One of the many toys at Baseball Prospectus is something they call "Secret Sauce". BP has successfully cracked the code to playoff success and nailed the last 45 World Series winners. What? How have you never heard of this amazing prediction system? Because I made that last part up, but nevertheless a fun tool to look at as we await our playoff opponent.
I looked back through 2000 and BP did predict three World Series winners and six of the 16 participants in the World Series correct. You scoff, but what's your playoff prediction success rate?
The formula is simple enough and rather intuitive to what is commonly believed among baseball folks that power pitching, a good closer and good defense wins in the playoffs. In this case, BP uses FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average), EqK9 (Equivalent Strikeout Rates per 9 innings) and WXRL (Win above Replacement Pitcher for the team's closer) and comes up with a score.
Their predictions and the 2008 rankings after the jump.
The following list is the top AL and NL team and the first team listed had the better "Secret Sauce" score, thus the team supposed to win the World Series according to this BP metric.
2007: Red Sox vs Diamondbacks (Cubs were 3rd among playoff teams)
2006: Twins vs. Mets (Cardinals were 8th among playoff teams)
2005: Angels vs. Houston (White Sox were 3rd among playoff teams. Amusingly the Cubs were 1st overall that year)
2004: Red Sox vs. Dodgers
2003: Athletics vs. Cubs (Marlins were 8th among playoff teams)
2002: Diamondbacks vs. Angels
2001: Diamondbacks vs. Yankees (the 116-win Mariners were 3rd among AL playoff teams and 5th among all playoff teams, thanks to low strikeout rates and an average-rated bullpen).
2000: White Sox vs. Cardinals (Yankees were 2nd among playoff teams)
They nailed 2001 and got both Red Sox years correct. The two teams they were the most off on were the 2006 Cardinals and 2003 Marlins, which could arguably be the two biggest surprise World Series winners of this decade.
As for 2008, the potential playoff teams are below with their overall rank in parenthesis (of course, non-playoff teams could score well in this metric but they don't get to play in the playoffs)
There's a big drop-off there after the first three teams and I should note that they use Billy Wagner as the Mets closer, so it's even more bleak for the Metropolitans.The Cubs have a large advantage over any other NL team, as they do in just about every statistical category.
The weak link, as expected, is the bullpen and particularly Kerry Wood, who hasn't been quite as lights out as we all would have liked. Some of that WXRL score though is attributed to him missing time as it is a cumulative stat. And for what it's worth, Carlos Marmol has been the 2nd best reliever in the NL this year by WXRL with a 4.95 behind the Phillies Brad Lidge. The Cubs of course aren't going to mess with the formula of Marmol setting up Wood, and there will likely be times in the playoffs where that will actually be beneficial for the Cubs as Marmol will end up facing the opposing teams better hitters. I also hold the belief that Lou should strongly consider using Marmol for two innings on the games before any scheduled off days.
It might not be a sports almanac from the future, but it'll have to do for this year.
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