Clay Davenport, noted sabermetrician, has released his first set of projected standings for the 2014 season. Head over to his site to read the full explanation of his process and to view the full standings report.
The Detroit Tigers averaged 91 wins in Davenport’s simulator – the highest total of any team in baseball, and six games better than runner-up Cleveland – and made the playoffs roughly 75% of the time (60% by winning the division and 15% as a Wild Card team). The eventual AL Central champion (whether it be the Tigers, Indians, or whoever) averaged 95 wins, according to the simulator.
It’s important to think of projections, whether they be on the player level or team level, as average expected results. A (true talent) .300 hitter might hit .290 or .310 in any one given season, and not because he really was any better or worse. If you could play 100 seasons (without the player getting tired or better or worse), he would probably end up right at .300, but relatively few of those seasons would see him hit .300 on the dot.
It goes the same way with team performance. If we could play 100 seasons in the next eight months, the Tigers might average right around 91 wins. But sometimes they’d win 101, and sometimes they might only win 81. Mostly they’d be close to 91 (if we allow for a minute that this is really their true talent level as a team), but baseball is weird sometimes. The saying “you can’t predict baseball” doesn’t mean we can’t run projections like this, but it does mean that we can’t, with any reasonable accuracy, predict what will happen in any one single run (like a standard baseball season).
We will, of course, have to “wait and see” if the Tigers can complete the franchise’s first ever division four-peat, because “that’s why they play the games”, but this is an encouraging little health check for Tigers fans. Detroit might have an alarming lack of power, the bullpen might be questionable, and there are depth concerns at a few positions, but, on the whole, this still looks like a pretty darn good team. Probably one of the better teams in all of baseball, perhaps, which is exactly what we have come to expect from this organization.