Over the past 148 years of professional baseball, people from all backgrounds have joined a team to partake in America’s pastime. Every great sport has its different milestones and achievements, and baseball is no different. In 2017, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the oppurtunity to do something that no major league team has done before: win more than 116 games in a season.
The Dodgers reached the National League Championship series last year and were ultimately eliminated by the Chicago Cubs, and it was clear that they did not take the loss lightly. As the Los Angeles team entered spring training, the expectations were set that they would make another run for the playoffs. According to FiveThirtyEight, which does data analysis of teams and makes predictions based on past performances and projections of other teams, the Dodgers have the most talented team, not just compared to other teams in their division, but compared to all of baseball.
Sports forecasters have predicted how the Los Angeles Dodgers were going to compete against the other teams in the National League West division. As of April, the Dodgers’ 14-12 record did not impress many of the doubters, ,who believed the team was going to be a fluke after their late playoff departure last year. However, this record was a big sign of great events to come, as the team got better in all aspects of the game as the season progressed. To put this in to perspective, FiveThirtyEight analyzed different points of the season using the Elo system. The Elo system is described as such: “Elo is a simple but elegant system that can be tuned and customized endlessly to incorporate available data. In our baseball Elo system, each team has a rating (the average is about 1500), and after every game, the winning team gains some Elo points while the losing team loses the same number of points. The number of points exchanged is based on the chances our model gave each team to win the game and the margin of victory; a win by a big underdog results in a bigger exchange of Elo points than a win by a favorite, and the larger the margin of victory, the larger the exchange.” The Elo system is certainly a powerful way to determine a team’s outcome, but how can it be effective using raw data that was compiled from previous seasons? FiveThirtyEight explained it this way: “Thanks to Retrosheet, we’ve collected game results and box scores back to 1871 and used them to create an Elo-based rating system and predictive model for baseball that incorporates home-field advantage, margin of victory, travel, rest and most importantly starting pitchers. The ratings are also adjusted for park and era effects and account for the fact that favorites are more likely to win in the postseason than in the regular season.”
So let’s now put the Dodgers’ season in perspective in this manner. At the beginning of the season, the team had a 77 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight; now, there is almost a 100 percent chance that the team will reach the playoffs. The most interesting part of all these statistics is the Dodgers’ chance of winning the World Series. At the beginning of the season, the Dodgers had an 11 percent chance of winning the Commissioner’s Trophy come Oct. Remarkably, the possibility of winning has increased to 33 percent. Even though it is just a 22 percent increase from the beginning of the season, it is still a major achievement, considering the chance of the other five teams that qualify for the playoffs with the Dodgers. The other five teams predicted to qualify for the playoffs have less than a 10% chance to win the World Series. As Yogi Berra, the late Hall of Fame catcher, put it, “It ain’t over, till it’s over.” Overall, the Dodgers are a team that is
looking to make a huge splash the rest of this year. With the emergence of rookie First Baseman Cody Bellinger, overcoming the injuries of stars like Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish, and the pursuit of the single season record for a team; they have what it takes to use the success they have accomplished during the regular season and hopefully translate that into a great showing in the playoffs.
Sources: Fivethirtyeight.com, ESPN.com, MLB.com