Mmmm...Secret Sauce

One of the many toys at Baseball Prospectus is something they call "Secret Sauce". BP has successfully cracked the code to playoff success and nailed the last 45 World Series winners. What? How have you never heard of this amazing prediction system? Because I made that last part up, but nevertheless a fun tool to look at as we await our playoff opponent.

I looked back through 2000 and BP did predict three World Series winners and six of the 16 participants in the World Series correct. You scoff, but what's your playoff prediction success rate?

The formula is simple enough and rather intuitive to what is commonly believed among baseball folks that power pitching, a good closer and good defense wins in the playoffs. In this case, BP uses FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average), EqK9 (Equivalent Strikeout Rates per 9 innings) and WXRL (Win above Replacement Pitcher for the team's closer) and comes up with a score.

Their predictions and the 2008 rankings after the jump.

The following list is the top AL and NL team and the first team listed had the better "Secret Sauce" score, thus the team supposed to win the World Series according to this BP metric.

2007: Red Sox vs Diamondbacks (Cubs were 3rd among playoff teams)

2006: Twins vs. Mets (Cardinals were 8th among playoff teams)

2005: Angels vs. Houston (White Sox were 3rd among playoff teams. Amusingly the Cubs were 1st overall that year)

2004: Red Sox vs. Dodgers

2003: Athletics vs. Cubs (Marlins were 8th among playoff teams)

2002: Diamondbacks vs. Angels

2001: Diamondbacks vs. Yankees (the 116-win Mariners were 3rd among AL playoff teams and 5th among all playoff teams, thanks to low strikeout rates and an average-rated bullpen).

2000: White Sox vs. Cardinals (Yankees were 2nd among playoff teams)

They nailed 2001 and got both Red Sox years correct. The two teams they were the most off on were the 2006 Cardinals and 2003 Marlins, which could arguably be the two biggest surprise World Series winners of this decade.

As for 2008, the potential playoff teams are below with their overall rank in parenthesis (of course, non-playoff teams could score well in this metric but they don't get to play in the playoffs)

EqK9 Rank
Boston (1st)  38  4th  7.5 1st 2.97 11th 16
Angels (3rd) 28 6th  6.8 9th 5.31 3rd 18
Cubs (4th) 54 2nd 7.4 3rd 1.98 16th 21
White Sox(5th) -17 21st 7.2 4th 4.62 5th 30
Rays(6th) 58 1st 6.7 11th 1.62 20th 32
Phillies (12th) -3 17th 6.1 22nd 7.45 1st 40
Twins (16th) 11 11th 5.8 27th 4.58 6th 44
Brewers (17th)  15  10th 6.1 20th 2.79 14th 44
Dodgers (19th) -2 15th 6.6 12th 1.72 19th 46
Mets (20th) 16 9th 6.2 15th 1.46 23rd 47

There's a big drop-off there after the first three teams and I should note that they use Billy Wagner as the Mets closer, so it's even more bleak for the Metropolitans.The Cubs have a large advantage over any other NL team, as they do in just about every statistical  category.

The weak link, as expected, is the bullpen and particularly Kerry Wood, who hasn't been quite as lights out as we all would have liked. Some of that WXRL score though is attributed to him missing time as it is a cumulative stat. And for what it's worth, Carlos Marmol has been the 2nd best reliever in the NL this year by WXRL with a 4.95 behind the Phillies Brad Lidge. The Cubs of course aren't going to mess with the formula of Marmol setting up Wood, and there will likely be times in the playoffs where that will actually be beneficial for the Cubs as Marmol will end up facing the opposing teams better hitters. I also hold the belief that Lou should strongly consider using Marmol for two innings on the games before any scheduled off days.

It might not be a sports almanac from the future, but it'll have to do for this year.

P.S. - You can play "All the Way" to your heart's content on the lower right sidebar.


If you put $100 a year on whomever the BP "Secret Sauce"  predicted as the World Series winner before the playoffs, would you come out ahead over the last 8 years?

I guess that means knowing the odds of each winner going into the postseason that year.

fwiw, Cubs and Angels are currently at 3:1 odds, RSox and Rays at  7:2 on one page I looked at.

I put some down on the cubs before the season. They were 10:1 at that point. I just wish i had put more than 10 bucks at this point.

Cubs had a 97% chance of winning game six in 2003.
Cubs didn't lose 2 in a row with Wood and Prior on the mound in 2003.

When it comes to the playoffs, I go out of my way to ignore stats. The series are just too short to be able to accurately predict with any confidence based on stats. 1 great starting pitcher can be all a team needs in a short series, and a couple unlucky breaks in a 7 game series is all that's needed to turn it around on it's head.

For the record, I was a fantastic 0-7 in predicting playoff series outcomes in 2006. I think I'll refrain this year...and just wait for the games to be played.

97%? that had to be with 1 out in the 8th.

There is no way it was before the game started.

Point being, is that a gigantic fluke happened. They can happen but usually they don't.

yes, it was with 1 out in the 8th. (Although I think BP showed something like 93% cubs would win the series when they went up 3-1 in games)

My point is, over the course of a 162 game season, the fluke's will balance each other out and looking at stats and predicting a certain outcome has some merit.

In a playoff series, a fluke turns the series on it's head and wipes out any meaningful predictive stats. All it took was Prior and Wood losing back-to-back once to make that stat entirely meaningless.

And I agree with this. The playoffs are so much about luck and a team getting hot at the right time. The best team isn't going to win that often.

Are you saying that the Marlins weren't better than the Cubs and Yankees in '03?

the marlins had a better record than the Cubs in 03

But does that make them a better team? Answer to my rhetorical question: "No"

they had a better record and then beat us head to head.

i don't think the answer is cut and dry.

I didn't say it was cut and dry.

I'm saying that a better record for a team in the East, in one particular year, than a team in the Central doesn't prove them to be a better team. Nor does beating them head to head in the playoffs...though I'd say the Cubs 'beat themselves', if that's possible.

'Better' is entirely subjective, thus it'll always be uncut and wet.

"But does that make them a better team? Answer to my rhetorical question: "No""

This sounds pretty cut and dry

Well then you need to reinvest yourself in the study of the English language.

Does that 'make' them a better team? No.

I didn't say that they were or were not a better team. I said that the record doesn't prove (nor disprove) whether a team was better than another team.

i should never have dropped out of high school at age 14.

I'm just saying that the better team may have won that one.

I'm not disputing that. You may be right.

I do remember being sick of the outcome and believing without a doubt that the Cubs were better. Again, that's just an opinion.

I like the Cubs to win because their goodness outweighs the goodness of other teams.

Also, they've got more heart, guts, grit, fire and desire. Those are all the stats I need.

But now, with Jeff Smarja on our team, we have more Godness.

This man knows his theology!

So Ninja has become the new Fontegod?

I can sum it up with two word:

Touchdown Jesus

up until his last 2 outtings he's looked like crap lately.

his last 2 outtings have been stellar, though.

out of the WS participants predicted by this metric (16 total)...5 were ousted in the first round.

Also, they've got more heart, guts, grit, fire and desire. Those are all the stats I need.
don't forget to include SCRAPPINESS. That's the key ingredient.

one of the scrappy three as quoted as saying they refer to themselves as "the little fighters" we got that going for us as well.

Recent comments

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  • trevor clifton (high-A) could be interesting in a couple seasons...could even become a high/middle rotation guy. he's got a lot of pluses in his pitching except control.

    eric leal's (high-A) progression through the minors should be worth watching even if only projects to be an mid/end-rotation starter.

    we also gotta keep a long-distance eye on guys like jose paulino (ss-A) and preston morrison (A).

    crunch 37 min 31 sec ago view
  • As Johnny Bach used to say when it was time for the MJ Bulls to crank up the defensive pressure: "Release the Dobermans!", and Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Harper would just suffocate the other team.

    I'd love to add Carl Jr. to that group - he's got the stuff.

    billybucks 57 min 24 sec ago view
  • Historically, the Moneyball guys have been great at identifying productive hitters. Not so much with pitchers.

    billybucks 58 min 35 sec ago view
  • Wow - Pierce Johnson with an ERA of 8.01 in 42IP!

    What a stud prospect! Must be pitching with a pierced johnson.

    Looks like Ryan Williams is the only legit prospect there. That is sad...

    The E-Man 1 hour 46 sec ago view
  • Well it would seem that's all they need now. "Stropy" can have his moments, but he's been more consistent post-asg.

    The E-Man 1 hour 9 min ago view
  • Take THAT, Cardinals -- you beat Fernandez, we beat Sale.

    I really like Lackey as a 6-inning pitcher.

    billybucks 1 hour 36 min ago view
  • Three amigos? Because the Dominican, the Venezuelan, and the Cuban?

    Maybe the three-headed dragon?

    John Beasley 1 hour 52 min ago view
  • Who says Contreras can't frame? Stone cold robbery of Eaton with that called third strike for the first out in the eighth

    Eric S 2 hours 23 min ago view
  • Three amigos time?


    jacos 2 hours 38 min ago view
  • he should hit more of those. that would be an ideal outcome. /moneyballs

    crunch 6 hours 54 min ago view
  • Russell with 19 RBI in July so far. Grand Slams help.

    billybucks 7 hours 35 min ago view
  • ...and Familia with back-to-back blown saves. Blows a one-run lead vs. Rockies today, gets his 2nd consecutive loss.

    I am OK with the Mets missing the playoffs and suffering crushing losses at home --- just want them to beat St. Louis.

    He played with fire twice agains the Cubs -- unfortunately, the Cubs couldn't stop swinging.

    billybucks 7 hours 39 min ago view
  • How about Kyle Farnsworth? I know he was consistently upper 90s.

    videographer 9 hours 34 min ago view
  • If he puts up Soriano numbers I will be ecstatic

    jacos 11 hours 22 min ago view
  • I think Javy is learning--but he's learning to make contact, not learning to lay off pitches out of the zone. A quick glance at his plate discipline numbers on Fangraphs shows that his contact rate is up, especially his contact rate out of the zone, but his swing rate is up too, especially his swing rate out of the zone.

    Charlie 11 hours 56 min ago view
  • I definitely saw ballpark radar guns go up to 102 on Kerry Wood back when he was still a starter, but who knows how accurate they were.

    Charlie 12 hours 9 min ago view