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And Then There Were Eight: Ranking the MLB Elite Eight

The 2015 MLB Playoffs are starting! Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
The 2015 MLB Playoffs are starting!
Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

The Major League Baseball Wild Card games are over and we have eight teams still standing.  The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record (100-62) in baseball this year while the Toronto Blue Jays achieved the largest run differential (221 = runs scored minus runs against).  But will they win the World Series?  Here, we look at some interesting stats and indicators that have proven to be good predictors in the past.  Some of these metrics are related to concepts of sports psychology, such as a focus on fundamentals, leadership, consistency, and minimizing errors.   

Ace Pitchers

In a short baseball playoff series, anything can happen, but our research shows that leadership -- in the form of successful ace pitchers at the top of your starting rotation can be a predictor of success in winning baseball championships. Most of the playoff teams have strong pitching staffs, and here are the teams with the best ace pitchers:

Team

Rank

Houston

1

Los Angeles Dodgers

2

Chicago Cubs

3

Consistency

Across all sports studied, "consistency" statistics are more closely related to winning championships than glitzy statistics.  In baseball, teams with a better batting average often outperform teams with home run power.  Against the higher caliber of pitching during the playoffs, power hitters are not able to carry their teams as easily.  Teams need to be able to sustain a rally against high-powered pitching.  Here are the best remaining playoff teams in terms of league rank in batting average.  


Team

League Rank

Kansas City

2

Toronto

2

Texas

5

Minimizing Errors

It is crucial to minimize errors while playing sports -- even at the highest level of any sport we studied.  In baseball, "fielding errors" happen relatively infrequently.  Although we were surprised, the data shows that fielding percentage is a good indicator of predicting the winner of the World Series.  The teams below shine in this measure of "focus on fundamentals" and defense.  

Team

League Rank

Los Angeles Dodgers

1

Kansas City

3

Houston

3

Record Against Good Teams

We wanted to take a look at how the playoff teams fared against good teams. Here are the top playoff teams based on how they did against teams with a record of .500 or better.

Team

Winning Percentage

Toronto

.616

St. Louis

.597

Texas

.571

Who's Hot?

Which teams are the hottest as they enter the playoffs?  We took a look at each of the playoff teams' records from the MLB Trading Deadline (July 31) until September 20th.  We chose September 20th to eliminate "soft games" for teams that had clinched playoff spots.  The teams with the best records during the playoff stretch (and after potentially game-changing trades) are:

Team

Winning Percentage

Toronto

.711

Chicago Cubs

.681

New York Mets

.674

Overall

Based on all of these metrics, we rank the playoff teams below.  We will be back with our official "Who Will Win" prediction before the start of the World Series.  

Team

Rank

Toronto

1

Los Angeles Dodgers

2

Kansas City

3

New York Mets

4

Texas

5

St. Louis

6

Houston

7

Chicago Cubs

8

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Carlton Chin, CFA, is a fund manager, MIT-trained quantitative analyst, and co-author of “Who Will Win the Big Game?" He has been quoted by the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and ESPN -- and worked with the Sacramento Kings on the 2014 NBA Draft. Dr. Jay Granat is the co-author of the "Who Will Win" book and owner of StayInTheZone.com.    



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