Nationals take a bit of a hit, since their potential opponents are now a little harder to beat, but really, all of these losses are pretty minimal. And once again, drive home the point that July 31st might be an extremely exciting day, but these deals really aren’t impactful enough to make us reevaluate what we already knew. The changes are on the margins, and they can matter a little bit, but overall, the trades made yesterday matter less than the results on the field last night.

And if you’re not going to overreact to one day’s worth of wins and losses, you shouldn’t overreact to July 31st trades either.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
DJAnyReason
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DJAnyReason
1 year 11 months ago

Ummm… why not just run the Postseason Odds simulations an extra time, using the standings before yesterday’s games, but with updated rosters? That would allow isolation of the effects of the trades, so we didn’t have to start every section with “the win/loss mattered more than X”…

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

I must be missing something but how did the Jays odds go up by doing nothing? Price leaving division?

And related to that, how did the O’s odds go down after adding Andrew Miller?

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
1 year 11 months ago

Because they lost last night probably

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
1 year 11 months ago

Baseball Prospectus [who isolated just the trades] had the Jays as the biggest losers in World Series terms, going from 5.8% to 4.4%. This makes sense, since they are on course to face an improved team at every stage until the WS – BAL in the division race, DET in the ALDS and OAK in the ALCS.

And most of that was then undone by the fact that Toronto won and Baltimore lost last night, which goes to show. Something, anyway.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
1 year 11 months ago

Edit: actually, not “most” of that – the Jays are back up to 4.9% with BP.

Common Sense
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Common Sense
1 year 11 months ago

I’d take Lester > Cespedes ROS + playoffs ANY DAY. Fools.

companion cube
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companion cube
1 year 11 months ago

Are you the same Common Sense that comments on the Jerusalem Post? Shot in the dark

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

pretty sure that was the first Jerusalem Post reference I’ve seen on this site….

B N
Guest
B N
1 year 11 months ago

Look man, if they would just stop Lester from building settlements in Oakland’s West Bank, then the negotiations would be easy-breezy! :)

Steve
Guest
Steve
1 year 11 months ago

Cespedes is overrated. Your comment isn’t feeling the love simply because you came off as overly sarcastic, but I think you’re right. The A’s can replace Cespedes and will benefit much more, I believe, by having Lester in their rotation the rest of the way.

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 11 months ago

I feel like looking at the playoff odds right away undersells the importance of the trades the same way that a single day’s win/loss is undersold in the grand scheme of things. Sure, the change from yesterday to today is small; but how about the change from yesterday to a week from then? A month? Through the end of the season? Obviously, there’s no way to tell what a team’s playoff odds may be on a certain date had they not won/lost/made a big trade on a previous date, but to imply that not much has changed seems wrong to me.

Jackie T.
Member
Member
Jackie T.
1 year 11 months ago

You seem to be a little hazy on the concepts of “odds” and “projecting.”

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 11 months ago

How are they not related? Surely, if the odds of getting to the postseason increase/decrease, then the projections would reflect that change, wouldn’t they?

FYFs LOBs
Member
FYFs LOBs
1 year 11 months ago

The Phillies’ play-off odds were 0% yesterday, are 0% today, and will be 0% for the rest of the season. Sorry this analysis doesn’t affect the most poorly-run franchise in baseball.

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 11 months ago

Sigh. I suppose I’m gonna have to let this one drop. All I’m getting in response is snark and trolling.

Moving on.

B N
Guest
B N
1 year 11 months ago

That seemed a bit unnecessary. While the end of Phillies’ comment might have a misconception in there, the general theme (that this piece highlights that a single game is more important than you’d think), is reasonable.

Also, I think Andrew’s rudeness was related to the fact that both odds and projections are meant to include the space of possibilities/probabilities that occur. So then, any reasonable path of future events over the next week should be considered and appropriately-weighted in our odds change.

While we can update how important something like a trade was, in terms of helping a team meet the playoff threshold, at that point we’re basically just adding hind-sight to our analysis. Since our future decisions can’t depend on hindsight (unless you’re Marty McFly and Doc Brown), these are not very useful analytically.

To put it in perspective, imagine this chain of events. I try to swat a fly, but miss and hurt my hand. While driving to the doctor, a child runs across the road in front of me. I try to swerve, but my injured hand limits me, and I hit the child. In hindsight, it’s quite clear that trying to hit the fly led to hitting the child. The latter almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without the former. However, this does not mean that trying to swat a fly was likely to change my odds of hitting a child. Quite the opposite: until the child runs in front of the car, the two classes of events are nearly unconnected.

Likewise, so it goes with playoff odds. We can take a team that just squeaks into the second wildcard and point to their new pitcher who got an extra win for them. However, this does not change the fact that the trade had very little impact on the odds or projections when the trade was made.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go bandage my hand, clean my bumper, and get some fly-paper.

Grammar Nazi
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Grammar Nazi
1 year 11 months ago

You’ve got a few superfluous apostrophes in there.

Dirty "Grammar" Harry
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Dirty "Grammar" Harry
1 year 11 months ago

You, got, a, problem, with, that? Well, do, you, punk,,,?

McExpos
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McExpos
1 year 11 months ago

Honest question, Dave – and I’m not trying to be snarky about it.

In 2013, you were regularly down on Franklin’s long-term value, noting that you were not sold on his bat. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t misremembering, so I pulled a quote from Twitter: https://twitter.com/DCameronFG/status/359533045579124736

However, in 2014, you’ve made several mentions to the Mariners “blocking” him at 2B with Cano to their own detriment, including in the above post.

So my question – has your valuation of Franklin changed? Are you more enthusiastic about his value now than you were at the same time last year? Or is team control the big factor her?

Thanks!

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 11 months ago

I think he just really hated that Cano contract.

Alec
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

I think he’s simply talking about Franklin’s actual opportunity to play in Seattle. Regardless of his valuation of Franklin, he’s not playing over Cano, almost no one in baseball thinks he’s a SS, and moving him to the OF makes him pretty replaceable even in the best case for his bat.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
1 year 11 months ago

What would also be interesting to look at is the “chance of winning the LCS/WS if [team] get there” probabilities i.e. LCS/LDS or WS/LCS.

Putting everything together, including the Shark trade, it feels like Oakland have gone from being 53% in a WS to maybe 59%.

Jim Kelley
Member
Jim Kelley
1 year 11 months ago

Great piece, simple breakdown. Are the RoS playing time projections updated for Steamer?

me
Guest
me
1 year 11 months ago

How is the Ray’s going from 9.4% to 7% not that big of a change. Their odds were reduced by 34%.

Darren
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Darren
1 year 11 months ago

Think of it more as 2.4%

Heisenberg
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Heisenberg
1 year 11 months ago

When they go from 1% to 0% it’ll be a 100% drop!

Jon L.
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Jon L.
1 year 11 months ago

Anyway, it was only 26% (not 34%).

Rob
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Rob
1 year 11 months ago

Milwaukee is on none of the lists. Should they have done something else, done nothing? Any predictions on whether they make the playoffs? Curious what anyone thinks.

Pumpsie Green
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Pumpsie Green
1 year 11 months ago

I was thinking Milwaukee when the stories about Pittsburgh being a deadline dealer started coming out. It appears to me that Milwaukee also has a top-rate group of young outfielders blocked at the major-league level, and that they could have traded prospects for pitching. But, it turns out, teams weren’t looking for prospects this time. Unless the Brewers (or Pirates) were willing to trade guys like Braun or McCutchen, they didn’t have what Boston or Tampa wanted.

Larry
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Larry
1 year 11 months ago

Huh? Who are these OF prospects who are being blocked in Milwaukee?

SillyGomez
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SillyGomez
1 year 11 months ago

They have a couple decent OF prospects in the lower levels, Roache, Taylor come to mind. Not top level guys but somewhat promising. That’s all I can think of but they aren’t all that close, IMO.

Radivel
Guest
Radivel
1 year 11 months ago

Are we going to repeat this exercise when players come back from injury?

The Jays are likely at some point going to be trading Dan Johnson and some mix of Ryan Goins, Muni Kawasaki and Steve Tolleson to the minors in exchange for Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie from Team DL.

The Angels get CJ Wilson back, and the O’s will get Ubaldo, haha. Everyone has someone hurting, but do projections include those players returning at all?

Matthew Prowant
Member
Matthew Prowant
1 year 11 months ago

If I’m not mistaken, the projections use FanGraphs’ playing time projections which (roughly) estimate future playing time for injured players.

Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.
1 year 11 months ago

I tend to agree that it would be more interesting to see how the odds change based solely on the trades without single game results being thrown into the mix. While the truth that replacing one player with another player for two months is not going to shift the needle a whole lot on average to the point that one day’s results overshadow it, that does not make for especially interesting reading.

Kevin
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

not really sure how signing a future hall of famer in the middle to end of his prime harms future value by “blocking” a 23 year old with a season’s worth of major league experience

Matthew Prowant
Member
Matthew Prowant
1 year 11 months ago

First, Cano is certainly not in the middle of his prime. If the Mariners are lucky he still has a few 5+ WAR seasons. Second, it’s a matter of opportunity cost. The Mariners could have put $24 million a year towards a position they really needed help with.

Johnston
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Excellent analysis threre, Matthew.

Plucky
Guest
Plucky
1 year 11 months ago

So really, are you guys going to completely ignore the Marlins/Astros trade? Obv irrelevant for this article and playoff odds, but Chris frickin Denorfia apparently merited an article

Johnston
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Yes, we are ignoring it.

B N
Guest
B N
1 year 11 months ago

Totally. It’s shunning time. I feel for the Astros and hope they bounce back soon. I also hope that Loria has a Christmas Carol moment, recognizes the error in his ways, and puts his money towards helping Tiny Tim and the other prospects get some veterans. All in all, I would like to see an analysis of that one, because it’s the one where I know the least about the players involved.

However, they would be bad picks for a “changes in playoffs odds” piece anyway…

Pasta Diving Jeter
Guest
Pasta Diving Jeter
1 year 11 months ago

JV and Joba. That’s all the Togers need if Price Scherzer Sanchez Ricky can go 7

RSF
Guest
RSF
1 year 11 months ago

I count 14 things wrong with this post. Who can count them all?

Leave a Reply
Guest
Leave a Reply
1 year 11 months ago

two months of one individual baseball player really doesn’t matter all that much

That’s wrong, and Orel Hersheiser/Doyle Alexander would tell you as much. What you mean to say is that “our formulas cannot (and don’t try to) identify the players that will matter over the next 2 months, and since those formulas are inputs into our playoff-odds model that model will not show much change.”

So we’re left with non-WAR based speculations, which is plenty o fun on its own.

Manny Ramirez 2008
Guest
Manny Ramirez 2008
1 year 11 months ago

“As we’ve written countless times over the years, though, one individual baseball player doesn’t matter very much in the grand scheme of things, and two months of one individual baseball player really doesn’t matter all that much.”

Oh, hi.

dkdc
Guest
dkdc
1 year 11 months ago

Why is Joe Kelly projected to have 0.5 RoS WAR in the depth charts?

A few others in the Boston rotation have higher WARs than you would expect in the depth charts relative to their underlying RoS ZiPS /steamer, but the Joe Kelly one doesn’t seem at all supported by his underlying projections or performance history.

I’m just wondering if there were some park effect/league issues that is affecting some of these odds a bit (however slightly).

HawaiiFO
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

I would have liked to see the isolated change without the Angels win yesterday for the A’s. Gomes and Fuld cover Cespedes and Lester is better than Price. Almost a waste of time to not make this about only the trade themselves.

A's Fan
Guest
A's Fan
1 year 11 months ago

“Swapping out a good outfielder for a good pitcher just doesn’t make you that much better.”

So how is it you that the Tigers have the 2% swing? They did precisely this when they traded away Austin Jackson (not to mention Drew Smyly)for Price.

Also, the A’s didn’t even play yesterday so I don’t believe the fact the Angels won is entirely useful.

I do think the Tigers are good but I just see these two teams as more talented and am looking forward to the ALCS

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
1 year 11 months ago

It’s partly because, for this season at least, Price>Lester>Cespedes>Jackson.

dracko19
Guest
dracko19
1 year 11 months ago

This is fun, but the really good teams didn’t make those trades to GET INTO the playoffs. They made them to SUCCEED in the playoffs. Its kind of hard to run playoff scenarios since you don’t know which teams are going to make it, but if you run the simulators and figure out who is most likely to make it, I’d be curious to see how these trades impact the playoff simulations on the projected winners.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
1 year 11 months ago

Isn’t 2.4% actually a statistically notable amount when it comes to these kind of odds?

Burpee
Guest
Burpee
1 year 11 months ago

A bit confused. So then with the Orioles winning last night and the Jays losing, does that mean the division odds changed again?

The Orioles probably read this article and said “You know what? Just like with the projections, we don’t care about the odds! Screw Fangraphs!”

bill
Guest
bill
1 year 11 months ago

It’s not the fault of Fangraphs or any of the analysts here. It’s just extremely difficult to isolate and measure the Magic component. It’s similar to difficulties when trying to measure the effect of Mephistopheles on the Yankees and their players.

BornInDC
Guest
BornInDC
1 year 11 months ago

The O’s won today, for their first time ever, with a lead-off home run, in a 1-0 game.

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