Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Atlanta May Unfortunately Win Its Division

Once-14-consecutive-division-champion Atlanta is projected to take the NL East again, according to Baseball Playoffs Now's algorithms. With a record of 95-67, the Braves will beat out the rest of the East (yet fall in 4 games in the first playoff series):

New York Mets: 89-73
Philadelphia: 88-74
Florida: 83-79
Washington: 58-104

Atlanta ranks no. 1 in our new "May Unfortunately Win Its Division" rankings, marking the greatest disparity between projected record and current team power rating. In other words, the Braves haven't proven that they deserve to win 95 games. Their current rating is only sixteenth in the league (and they sit in a division with #8 New York Mets, #13 Philadelphia, #17 Florida, and #23 Washington). Why does the third-ranked team in the East earn the division championship?

The simple answer is that the Braves have a much better runs-scored/-allowed ratio. Atlanta has scored 124 runs and allowed 98 runs (a ratio of 1.265 to 1). Let's look at their division opponents:

New York Mets: 1.119 to 1
Philadelphia: 1.088 to 1
Florida: 0.974 to 1
Washington: 0.736 to 1

Therefore Florida, sitting at a record of 15-10, is not going to remain #1 in the East. They don't have the offensive and defensive guts to do so. Overtaking them will be Atlanta, a team who can - ploddingly - creep up on both New York and Florida and do just enough to make the postseason.

But given the Braves' mediocre performance so far (fifteenth in quality wins against the twenty-fifth easiest schedule) and a computer analysis that says they are in truth just marginally better than their current record of 12-13, Atlanta will only fall into the division lead by accident. And unless they show flashes of brilliance soon, they will also fall quickly in the playoffs.

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