Braves’ playoff chances only ‘cool,’ according to website

This would be Bobby Cox's reaction . . .

This would be Bobby Cox's reaction . . .

So if you’re obsessed with this Braves’ stretch drive and you bow at your Brian McCann shrine every morning and you’re wondering if a six-man rotation with Tim Hudson would blow away the rest of the National League and the last thing you want to hear is how two numbers geeks from MIT believe the outlook doesn’t look so good – well then, you may not want to read this. (No wait! Stay! I need the page views!)

There’s a website you may have heard of: coolstandings.com. It actually has been around since 2005. But since I’ve never been a big numbers guy, I guess it has eluded me, until alert reader “Stephen” tipped me off.

In short, coolstandings.com calculates every team’s division, wild card and overall playoff chances based on a half-dozen statistical factors, which I’ll get to in a minute. Bottom

. . . if you asked him what he thinks of coolstandings.com.

. . . if you asked him what he thinks of coolstandings' view of the Braves

line: According to the site’s co-creator, Sean Walsh (possibly the first MIT grad I’ve ever spoken to, or at least understood), the Braves have only a 10.3 percent chance of winning the National League East, and a 12 percent chance of winning the wild card berth.

Overall, coolstandings.com lists the Braves’ playoff chances at 22.2, behind Los Angeles (94.2), St. Louis (92.4), Philadelphia (90.9) and wild card leading Colorado (63.5). San Francisco is listed as having a better chance than the Braves of winning the wild card (16.4 to 12) but a lower overall playoff chance (20.1 to 22.2) because the Giants are running third in the N.L. West.

Walsh says the site’s formula has an error rate of less than two percent. He would change that if he could because he’s also a big Red Sox fan, and right now the math says they’re dead, too.

Walsh said he and partner Greg Agami adapted the numbers-crunching formulas of baseball writer Bill James (who now works for the Red Sox) and “tweaked” them a bit. “We went back and looked at data for every game played since 1903, running a million simulations, to see if we could project how a team would do,” Walsh said by phone. “Like, in July of 1914: How did it look for the Boston Braves at this point and how did they fare in the end?”

The formula factors in runs for and against, home and road success, remaining strength of schedule, league scoring averages and the previous season’s results (the weight of which decreases as the year goes on). The model doesn’t take into account injuries or trades (although we’re past the trade deadline), but it heavily weighs late-season hot streaks (like the Braves’ current one).

For what it’s worth, Walsh wanted Braves fans to know that they also calculated the top comebacks and collapses in baseball history, and at at the top of the list is the 1914 Boston Braves (later of Atlanta), who only July 4 were given less than a 1 percent chance of winning the pennant but overcame a 15-games deficit.

OK, so I’m guessing I know what you think of all this. Feel free to vent. Meanwhile, here’s how the standings look today, according to the MIT grads. (Key: RS and RA stand for runs scored and runs against. EXPW and EXPL stand for expected win and loss totals. DIV and WC stand are calculated percentages for winning the division or the wild card spot. POFF is overall playoff chances.)

East                   W   L    Pct.    GB    RS   RA   EXPW  EXPL  DIV  WC  POFF

Philadelphia      71  50  .587    —      641  538   95.4   66.6  86.9  4.0   90.9

Atlanta              66  58  .532   6.5      563  503   87.9  74.1  10.3  12.0  22.2

Florida               65  59  .524   7.5     588  588   84.9  77.1  2.8     3.6   6.4

New York           57  67  .460  15.5    526  580   73.7  88.3  <0.1  <0.1  <0.1

Washington       44  80   .355  28.5    565  672   59.7  102.3  0.0  0.0  0.0

Wild card            W    L    Pct.    GB   RS   RA   EXPW  EXPL   DIV   WC  POFF

Colorado (W)       70  54  .565   —     632  549   91.7  70.3  16.7  46.8  63.5

San Fran. (W)       67-57  .540   3       501  464   87.7   74.3   3.7   16.4  20.1

Atlanta (E)           66  58  .532   4       563  503   87.9   74.1  10.3  12.0  22.2

Florida (E)            65  59  .524   5      588  588   84.9   77.1   2.8    3.6   6.4

Chicago (C)          62  60 .508   7       533  514   84.2  77.8   7.0     2.1  9.1

156 comments Add your comment

OptimisticInTexas

August 24th, 2009
2:19 pm

Not so cool…

Brian

August 24th, 2009
2:32 pm

I like things like this. I don’t think it’s necessarily good to use as a prediction tool, but I think it’s a good way to gauge how difficult it would be to overcome a certain deficit. The fact that they project us at 22% tells you just what an uphill climb it will be to make the playoffs.

The main reason the Giants have a higher percent chance of winning the wild card is because the Braves won the division more often in their simulations (in which cases they obviously wouldn’t win the wild card). They project the Braves with slightly more wins than SF.

Bat Masterson

August 24th, 2009
2:37 pm

I recently read ” Better Off Flipping The Switch On Technology”, by Eric Brende. He is an MIT guy too and the premise is, what is the least we need to achieve the most. Damn little apparently. What’s my point? I don’t have one, I’m just playing with one of my technological toys. Why not just let the computers play the games and everyone can go sit under a tree and read ” Look Homeward Angel”

Bat Masterson

August 24th, 2009
2:38 pm

Oh yeah…. first

AndyC

August 24th, 2009
2:49 pm

This sounds about right. I think the division is out of hand. The Phils are playing too good right now. No way to catch them. The wildcard is feasible but when you look at the Rockies schedule the rest of the way, they play San Fran 4 times and the Dodgers 3 times this week. In September, their schedule is very light playing mostly teams under .500 with only a 3 game series with San Fran and a 3 games series with St. Louis, if memory serves. They finish the season with an 8 game home stand. I think the Braves need to be at least tied by the end of the month to have any real shot, and even then it will be difficult. I haven’t given up, but it doesn’t look good.

Jeff Schultz

August 24th, 2009
2:50 pm

Bat — I feel a headache coming on.

Dan

August 24th, 2009
2:51 pm

Something doesn’t quite add up here. If The Atlanta Braves’ EXPW is 87.9 and EXPL is 74.1, how is it possible that they have a lesser chance of winning the WC (12%) than San Francisco (16.4%), which has an EXPW of 87.7 and EXPL of 74.3?

Hmmm… I guess the formula is telling us that the number of times that the Braves win the East set off from the number of times they would have won the WC (because they would not qualify for the WC, being the divisional winner) is greater than the number of times the Phillies would displace SF when SF would have otherwise won in that Braves-win-the-East scenario?

Okay, I just re-read that last sentence– perhaps this is best left to numbers and not words. But certainly rating another team more likely to win the WC when the same formula rates that team as more likley to win less games seems counter-intuitive.

18 Wheels of Love

August 24th, 2009
2:52 pm

What was the % of the Mets making the playoffs 2 years ago when they blew a 8 game lead the last month of the season. This is baseball, MIT geeks should spend their time trying to get my office print/fax/scanner to accept a 15 page document.

Bob Horner had a sweet compact swing

August 24th, 2009
2:56 pm

Wow this guys error rate is only 2%…..Do you believe him Jeff..?? now I’m depressed…I was hoping we would get that wild spot…

Bryan G.

August 24th, 2009
2:56 pm

Dan,

I think that can be explained because the Braves have a higher chance of winning their division than San Fran. Thus, under some of the models, the Braves win the division and SF wins the wild card. Therefore, the Giants are more likely to win the wildcard because they almost certainly will not win their division.

Blackberry Cobbler

August 24th, 2009
2:57 pm

If and when we get Prado back and if and when Chipper gets out of his funk and if and when Lowe and Vasquez start to pitch worth their salary, THEN I like our chances. THEN the Braves will be a better team than the Rocks or the Giants and be able to also hold off the Fish.

Until then, I think our chances are 50/50 at best.

Rick

August 24th, 2009
2:58 pm

Pretty interestingstats tool, but since the Braves need to be just about perfect the rest of the way to make the play offs, lest we forget that at the All Star break they were 43-45 Win % .489
Winning 3-6 games more in the first half of the season woul eliminate the need to be perfect now.
Whoever says April games don’t mean anything?

John

August 24th, 2009
2:59 pm

I went to college in Boston. Not MIT, but across the river in boston. I used to get up at 5:45 every morning at go play pickup hockey at the rink over there. It was a beautiful rink, and a blast to play there. One time i got there and the zamboni was broken, so we couldn’t play. The zamboni, at MIT, was broken…these kids build the space shuttle for homework. There is probably no simpler machine besides maybe the Foreman grill on the planet than the zamboni. But, now, I guess this is why I was denied my hour and a half of hockey and budweiser that morning.

pessimistic optimist

August 24th, 2009
3:00 pm

I wonder what our % chance was in July 1991 and August 1993? Probably about what it is now.

100% chance of death and taxes.

McCann Fan

August 24th, 2009
3:01 pm

I just spoke to the team. After reading this they have decided to give up hope and forefeit the rest of the season.

I guess we will just look forward to 2010 now.

gene garbage

August 24th, 2009
3:04 pm

looks about right to me also…sure would like to have 2-3 games back we lost at the beginning of the year. that’s why you play em all, right? only hope we have is the wild card. we need to start thinking sweeps instead of just winning series’….

didn’t realize lowe has ADHD until i read the story a couple days ago..find this funny cuz i actually made the statement 2 starts ago that he sometimes looks like he totally loses focus….hum….

Bat Masterson

August 24th, 2009
3:05 pm

Jeff, there is a cure for that in the book. Where you get the eye of newt locally, I don’t know, sorry.

Brian

August 24th, 2009
3:06 pm

FYI, usually I look at Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds page. It runs almost the same numbers, but I like the cleaner look.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/ps_odds.php

It also has a neat PECOTA-adjusted standings, which runs the simulation with PECOTA projections of player performance. In other words, it actually projects the wins and losses based on projections on what the individual players will do. The Braves look better in that one. That would seem to indicate PECOTA likes the talent the Braves have assembled going forward, but it’s still an uphill climb.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/ps_oddspec.php

UGASlobberknocker

August 24th, 2009
3:07 pm

This dude is probably related to whoever came up with the BCS. Im glad the game is played on the field. The way I see it, the Braves are playing great..they have to make up 4 games in the loss column and have 7 weeks to do it (for wildcard)..i think we have better than a 10% chance..but then what do I know.?I’m merely a UGA Business grad, not an MIT braniac.

Do the math!

August 24th, 2009
3:08 pm

It’s actually quite simple.
For the Braves to get to 90 wins, they need to go 24 – 14 the rest of the way. 10 gms over .500, a .632 clip.
For the Rockies to get to 91 wins, they need to go 21 – 17 the rest of the way – a mere 4 games over .500, a .553 rate.
No further analysis needed…

Braves73

August 24th, 2009
3:10 pm

What does all of this mean…ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Braves73

August 24th, 2009
3:13 pm

I am sure that Bobby is sitting at home right now calculating how he can get Greg Norton into more critical game situations. Maybe, just maybe, if Norty can get 25 more CRUCIAL game breaking at bats, we can get his average above his weight.

Evil Richt 2009 S.E.C. World Tour: "Banned in Columbus"

August 24th, 2009
3:15 pm

Wasn’t it MIT grad types, using predictive models based upon analysis of millions of simulations, who gave us (and by “us” I mean Wall Street banks and other related geniuses) the assurances that there was NO WAY the real estate market would crash all at once all over the country?

I think it was!

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 24th, 2009
3:16 pm

The only thing better than September baseball is October baseball. That’s not really relevant to anything but it is another page view for Jeff. Just trying to do my part.

Jeff Schultz

August 24th, 2009
3:16 pm

Dan – I see your point and I can’t answer you.

Bob Horner – Actually, it’s not a matter of believing or disbelieving – those are the numbers. Doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen, of course.

John – great story. But are you dissin’ the George Foreman Grill? It KNOCKS OUT the fat!

Pessimistic optimist – click the link in the story on comebacks. I think Braves made it from those years.

Bat – Newt (Gingrich) is using both eyes. But the brain’s barely been used. (Thanks you. Try the veal).

Brian – Thanks, I’ll check it out.

Jeff Schultz

August 24th, 2009
3:17 pm

Hillbilly: Check’s in the mail.

Najeh Davenpoop

August 24th, 2009
3:20 pm

That’s all well and good, but what are the percentages that, if baited, Jeff Shultz will correct ‘website’ with its correct spelling, ‘Web site’ in the article above? And are the percentages greater that I get a big “stuff it” comment back? I hate myself for being this way, I really do, I just can’t help myself.

Sonny Clusters

August 24th, 2009
3:22 pm

We Clusters was always able to play ball and we was real good at it. We was started out when we was young with a ball and a glove. The bat came later after we could catch. Maybe that’s what the Johnsons shoulda done with Kelly. We had a pretty good glove and could catch most anything with it. That glove was cowhide. We was never aware that gloves come made from deer. When we was told by a reliable major league source that Chipper was using a deerskin glove we was shocked. We still are.

Brian

August 24th, 2009
3:23 pm

Dan, think of it in this sort of simplified way. The simulation says the Braves are a little better than the Giants. So the Braves finish first 10 times and second 10 times. The Giants finish first 3 times and second 11 times. The Giants finished 2nd more often, but they’re not better. When the Giants finished second, it was usually because the Braves finished first.

Freddie G

August 24th, 2009
3:23 pm

I haven’t given up the possibility of making the playoff, and telling us the percentage of difficulty is not surprising to anyone, as we should all realize it. I still believe we can win the Division based on our play in the division. We will need to focus on each game rather than series as winning series will not help if the Phillies and WC leaders are also winning series.

BBrown

August 24th, 2009
3:27 pm

When did MIT grads actually begin to like or follow sports? Ok, maybe neither, rather they just saw an opportunity to perform a statistical analysis.

I think the analysis by “Do the math!” sums it up best. Thus, we can only hope for a Braves surge or Rockies collapse (think Mets type collapse).

CaliChopper

August 24th, 2009
3:27 pm

And what were the odds and chances of the Brave chasing down SF years ago? Exzactly!!!

Brian

August 24th, 2009
3:27 pm

One other sobering thought from these projections: Right now both the Phillies and Rockies are the highest they’ve been all season in playoff chances. They’re going to have to start losing for the Braves to have a real chance.

Keeper

August 24th, 2009
3:29 pm

Jeff,

What I find intriguing is the remarkable difference last night’s result seems to make. I know there’s more that goes into this – such as remaining strength of schedule – but if the Marlins had held last night’s lead, would they be at roughly 22 percent to our 6 percent?

And now that the numbers geeks have deflated us, I thought of an interesting way you could use their data to get us charged back up – ask them to compare our odds (as of both the All-Star break and Aug. 24) of reaching the playoffs in 1991 and 1993, vs. now. (Yes, we don’t have three Cy Youngs and Fred McGriff today, but those teams didn’t have the back-door option of the wild card.)

I’d also be curious to know the Colorado Rockies’ minuscule odds as of Aug. 24, 2007.

If, as I suspect, we have better odds this year, then we’ll know where to tell the stat geeks to go stuff it!

NC Braves Fan

August 24th, 2009
3:30 pm

I don’t put a lot of stock in this stuff. Simulations based on the past can’t predict all the variables that happen in a baseball season … including injuries to key players.

Plus, if I’m understanding this correctly, the percentage expressed is the most likely outcome. I think we can all agree those percentages do favor the Rockies since they are first in the WC — but this prediction ultimately says nothing about what will actually happen on the field.

Do the math!

August 24th, 2009
3:30 pm

The Phills only have to go 20 -21 the rest of the way to get to 91!!! Yeah, we can catch them…
Sheesh.

CaliChopper

August 24th, 2009
3:32 pm

Mathmatical models don’t mean squat – the games still have to be played and anything can happen….

Sonny Clusters

August 24th, 2009
3:34 pm

When we got hurt in the middle section we called it a pull but we never called it an oblique. Coach taught us health and never mentioned oblique once. We did a lot of giggling in that class because Coach would call things by they right names and Jeff would snicker and say, “you mean (deleted from blog for objectionable content)” and we’d all laugh and Coach would get mad. We was always drawing things on the board in health class and Coach would come in ask “who did that?” but he knowed it was Jeff when he asked. Hitting into a triple play could happen to anyone and the fact that it never happened like that before in the National League don’t mean nothing because they has to be a first for everything.

Brian

August 24th, 2009
3:34 pm

Keeper, to partly answer your question. I can’t tell you exact numbers, but if the Marlins had won last night, it probably would have been more like 15-15 than 22-6. The projections aren’t purely based on current wins and losses. Despite the fact that the Marlins and Braves had the same record going into yesterday’s game, the Braves have a significantly larger run differential, which the simulations use to project how the teams will do going forward. You can say the Marlins have been “lucky” to have the number of wins they have based on their run differential. They have actually scored and allowed the same number of runs this year. The Braves have scored 60 more than they’ve allowed.

George

August 24th, 2009
3:35 pm

Can this guy his a curve ball?

George

August 24th, 2009
3:35 pm

Opps, Can this guy HIT a curve ball

Doug

August 24th, 2009
3:37 pm

So if the Braves get the WC…how does this “adjust” his “error” rate of 2%?? I wonder what the % was that the Mets would blow the division lead in 2006 & 2007?? How could something like that be accounted for and still claim a 98% success rate? If the Braves win 12 n a row what does that do? The formula basically assumes that all teams will continue performing at their present pace…so of course since the Braves are not presently in the playoffs they are not projected to get in

Bat Masterson

August 24th, 2009
3:37 pm

Jeff.. Bravo, well played.

Sonny Clusters

August 24th, 2009
3:39 pm

We was doing statistical inference at Parkview way before we was championship. We was probably the best in the school because we studied how many first pitch strikes was thowed and we told Coach we was going to study it for the science and math fair. We used Jeff for example and ever pitch thowed to Jeff was a strike all season. That made us statistical championship as well as state championship.

bill_in_atl

August 24th, 2009
3:43 pm

HOGWASH. This reminds me of the “can’t miss” stock and commodity trading programs that have been around forever. They use back-data modeling to create a software that predicts the future based on past events. They NEVER WORK because the variables are constantly changing and the results are impossible to predict. It’s garbage.

If you want to say the Braves have less of a chance than the Phils for the division and the Rockies for the WC then obviously you’d be correct. Just look at the standings and how many games are left.

This guy claiming to be accurate to within 2% is simply a JOKE. Where’s his proof? And how does he grade himself?

Brian

August 24th, 2009
3:44 pm

Doug, I don’t believe the error rate of 2% means that they’re only going to be wrong 2% of the time. It means that the playoff percentage has an error rate of 2% based on the numbers they crunched. In other words, based on their data and formulas, the Braves should make the playoffs 22% of the time, plus or minus 2%. You can also say their projection is that the Braves should make the playoffs between 20% and 24% of the time.

There, that’s not so complicated, right? lol…

Sonny Clusters

August 24th, 2009
3:47 pm

We was playing Cobb County schools a lot in the tournament and the Cobb County boys thought they was smarter than us. They didn’t say it but it showed. We was talking and carrying on and doing some finger pulling jokes before the game and one of them said, “barbarian” to Stinky Wintes and Coach heard it and like to have chased that boy out of the stadium. Stinky was nasty but he wasn’t even in a barber shop and they was calling him barbarian. Its like people calling Jeff names on his own blog. Why would they?

[...] loved this piece on AJC from Jeff Schultz that explains why and how two guys who started this numbers and odds Web [...]

Mark D.

August 24th, 2009
3:48 pm

I thought this guy makes some good points related to Schultz article. No one is giving the Braves a chance
http://tomahawktake.com/2009/08/24/atlanta-braves-have-less-than-20-percent-chance-of-making-playoffs/

Keeper

August 24th, 2009
3:52 pm

P.S. 2007 and 2008 Mets. If we gain one more spot (just one game) in the WC race, there’s still a chance that either the Rockies or Phils can pull a similar choke job. All we need is one of the two to do it. I’d say both teams are stronger all the way around (especially in the mental dept.), but never say never.