Using Our Power Rankings to Predict the 2015 World Series Champion
I don't know about y'all, but I'm still trying to get my heart to chill out. September was one of the more fun months I can remember as a baseball fan with a crazy amount of intrigue all the way down to the final day. Also, I'm on my fifth cup of coffee today, so the racing heart might have something to do with that.
Regardless, it's time to get jacked up for some postseason baseball. Those dope races have left us with some mighty intriguing matchups for the first round of the playoffs and beyond. You've got the wiley, veteran New York Yankees against the break-out Houston Astros. Then the spunky Chicago Cubs will see if they can knock off the franchise that suddenly is the elder statesman of the playoffs in the Pittsburgh Pirates. What's not to love?
As a person who had the Los Angeles Angels winning the World Series this year, it's best if I never make another prediction ever again. I apologize for what I did, Angels fans. You deserve better. That's why I'm going to leave the predicting to the computers this time.
Let's run through the playoff bracket and predict which team will claim each series based on numberFire's Power Rankings heading into the postseason. They have the full World Series odds for each team as the playoffs begin based on both the schedule they could encounter and the path they would need to take to get there.
Now, these will be just straight picks based on the power rankings -- they're not going to factor in home-field advantage. You can get that in our game projections with a premium membership.
This is more just for fun to see which teams the algorithms see as being most potent entering the postseason. Without further ado, let's get it poppin' and see which team is poised to loft that trophy around one month from now.
American League Wild Card: Houston Astros defeat New York Yankees
This looks like a pretty sweet little matchup on paper. The Astros enter the playoffs ranked third in our power rankings while the Yankees are 12th. That said, the Astros have to head on the road to Yankee Stadium. That could actually play into the hands of an offense like this.
If you like home runs, you should probably be tuning in on Tuesday. The Astros lead the league in fly-ball rate at 38.4 percent. The Yankees are second at 37.9 percent. The difference here is that Astros starter Dallas Keuchel has one of the highest ground-ball rates in the league at 61.7 percent. Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka isn't shabby in that department, either, at 47.0 percent, but the Astros have more long-ball potential here. That, combined with how gross Keuchel has been this year, propels the Astros into the next round.
National League Wild Card: Chicago Cubs defeat Pittsburgh Pirates
It's not often that you see two teams with at least 97 wins needing a play-in game to reach the divisional round of the playoffs. Praise be to the baseball deities that the second wild card now exists, at least, or else the Cubs wouldn't even be here. Instead, they're going on.
The Cubs -- despite finishing third in their division -- were fourth in our power rankings at the end of the regular season. The Pirates certainly aren't anything to sneeze at, ranking 10th, but the Cubs held the advantage. The clear winner here, though, is everyone who gets to watch a duel between Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole Wednesday. It's just a shame it has to come this early in the running.
American League Divisional Round: Toronto Blue Jays defeat Texas Rangers
Of all of the potential series in the postseason, this is the one with the highest blood-bath potential. One team is at the top of the power rankings, and the other is... not.
After acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, the Toronto Blue Jays quickly shot near the top of the power rankings. They were eventually able to overtake the top spot, supplanting the Los Angeles Dodgers and pulling away from there.
The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, did not climb to the top of the power rankings. They actually finished the year in 22nd spot despite claiming the American League West title. Is this to say that they're a bad team with no shot to defeat the Blue Jays? Not even for a second -- on either account. A team with a batter as scorching hot as Shin-Soo Choo right now is never fully out of it. But they certainly at least have themselves a tough task at hand.
American League Divisional Round: Houston Astros defeat Kansas City Royals
Here's where things start to get interesting. The Kansas City Royals came out the gate like gang busters, destroying everything in their path. Then, they went out and acquired Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, bolstering an already stout team. So why are they being ousted in the divisional round?
Just like last year, they never really won over our algorithms. They enter the playoffs ranked 13th in the power rankings. I can't imagine that Greg Holland's injury will do much to improve that, either.
One quick note here. As I mentioned, the Royals also flew under the radar of our algorithms last year. We actually had them falling to the Oakland Athletics in the wild card game. Obviously, that didn't happen. Could they defy the computers again this year? Absolutely. I'm hoping we get this matchup as it has the potential to be beyond intriguing.
National League Divisional Round: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat New York Mets
To this point in our little experiment, this is the closest matchup in terms of the power rankings. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers take home the belt as they enter the postseason second in our power rankings while the New York Mets are seventh.
This was a wire-to-wire dominant performance from the Dodgers. I have no life, so I check the power rankings pretty regularly; I cannot recall an instance in which the Dodgers weren't one of the top two teams in the league. They were one of the favorites going in, and they are the same right now.
The Mets had a big surge after all of their acquisitions. Their playoff odds -- by my memory -- were hovering around 5.0 percent in late July. But they rose quickly once all of the pieces were in place. Their starters had the third best xFIP in the league at 3.49. Unfortunately, the Dodgers beat them there, too, at 3.25. Advantage: Dodgers.
National League Divisional Round: Chicago Cubs defeat St. Louis Cardinals
Nothing like a little division rivalry to stir the pot in the postseason. If the up-and-coming Cubs defeated the big-brother St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Maddon could cement his status as da gawd.
The interesting thing here is that the Cubs actually have a healthy lead in the power rankings. They finished the regular season in fourth place, while the Cardinals were 11th. Despite winning 100 games, the Cardinals were only the seventh-best playoff team, according to these rankings. Baseball is weird, yo. But, the Cardinals are only 10th in staff xFIP and 16th in wRC+, so I'm not inclined to disagree with the algorithms.
American League Championship Series: Toronto Blue Jays defeat Houston Astros
This would be so sickly fun. Tanks on tanks on tanks. These two teams had the most home runs in the league this year, with the Blue Jays at 232 and the Astros at 230. They were also the top two teams in slugging percentage and isolated slugging, so you know these dudes can bring the thump. The Blue Jays just bring more thump in the power rankings.
This won't be included in the rankings, but the Astros are at a serious disadvantage in a series against the Blue Jays. Think quickly about the Astros' top starting pitchers. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you listed both Keuchel and Scott Kazmir somewhere near the top. What's wrong with that? They're both left-handed pitchers. The Blue Jays torched lefties with a .354 wOBA this year. The Detroit Tigers were the only other team above .330, and even they were seven points behind the Blue Jays. A team dependent on left-handed starters would have a tough time defeating this ill of a lineup.
National League Championship Series: Los Angeles Dodgers Defeat Chicago Cubs
Not bad for the old Cubbies to make it this far, but the road ends in a date with the Dodgers. With the Dodgers second and the Cubs fourth in our power rankings, this, too, would be a sweet series to watch. And not just because of the exciting bats.
Earlier, I mentioned that the Dodgers' starters were second in the league in xFIP. Who bested them? That would only be the Cubs. If you like pitching, then you are in for a treat.
The difference-maker here is the bats. While the Dodgers finished the season third in wRC+, the Cubs were 20th. The discrepancy wouldn't have been nearly that big with a full year of Kyle Schwarber, but it still appears as though the Dodgers have the edge. Either way, this would be a phenomenal (and potentially very competitive) series if it were to come to fruition.
World Series: Toronto Blue Jays defeat Los Angeles Dodgers
Get your dancing shoes on, Canada. It's time to party.
This matchup would pit the top two teams in our power rankings in the World Series. The Blue Jays entered the postseason with a 1.35 nERD, meaning our algorithms see them as being 1.35 runs per game better than a league-average team on a neutral site. The Dodgers were second, but a distant second at 0.94. The Astros were third at 0.91. Blue Jays good.
The big concern here for the Jays is their pitching. While the Dodgers sit second in starters' xFIP, the Blue Jays are 27th. Woof. Still, for me at least, that's not a huge concern.
As far as depth, the Jays don't come close to measuring up to the Dodgers. But they do have the aforementioned Price and bionic-legged Marcus Stroman. They're not as saucy as Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but they're also nothing to scoff at. Things get ugly after that, but it's entirely possible that the Jays' bats are good enough to overcome that and take home the championship.