NL Central Predictions

I’ve never done a set of preseason predictions based on statistical analyses before, at least not on any real scale.  There are so many questions when you start, not the least of which being “Whose stats do I even include??”  A quick look at three random teams’ statistics from 2008 shows an average of 33 batters per team, combining for an average of 5,524 at-bats.  Some of those players began the season in the minor leagues.  Some began the season – or ended it – on completely different teams.  Or on the DL.

Because none of these things can be predicted, I realize that trying to project a Major League Baseball season in early February is a bit… er… “ambitious,” let’s say.  But I wanted to do it anyway, so I felt the need to establish some ground rules.


The methodology employed was fairly simple.  I predicted a 25-Man roster for each team, based on offensive performance, but bearing actuals in mind, as well.  For instance, though Jason Kendall ranked #3 on my list of Brewers catchers behind Vinny Rottino and Jesus Salome, I fully realize that he will be the starting catcher in Milwaukee.

The 25-Man rosters included starters and five bench players – including a catcher, two outfielders, and two infielders who could – at the very least – combine to play all infield positions.  I then calculated the Runs Created for the roster (starters, bench players, and starting pitchers), based on the players’ statistics from the past three seasons.  To create a uniform number of games played, I then broke this into RC27 and multiplied by 162 to get the Projected Runs for the season.

To project Runs Allowed, I broke down the pitching staff (12 pitchers, including five starters and a closer) using statistics from the previous three seasons, and calculated BaseRuns.  I then used 1458 (162 games x 9 innings) divided by IP to create a multiplier for the BaseRuns projection, which I then used to project Runs Allowed.

Then, I used the Pythagorean Theorem (with a multiplier of 1.81) to determine an expected W-L%.  Simple enough, but there are some issues with my methodology:

1) Because I am multiplying all statistics for minor leaguers, rate statistics will remain largely unchanged.  For instance, if a player had 100 hits in 300 at-bats at the AAA level, he was a .333 hitter.  In multiplying both hits and at-bats, he becomes 75/225 – still a .333 hitter.

2) Players are not currently weighted as starters and backups.  At present, I am only weighting by average number of games over the past three seasons, adjusted for level.  For instance, J.R. Towles is listed as the Astros’ starting catcher, but only receives 211 AB in 65 games.  Quintero, his backup on my list, is credited with 230 AB in 75 games.  This is also true of starting pitchers and relievers in terms of innings pitched.  This is somewhat offset by adjustments on team totals – I used RC27, multiplied by 162, to determine Runs Scored, and multiplied team runs allowed to cover 1458 IP (9*162) to determine Runs Allowed.  Teams are now evaluated as a unit.  In the future, I would average the number of at-bats per position in the division and do a similar adjustment for individual players.

3) The likelihood of one 25-man roster playing for an entire season is practically nil.  Because roster moves are tough to predict, I’m content simply to allow this for now.

4) 25-Man rosters were chosen by me, using a few factors.  First, I went with the most offensively-sound possibilities, using my own analysis, with some consideration given to actuals.  For instance, despite Jason Kendall’s projections falling third of the four Brewers catchers I projected, I know he will be the Opening Day starter, and so I have slotted him into their roster.  I used whatever information I had available, which is incomplete at times.  Where Rule 5 draftees are concerned, I did my best to predict who would make the roster, and who would be returned.  This is subjective, though a lot of attention was paid to the projections.  Additionally, I included at least one left-hander for all bullpens, even if that weakened the bullpen overall.

Since the methodology is consistent from team to team, for now I am content with it.  At the end of Spring Training, once rosters are set, I will do a new set of projections with some adjustments to my method.

1. Chicago Cubs (908 R, 674 RA): 103-59
Catchers: G. Soto, K. Hill
Infielders: D. Lee, M. Fontenot, R. Theriot, A. Ramirez, B. Scales, M. Hoffpauir
Outfielders: A. Soriano, K. Fukudome, M. Bradley, J. Fox, R. Johnson
Starting Pitchers: C. Zambrano, R. Harden, R. Dempster, T. Lilly, S. Marshall
Relief Pitchers: C. Marmol, K. Gregg, A. Guzman, C. Gaudin, N. Cotts, A. Heilman, L. Vizcaino

2. Cincinnati Reds (739 R, 697 RA): 87-75
Catchers: R. Hernandez, R. Hanigan
Infielders: J. Votto, B. Phillips, J. Keppinger, E. Encarnacion, A. Rosales, D. Richar
Outfielders: C. Dickerson, W. Taveras, J. Bruce, N. Hopper, D. Anderson
Starting Pitchers: A. Harang, E. Volquez, B. Arroyo, J. Cueto, M. Owings
Relief Pitchers: F. Cordero, H. Bailey, M. Lincoln, J. Burton, R. Ramirez, A. Rhodes, D. Weathers

3. Houston Astros (759 R, 723 RA): 86-76
Catchers: J. Towles, H. Quintero
Infielders: L. Berkman, K. Matsui, M. Tejada, M. Saccomanno, G. Blum, D. Newhan
Outfielders: C. Lee, H. Pence, J. Michaels, D. Erstad, M. Bourn
Starting Pitchers: R. Oswalt, W. Rodriguez, B. Moehler, M. Hampton, B. Backe
Relief Pitchers: J. Valverde, W. Wright, D. Brocail, L. Hawkins, G. De La Vara, C. Sampson, G. Geary

3. Milwaukee Brewers (750 R, 710 RA): 86-76
Catchers: J. Kendall, V. Rottino
Infielders: P. Fielder, R. Weeks, J. Hardy, B. Hall, M. Lamb, A. Escobar
Outfielders: R. Braun, M. Cameron, C. Hart, T. Gwynn, L. Cain
Starting Pitchers: S. McClung, M. Parra, Y. Gallardo, J. Suppan, D. Bush
Relief Pitchers: T. Hoffman, J. Julio, D. Riske, C. Villanueva, T. Coffey, E. Morlan, R. Swindle

5. St. Louis Cardinals (762 R, 725 RA): 85-77
Catchers: Y. Molina, J. LaRue
Infielders: A. Pujols, A. Kennedy, K. Greene, T. Glaus, J. Hoffpauir, B. Barden
Outfielders: S. Schumaker, R. Ankiel, R. Ludwick, C. Duncan, J. Mather
Starting Pitchers: C. Carpenter, A. Wainwright, J. Pineiro, T. Wellemeyer, K. Lohse
Relief Pitchers: C. Perez, T. Miller, R. Ring, B. Thompson, R. Franklin, C. Manning, J. Motte

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (726 R, 811 RA): 74-88
Catchers: R. Doumit, R. Diaz
Infielders: Adam LaRoche, F. Sanchez, J. Wilson, Andy LaRoche, B. Bixler, A. Boeve
Outfielders: B. Moss, N. McLouth, S. Pearce, E. Hinske, A. McCutchen
Starting Pitchers: P. Maholm, Z. Duke, I. Snell, J. Karstens, T. Gorzelanny
Relief Pitchers: M. Capps, T. Yates, J. Grabow, P. Dumatrait, V. Vazquez, R. Ohlendorf, E. Meek


  1. renaudtn

    Interesting post as always.
    You have the reds in 2nd place… that’s a ‘risky’ prediction. Like I said in other posts, I think the reds are going to surprise a lot of people this year… I like the moves they’ve made this offseason. I’m not sure I’d put them right after Chicago though.
    Also, 103 wins for the cubs… sounds high to me. It wouldn’t surprise me if Zambrano goes down with injury this year; on top of that, with improved teams in the NL central like the Reds, the Cubs may have a little more competition than last year( I hope so anyway).

  2. roundrock15

    Renaud: The Cubs had 6 players with 149 or more games last year; no one else in the division had more than 4. It just seems like they stayed relatively unscathed by major injuries. I don’t think that that luck will continue into this season, but of course there’s no way to read that into a statistical analysis. As for 103 wins, they had 98 last year, and Milton Bradley is a significant offensive upgrade. I don’t think 103 is at all unrealistic. I do think the Reds are going to make a lot of noise this season, though.

    Tyco: Well, it’s hard to argue with such thorough analysis.

  3. renaudtn

    you have a good point (another one). I just feel like after what happened to Zambrano last year, he could run out of gas again this year. When that happens, the Cubs rotation won’t be as strong which is why I ‘feel’ like they may not get 103 wins. Also, if the Brewers do sign Looper, they’ll be a tougher team which is why I think 103 wins may just a bit high.
    However, if they ink Peavy, well…103 wins may be an underestimation. I guess I want to believe that the Cubs won’t turn out to be the monster in NL central that everyone predicts…

  4. kmcleod

    I like the prediction of the Reds in Second!!!! Unsafe, daring, but I like it. People are really down on Milwakee, which I think will work to their favor. I don’t see the Astros finishing above fourth though, sorry!!!
    Still, good predictions!!!!

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