The Playoffs Sweet Spot

Baseball season is officially creeping ever closer with the release of the first CAIRO projections. With the news cycle a little slow, these projections can serve as discussion fodder but shouldn’t be taken as gospel given the premature state of rosters and depth charts. With those necessary disclaimers out of the way, let’s do some exploring.

A few years ago, Nate Silver wrote this piece with the intent to defend Jeffrey Loria’s fire sale. What he did within is lay out playoff probabilities and break teams down into quadrants: 1) rebuilding teams (fewer than 82 projected wins); 2) fringe contenders (82-87 projected wins); 3) legitimate contenders (87-92 projected wins); 4) established (92-97 projected wins); and 5) juggernaut (97+ projected wins). After doing so, he examined their optimal strategies (thus arriving at the conclusion that Loria’s Marlins were correct to enter rebuilding mode), but the takeaway information has to do with Silver’s playoff probabilities and the range of projected wins he labeled as the sweet spot– the 86-94 win range.

The above graph shows playoff probability by win total from the 2001-2010 seasons. With the exception of the 93-win mark (four teams missed the playoffs despite that total), the graph is wholly intuitive. The more wins, the higher the probability. Silver’s so-called sweet spot seems to reflect in real-life data pretty well, even if it comes five years later (this Silver fellow might have a future after all). As such, here are the quadrants as told by this version of the CAIRO projections:

Rebuilding – Baltimore, Toronto, Cleveland, Kansas City, Los Angeles of Anaheim, Seattle, New York (N), Florida, Washington, Chicago (N), Pittsburgh, Houston, San Diego, and Arizona

Fringe Contenders – Oakland, Detroit, Chicago (A), Minnesota, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Colorado

Legitimate Contenders – New York (A), Tampa Bay, Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Milwaukee

Established – Philadelphia

Juggernaut – Boston

My assumption is that Boston will slide down the win curve once New York and Tampa Bay sure up their rosters some more, but for now they look like the team to beat.

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