2012 MLB Preview

Last Updated: 3/8/2012 4:00 PM ET

For our complete MLB 2012 Preview, please see our Power Rankings, Over/Under Win Total Picks, Standings Projections and Playoff Probabilities and Division-by-division Breakdowns. Picks packages for every MLB game on the money-line, over/under and run-line are now available in the shop. Last season, all "normal" or better ML and O/U plays went 100-62 (62%) in baseball for a +1,475 return using play value recommendations for a normal 50 player. All playable money-line plays were 54% and +1291. All playable O/U plays hit 56% and all playable run-line plays hit 58%.

The Predictalator has already played the 2012 MLB season 50,000 times before it's actually played. The Texas Rangers win the World Series a league-high 16% of the time (8,175 of 50,000 times to be exact). The Philadelphia Phillies (16%), Boston Red Sox (11%), Milwaukee Brewers (9%), New York Yankees (8%) and Los Angeles Angels (8%) follow the Rangers in championship likelihood. No other team has a greater than 5% chance of winning it all. Here, we breakdown every team division-by-division.

To view projected win-loss records, as well as the over/under win totals picks, please subscribe to the 2012 MLB Regular Season Picks package which includes Money-line, Run-line and Over/Under Picks for all 2012 MLB Regular Season Games (with Play Value Key, Play Value Calculator, Customizable Predictalator, Parlay Calculator, Play Analyzer and Trendfinder access) in addition to the preseason picks.

See: How This Works, Season Summary and Division Previews: NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central and AL West

How it Works
Just as the Predictalator plays any individual game 50,000 before it's actually played, it can also play every game 50,000 times before it's actually played. That is what we have done for the 2012 MLB season. The actual regular season and playoff schedules have been played 50,000 times, allowing us to compute average records and the likelihoods of a team making the playoffs, winning the league pennant and bringing home the World Series trophy.

In this case, using the Predictalator is not as much of a concern to us as making sure that we have the best possible inputs for players' statistics, roles, health and playing time as well as teams' managerial styles and ballpark effects. Ballpark effects, managerial styles and health history are fairly well known, while calculating a player's statistical inputs provides the greatest challenge.

In general, we apply ballpark and level-adjusted, relevant statistics from every game a player has played in his professional career to a fairly traditional player development curve that considers age and previous playing time. Not only does this curve help to set average inputs, it combines with health to dictate the variance (boom or bust potential) of a player's inputs. In the team-by-team breakdowns below, the "most important" pitchers and positional players are the players, often due to their boom or bust likelihoods/distributions, who will most drastically impact their teams. Obviously, a season-ending injury to Albert Pujols in the first game of the season will have a more significant impact on the Angels' chances to win the World Series than if the same thing happened to Torii Hunter. But, the variance for our expectations of Pujols' playing time and performance is minimal. We "know" what the Angels are getting with Pujols. Hunter is a bit of a wild card as a player who has great talent, yet lacks consistency and, with age and health concerns, may regress considerably this season. How closely to and for how long he can play at his ceiling is incredibly important to the Angels' season. (Also below, Fantasy Sleepers and Duds are chosen based on our projected value relative to current average draft positions. The more relative value, the more likely to be a sleeper. The weakest value relative to ADP is the dud.)

Playing time is more of an art than a science. We have done our best to estimate playing time for all players who are expected to see significant starting time in 2011. That being said, some gaps have been filled in by our best approximations of average bench and role players on teams. This has a very minor impact on average results, yet keeps us from being able to be comfortable providing comprehensive player projections for all players.

After all of that math and analysis, importing a schedule and running the games 50,000 times each is simple.

Season Summary
The Texas Rangers may have lost ace pitcher C.J. Wilson, but they may be even better this year with Japanese star, Yu Darvish, in the rotation and a transition into the rotation of former closer Neftali Feliz (a feat Wilson and Alexi Ogando have already succeeded in accomplishing with the Rangers). Otherwise, the Rangers have an elite lineup and plus defenders at just about every position. With notable off-season upgrades for the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers and the consistent strong play of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, the AL is deeper than it has been recently. Still, Texas remains the American League's best. Texas wins the World Series 16% of the 50,000 seasons. The Rangers, who project to win 95 games on average, are 82% likely to make the playoffs. Other teams that are more than 50% likely to make the playoffs (remember there are two wild card teams in each league that will be playing a one-game playoff immediately after the regular season) include Philadelphia (79%), Boston (74%), Detroit (70%), Los Angeles Angels (69%), New York Yankees(68%), Milwaukee (60%) and Tampa Bay(50%). At this point, the American League is 52% likely to win the World Series.

Based on the analysis, here is the projected MLB 2012 Playoff bracket. It should be noted however, that this exact bracket only occurred 419 of the 50,000 seasons played by the Predictalator:

American League

New York Yankees over Los Angeles Angels
Texas over New York Yankees
Boston over Detroit
Texas over Boston

National League

Atlanta over St. Louis
Philadelphia over San Francisco
Milwaukee over Atlanta
Philadelphia over Milwaukee

World Series

Texas over Philadelphia

See: How This Works, Season Summary and Division Previews: NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central and AL West

NL East Preview

Philadelphia Phillies
Power Rank: 3
Division Standing:
1
2011 Wins:
102
2011 Losses: 60
Playoff Probability: 79%
Projected Record: 92.3 - 69.7
Biggest Strength: Starting Pitching
Greatest Weakness: Age/Health
Most Important Pitcher: Jonathan Papelbon, RP
Most Important Position Player: Hunter Pence, RF
Fantasy Sleeper: John Mayberry, LF
Fantasy Dud: Domonic Brown, LF

Atlanta Braves
Power Rank: 7
Division Standing:
2
2011 Wins:
89
2011 Losses: 73
Playoff Probability: 42%
Projected Record: 85.7 - 76.3
Biggest Strength: Bullpen
Greatest Weakness: Defense
Most Important Pitcher: Tommy Hanson, SP
Most Important Position Player: Jason Heyward, RF
Fantasy Sleeper: Brandon Beachy, SP
Fantasy Dud: Randall Delgado, SP

Miami Marlins
Power Rank: 11
Division Standing:
3
2011 Wins:
72
2011 Losses: 90
Playoff Probability: 27%
Projected Record: 82.8 - 79.2
Biggest Strength: Offseason Upgrades
Greatest Weakness: Inconsistency (read: combustible, even statistically so)
Most Important Pitcher: Josh Johnson, SP
Most Important Position Player: Hanley Ramirez, 3B
Fantasy Sleeper: Ricky Nolasco, SP
Fantasy Dud: Emilio Bonifacio, CF

Washington Nationals
Power Rank: 12
Division Standing:
4
2011 Wins:
80
2011 Losses: 81
Playoff Probability: 28%
Projected Record: 82.8 - 79.2
Biggest Strength: Power (hitting and pitching)
Greatest Weakness: Youth (Inexperience/Fragility)
Most Important Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg, SP
Most Important Position Player: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Fantasy Sleeper: Wilson Ramos, C
Fantasy Dud: John Lannan, SP

New York Mets
Power Rank: 14
Division Standing:
5
2011 Wins:
77
2011 Losses: 85
Playoff Probability: 13%
Projected Record: 79.8 - 82.2
Biggest Strength: Hitting Power (w/new Ballpark dimensions, every starter could hit 15+ HR)
Greatest Weakness: Defense (though should be improved year over year)
Most Important Pitcher: Johan Santana, SP
Most Important Position Player: David Wright, 3B
Fantasy Sleeper: Jason Bay, LF
Fantasy Dud: Mike Pelfrey, SP

See: How This Works, Season Summary and Division Previews: NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central and AL West

NL Central Preview

Milwaukee Brewers
Power Rank: 9
Division Standing:
1
2011 Wins:
96
2011 Losses: 66
Playoff Probability: 60%
Projected Record: 89.8 - 72.2
Biggest Strength: Top of Lineup and Rotation
Greatest Weakness: Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Zack Greinke, SP
Most Important Position Player: Rickie Weeks, 2B
Fantasy Sleeper: Mat Gamel, 1B
Fantasy Dud: Nyjer Morgan/Tony Plush, CF

St. Louis Cardinals
Power Rank: 15
Division Standing:
2
2011 Wins:
90
2011 Losses: 72
Playoff Probability: 46%
Projected Record: 83.4 - 78.6
Biggest Strength: Lineup (even without Pujols)
Greatest Weakness: Defense
Most Important Pitcher: Adam Wainwright, SP
Most Important Position Player: Lance Berkman, 1B
Fantasy Sleeper: Allen Craig, OF/2B
Fantasy Dud: Jake Westbrook, SP

Cincinnati Reds
Power Rank: 17
Division Standing:
3
2011 Wins:
79
2011 Losses: 83
Playoff Probability: 45%
Projected Record: 83.0 - 79.0
Biggest Strength: Joey Votto
Greatest Weakness: Health/Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Mat Latos, SP
Most Important Position Player: Zack Cozart, SS
Fantasy Sleeper: Zack Cozart, SS
Fantasy Dud: Bronson Arroyo, SP

Chicago Cubs
Power Rank: 27
Division Standing:
4
2011 Wins:
71
2011 Losses: 91
Playoff Probability: 4%
Projected Record: 73.4 - 88.6
Biggest Strength: Front Office (i.e. Brighter Future than Present)
Greatest Weakness: Everything Else (though Bullpen is above average)
Most Important Pitcher: Paul Maholm, SP
Most Important Position Player: Starlin Castro, SS
Fantasy Sleeper: David Dejesus, RF
Fantasy Dud: Chris Volstad, SP

Pittsburgh Pirates
Power Rank: 29
Division Standing:
5
2011 Wins:
72
2011 Losses: 90
Playoff Probability: 1%
Projected Record: 72.4 - 89.6
Biggest Strength: Versatility (particularly in the OF)/Pitching Control
Greatest Weakness: Everything Else
Most Important Pitcher: Erik Bedard, SP
Most Important Position Player: Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Fantasy Sleeper: Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Fantasy Dud: Casey McGehee, INF

Houston Astros
Power Rank: 30
Division Standing:
6
2011 Wins:
56
2011 Losses: 106
Playoff Probability: 1%
Projected Record: 65.1 - 96.9
Biggest Strength: Front Office (i.e. Brighter Future than Present)
Greatest Weakness: Everything Else (though Team Speed is above average)
Most Important Pitcher: Bud Norris, SP
Most Important Position Player: Jose Altuve, 2B
Fantasy Sleeper: Jose Altuve, 2B
Fantasy Dud: Jordan Schafer, CF

See: How This Works, Season Summary and Division Previews: NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central and AL West

NL West Preview

San Francisco Giants
Power Rank: 13
Division Standing:
1
2011 Wins:
86
2011 Losses: 76
Playoff Probability: 49%
Projected Record: 85.1 - 76.9
Biggest Strength: Pitching Depth
Greatest Weakness: Hitting Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner, SP
Most Important Position Player: Melky Cabrera, LF
Fantasy Sleeper: Melky Cabrera, LF
Fantasy Dud: Ryan Vogelsong, SP

Los Angeles Dodgers
Power Rank: 19
Division Standing:
2
2011 Wins:
82
2011 Losses: 79
Playoff Probability: 38%
Projected Record: 80.2 - 81.8
Biggest Strength: Superstars (Kemp and Kershaw)
Greatest Weakness: Imbalance/Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Chad Billingsley, SP
Most Important Position Player: Andre Ethier, RF
Fantasy Sleeper: Kenley Jansen, RP
Fantasy Dud: Mark Ellis, 2B

Arizona Diamondbacks
Power Rank: 21
Division Standing:
3
2011 Wins:
94
2011 Losses: 68
Playoff Probability: 38%
Projected Record: 80.1 - 81.9
Biggest Strength: Power (hitting and pitching)
Greatest Weakness: (Lack of) Patience (especially in that ballpark)
Most Important Pitcher: Trevor Cahill, SP
Most Important Position Player: Stephen Drew, SS
Fantasy Sleeper: Jason Kubel, LF
Fantasy Dud: Willie Bloomquist, INF

San Diego Padres
Power Rank: 22
Division Standing:
4
2011 Wins:
71
2011 Losses: 91
Playoff Probability: 15%
Projected Record: 78.8 - 83.2
Biggest Strength: Ballpark Fit (bullpen, defense, etc.)
Greatest Weakness: Plate Discipline
Most Important Pitcher: Edinson Volquez, SP
Most Important Position Player: Cameron Maybin, CF
Fantasy Sleeper: Edinson Volquez, SP
Fantasy Dud: Will Venable, RF

Colorado Rockies
Power Rank: 23
Division Standing:
5
2011 Wins:
73
2011 Losses: 89
Playoff Probability: 13%
Projected Record: 77.8 - 84.2
Biggest Strength: Plate Discipline
Greatest Weakness: Starting Pitching
Most Important Pitcher: Jhoulys Chacin, SP
Most Important Position Player: Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Fantasy Sleeper: Michael Cuddyer, RF
Fantasy Dud: Jeremy Guthrie, SP

See: How This Works, Season Summary and Division Previews: NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central and AL West

AL East Preview

Boston Red Sox
Power Rank: 2
Division Standing:
1
2011 Wins:
90
2011 Losses: 72
Playoff Probability: 74%
Projected Record: 90.2 - 71.8
Biggest Strength: Lineup
Greatest Weakness: Starting Pitching (Depth)
Most Important Pitcher: Daniel Bard, SP/RP
Most Important Position Player: Carl Crawford, LF
Fantasy Sleeper: Mike Aviles, SS
Fantasy Dud: Aaron Cook, SP

New York Yankees
Power Rank: 4
Division Standing:
2
2011 Wins:
97
2011 Losses: 65
Playoff Probability: 68%
Projected Record: 88.8 - 73.2
Biggest Strength: Lineup
Greatest Weakness: Age/Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Michael Pineda, SP
Most Important Position Player: Curtis Granderson, CF
Fantasy Sleeper: Hiroki Kuroda, SP
Fantasy Dud: Derek Jeter, SS

Tampa Bay Rays
Power Rank: 6
Division Standing:
3
2011 Wins:
91
2011 Losses: 71
Playoff Probability: 50%
Projected Record: 85.6 - 76.4
Biggest Strength: Defense
Greatest Weakness: Hitting for Average
Most Important Pitcher: Matt Moore, SP
Most Important Position Player: Desmond Jennings, LF
Fantasy Sleeper: Jake McGee, RP
Fantasy Dud: Catcher (stay away from all TB catchers)

Toronto Blue Jays
Power Rank: 10
Division Standing:
4
2011 Wins:
81
2011 Losses: 81
Playoff Probability: 15%
Projected Record: 81.9 - 80.1
Biggest Strength: Hitting for Power
Greatest Weakness: Pitching Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Henderson Alvarez, SP
Most Important Position Player: Brett Lawrie, 3B
Fantasy Sleeper: Adam Lind, 1B
Fantasy Dud: Francisco Cordero, RP

Baltimore Orioles
Power Rank: 28
Division Standing:
5
2011 Wins:
69
2011 Losses: 93
Playoff Probability: 0%
Projected Record: 68.1 - 93.9
Biggest Strength: Hitting for Power
Greatest Weakness: Pitching
Most Important Pitcher: Zach Britton, SP
Most Important Position Player: Matt Wieters, C
Fantasy Sleeper: Tsuyoshi Wada, SP
Fantasy Dud: Brian Matusz, SP

See: How This Works, Season Summary and Division Previews: NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central and AL West

AL Central Preview

Detroit Tigers
Power Rank: 8
Division Standing:
1
2011 Wins:
95
2011 Losses: 67
Playoff Probability: 70%
Projected Record: 86.5 - 75.5
Biggest Strength: Top of Lineup and Rotation
Greatest Weakness: Defense
Most Important Pitcher: Doug Fister, SP
Most Important Position Player: Alex Avila, C
Fantasy Sleeper: Joaquin Benoit, RP
Fantasy Dud: Jhonny Peralta, SS

Chicago White Sox
Power Rank: 18
Division Standing:
2
2011 Wins:
79
2011 Losses: 83
Playoff Probability: 28%
Projected Record: 80.3 - 81.7
Biggest Strength: Hitting for Power
Greatest Weakness: Hitting for Average
Most Important Pitcher: Addison Reed, RP
Most Important Position Player: Gordon Beckham, 2B
Fantasy Sleeper: Dayan Viciedo, LF
Fantasy Dud: A.J. Pierzynski, C

Cleveland Indians
Power Rank: 20
Division Standing:
3
2011 Wins:
80
2011 Losses: 82
Playoff Probability: 25%
Projected Record: 78.9 - 83.1
Biggest Strength: Pitching Control
Greatest Weakness: Defense
Most Important Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP
Most Important Position Player: Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Fantasy Sleeper: Kevin Slowey, SP
Fantasy Dud: Grady Sizemore, CF

Kansas City Royals
Power Rank: 25
Division Standing:
4
2011 Wins:
71
2011 Losses: 91
Playoff Probability: 4%
Projected Record: 73.5 - 88.5
Biggest Strength: Young Position Player Core
Greatest Weakness: Starting Pitching
Most Important Pitcher: Aaron Crow, SP
Most Important Position Player: Mike Moustakas, 3B
Fantasy Sleeper: Lorenzo Cain, CF
Fantasy Dud: Jonathan Sanchez, SP

Minnesota Twins
Power Rank: 26
Division Standing:
5
2011 Wins:
63
2011 Losses: 99
Playoff Probability: 2%
Projected Record: 70.7 - 91.3
Biggest Strength: Middle of Lineup (when Healthy)
Greatest Weakness: Health/Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Francisco Liriano, SP
Most Important Position Player: Joe Mauer, C
Fantasy Sleeper: Glen Perkins, RP
Fantasy Dud: Jamey Carroll, SS

See: How This Works, Season Summary and Division Previews: NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central and AL West

AL West Preview

Texas Rangers
Power Rank: 1
Division Standing:
1
2011 Wins:
96
2011 Losses: 66
Playoff Probability: 82%
Projected Record: 94.8 - 67.2
Biggest Strength: Everything (only true weakness is uncertainty at SP)
Greatest Weakness: Experience in Starting Pitching
Most Important Pitcher: Yu Darvish, SP
Most Important Position Player: Josh Hamilton, CF
Fantasy Sleeper: Neftali Feliz, SP
Fantasy Dud: Leonys Martin, LF

Los Angeles Angels
Power Rank: 5
Division Standing:
2
2011 Wins:
86
2011 Losses: 76
Playoff Probability: 69%
Projected Record: 88.1 - 73.9
Biggest Strength: Top of Rotation
Greatest Weakness: Bullpen
Most Important Pitcher: Jerome Williams, SP
Most Important Position Player: Kendrys Morales, DH
Fantasy Sleeper: Torii Hunter, RF
Fantasy Dud: Vernon Wells, LF

Oakland Athletics
Power Rank: 16
Division Standing:
3
2011 Wins:
74
2011 Losses: 88
Playoff Probability: 11%
Projected Record: 78.9 - 83.1
Biggest Strength: Pitching Control
Greatest Weakness: Offense
Most Important Pitcher: Brett Anderson, SP
Most Important Position Player: Yoenis Cespedes, CF
Fantasy Sleeper: Brad Peacock, SP
Fantasy Dud: Seth Smith, DH

Seattle Mariners
Power Rank: 24
Division Standing:
4
2011 Wins:
67
2011 Losses: 95
Playoff Probability: 2%
Projected Record: 73.0 - 89.0
Biggest Strength: Young Position Player Core
Greatest Weakness: Overall Depth
Most Important Pitcher: Jason Vargas, SP
Most Important Position Player: Jesus Montero, C/DH
Fantasy Sleeper: Mike Carp, LF
Fantasy Dud: Franklin Gutierrez, CF

For our complete MLB 2012 Preview, please see our Power Rankings, Over/Under Win Total Picks, Standings Projections and Playoff Probabilities and Division-by-division Breakdowns. Picks packages for every MLB game on the money-line, over/under and run-line are now available in the shop. Last season, all "normal" or better ML and O/U plays went 100-62 (62%) in baseball for a +1,475 return using play value recommendations for a normal 50 player. All playable money-line plays were 54% and +1291. All playable O/U plays hit 56% and all playable run-line plays hit 58%.

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The Predictalator

The Predictalator is the most advanced sports forecasting software available today because it has the ability to account for all of the relevant statistical interactions of the players (playing or not playing/injured), coaches, officials, fans (home field advantage) and weather in each game.

04/21/2014 Highlight: Using the ResultsFinder for the week of April 14th - 20th, one could find that all highlighted, MLB "normal" or better picks went 22-16 (58% ML, O/U, RL). A normal $50 player utilizing our play value recommendations on these picks returned a profit of +$425 for the week

The week in the NBA was even stronger, particularly with the start of postseason play. Overall, for the week, normal or better picks went 3-1 (75% ATS and O/U), including starting the Playoffs 2-0 with such plays. New this, we have added halftime picks which have proven capable of providing strong opportunities to exploit the market. Over just eight NBA Playoff games thus far, halftime normal or better (and there are "better" halftime picks) against-the-spread plays were especially stron,g going 5-0 (100% ATS).

As the NBA and NHL postseason began, all highlighted, "normal" or better picks on the site, including halftimes, went 40-23 (63% ATS, ML, O/U and PL) for the week.

The Predictalator plays every game 50,000 times before it's actually played. This provides us the ability to assign probabilities to the likelihood of just about any outcome occurring in any contest including straight-up, against-the-spread and over/under winners of each game.

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