MLB Wild Card Preview: PML 2017

Last year, on my personal blog, I posted about a model I created for evaluating baseball teams and predicting games. I’ve re-run this model for the 2017 season, and will use it to predict games and series throughout the playoffs, so make sure to keep checking back! If you’re interested in the full methodology, I’ve posted it here. For a quick look at how the model shakes out for the 2017 season, look here.

First, a quick primer. The model, which I call the Poisson Maximum Likelihood (PML) Model, assigns scores to each team’s offense and each starting pitcher. The idea, roughly, is that multiplying an offense’s score by a starting pitcher’s score gives the average number of runs we’d expect that offense to score in a game started by that pitcher. As you can imagine, lower scores are better for pitchers (they mean fewer runs!) while the opposite is true for offenses.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll leave the explanation at that, but if you’re interested in more detail, check the methodology article.

Wild Card Game Predictions

Without further ado, here are the PML Model’s predictions for the wild card games:

AL Wild Card

No, PML doesn’t take into account Minnesota’s less-than-stellar history at Yankee stadium, but the model pegs the Twins as significant underdogs anyway. Led by the bats of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez and the right arm of Luis Severino, the Yankees have the Twins beat in both their PML offense and starting pitcher scores for this game. The Twins are no slouch, though. If Ervin Santana shows the stuff that netted him five complete games, and if the young Twins offense takes advantage of Yankee Stadium’s hitter-friendly dimensions, this game could be interesting.

Team Pitcher Probability
NYY Luis Severino 63%
MIN Ervin Santana 37%
NL Wild Card

In this battle of AL West rivals, PML gives the Diamondbacks a significant edge. When Zack Greinke’s on, he’s on, and J.D. Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt lead a high-powered offense—PML’s fourth-best, in fact. The team directly ahead of them, though, is the Rockies, led by stars Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Coors Field. Carlos Gonzalez contributed too, following up a disappointing first half by slashing .314/.391/.531 after the break. Still, PML potentially overrates the Rockies offense by not accounting for park effects. On the mound, Colorado will counter with young righthander Jon Gray, who is coming off a solid third season.

Team Pitcher Probability
ARI Zack Greinke 60%
COL Jon Gray 40%