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Have the Projections Warmed Up to the Orioles?

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Having outperformed their pre-season projection, the Orioles should be getting more respect from the projection systems as the season goes on.

Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Orioles fans flooded Fangraphs to demand the respect the team deserves. In response, Dave Cameron defended the Fangraphs BaseRun formula and that the success the O's have had beyond that is essentially random. In response to that, Stacey wrote an article I completely agree with. If you don't like what you read, don't read it. Just enjoy baseball for what it is. As you can probably guess from my projection-filled articles, I am almost 100% behind projection systems. I am not going to defend the projections in this article. The best part of projections is that they take in extra amount of information as the season goes on. By outperforming their pre-season projection, presumably the projection has updated their expectation of the O's.

First, I have to clarify that projections and the BaseRun standing on Fangraphs are two completely separate entities. The BaseRun formula takes into account every batting and pitching event of a team this season, singles, walks, etc... and calculates the team's winning percentage if those events are completely random. Projections start from an individual level and project future performance given past performance. Then team projection is formed by assigning each player a portion of the playing time. The BaseRun formula does not attempt to predict future performance at all. It just happens to be more highly correlated with future performance than season-to-date winning percentage. As Stacey wrote, there is not much value behind the BaseRun formula. What's happened has happened and those wins and losses are already banked. And why do we need the BaseRun formula for forecast when the projections are specifically designed to do so?

Without further ado, I have compiled each team's projected winning percentage at the start of the season and at this point according to Fangraphs, which combines ZiPS and Steamer projections with their own depth chart. The projected winning percentage is affected by each team's rest-of-season schedule, so it does not completely reflect true talent. However, those problems are minimal and this table shows which teams have improved the most this, season, either internally or externally.

Team

rosW%

preW%

Diff

Orioles

0.515

0.481

0.034

Athletics

0.564

0.531

0.033

Astros

0.441

0.410

0.031

Nationals

0.580

0.552

0.028

Marlins

0.469

0.448

0.021

Cubs

0.465

0.445

0.020

Braves

0.524

0.506

0.018

Angels

0.549

0.533

0.016

Twins

0.444

0.429

0.015

Tigers

0.569

0.555

0.014

Royals

0.512

0.500

0.012

Mariners

0.528

0.516

0.012

Giants

0.526

0.514

0.012

Pirates

0.524

0.515

0.009

Cardinals

0.546

0.539

0.007

Brewers

0.483

0.479

0.004

Indians

0.516

0.513

0.003

Dodgers

0.559

0.558

0.001

Blue Jays

0.511

0.512

-0.001

Padres

0.493

0.494

-0.001

Mets

0.455

0.457

-0.002

Rays

0.521

0.527

-0.006

Yankees

0.499

0.513

-0.014

White Sox

0.445

0.460

-0.015

Reds

0.472

0.495

-0.023

Phillies

0.444

0.469

-0.025

Diamondbacks

0.451

0.488

-0.037

Rockies

0.451

0.488

-0.037

Red Sox

0.482

0.546

-0.064

Rangers

0.449

0.527

-0.078

The O's are indeed at the top of the list, as the projection has them improving by more than 5 wins per 162 games. The improved projection probably stems largely from the better projection for Steve Pearce and the corresponding increase in playing time and the addition of Andrew Miller. On the other end of the spectrum are the Texas Rangers (declining by more than 12 wins per 162 games), who have been decimated by injuries this season, and the Boston Red Sox(declining by more than 10 wins per 162 games), who have traded away four-fifths of their Opening Day rotation. You can see that there are many more teams that have improved than declined, as the drastic losses by the Rangers and Red Sox have been shared by all other teams.

So the projection has indeed updated its expectation of the Orioles. Though it still projects the O's as roughly a .500 team rather than a championship contender, it is at least comforting to know that the O's have slowly gained respect from even the projection systems.