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Using WAR and Run Differential, Who Was Baseball’s Best Team in 2012?

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Better to be Lucky than Good

Kyle Terada - US PRESSWIRE

Off the heels of the most heated MVP debate in the sports history, I decided I wanted to do a little study of my own. The purpose of my study was to show how close team WAR actually is to a team’s actual win-loss record, considering some people truly believe WAR is a made-up statistic.

Then, after I figured this difference out, I went a little bit overboard. I came to the conclusion that this data doesn’t tell me everything I need to know about a team’s win-loss record. I wasn’t including run differential, which is better known as Pythag. This is where I created a mutated formula to come up with my own version of Pythag, a version that I think is more accurate and detailed.

Throughout this slideshow, you will see a variety of numbers; ergo, I will explain them to you now:

Actual Wins = The team’s actual wins.

Team WAR = The total combined WAR between that team’s hitters and pitchers.

WAR Difference = (Team WAR – Actual Wins) This tells you how close WAR is to a team’s actual record. (negative = bad, positive = good)

Win Floor = The lowest amount of wins a team deserved based on Team WAR & Pythag.

Win Ceiling = The highest amount of wins a team deserved based on Team WAR & Pythag.

Win Average = The average of ceiling, floor, team WAR, and actual wins.

“Luck Factor” = (Actual Wins – Win Average) This is the amount of unexplained wins/losses a team had. (negative = lucky, positive = unlucky.)

After doing all this, here are the averages of all those numbers:

Actual Wins: 81 (obviously)

Team WAR: 81.7

WAR Difference: 1.7

Win Floor: 81

Win Ceiling: 81

Win Average: 81

Luck Factor: .5

I have a bunch of 81s, which is what I was aiming for, since it makes everything equal. So, with everything equal, the difference between WAR and a team’s actual record is 1.7 wins, meaning there are 1.7 extra wins WAR handed out. Translation: two games out of the baseball season WAR cannot account for.

With the luck factor being at 0.5, it tells me that there is less than one percent of things that cannot be explained. It’s kind of similar to the scene in Breaking Bad where Walter and Gretchen are calculating everything in a human body and they cannot get to 100%. That 0.5 is the soul of baseball.

The goal of this was to prove that these numbers aren’t bogus, and that even a team’s success can somewhat be explained. These numbers aren’t 100% accurate, but they certainly paint a nice picture of why a team won. There are some obvious flaws with this formula, such as double counting in some areas, but I like the results it gave me.

I think most of us can agree the playoffs are a crapshoot and don’t really prove who the best team actually is, right? If not, that’s fine, because I completely understand. However, I tend to think differently. I think baseball’s best team is the one that was the best for a 162 games, not just 11.

Reader's note: The teams are in order by Win Average.

Without further ado, here are the best, worst, luckiest, and unluckiest teams in 2012.

Bryan is a featured writer for Rant Sports

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Houston Astros

Troy Taormina - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 55

Team WAR: 61.6

WAR Difference: 6.6

Win Floor: 57.6

Win Ceiling: 65.6

Win Average: 59.95

Luck Factor: 4.95

Have fun in the AL West, Houston.

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Chicago Cubs


Actual Wins: 61

Team WAR: 65.2

WAR Difference: 4.2

Win Floor: 61.2

Win Ceiling: 69.2

Win Average: 64.15

Luck Factor: 3.15

The Cubs played about as bad as they possibly could have played in 2012. Shocker.

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Cleveland Indians


Actual Wins: 68

Team WAR: 63.9

WAR Difference: -4.1

Win Floor: 59.9

Win Ceiling: 67.9

Win Average: 64.93

Luck Factor: -3.08

The Indians were lucky to win 68 games in 2012.

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Toronto Blue Jays

Tom Szczerbowkski - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 73

Team WAR: 67.6

WAR Difference: -5.4

Win Floor: 66.6

Win Ceiling: 68.6

Win Average: 68.95

Luck Factor: -4.05

For the most part, the Toronto Blue Jays were what they were: a injury-riddled team. Obviously, these numbers do not indicate the massive turnover Toronto has gone under. When I do my projections based on this model, expect Toronto get about 15 more wins.

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Minnesota Twins

Jesse Johnson - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 66

Team WAR: 72.3

WAR Difference: 6.3

Win Floor: 70.3

Win Ceiling: 74.3

Win Average: 70.73

Luck Factor: 4.72

As you can see, the Minnesota Twins were better than their real record indicates. The fact that their floor is four wins less than their actual results proves the Twins were unlucky. The Twins probably won't compete for a division anytime soon, but they are better than what their 2012 record indicates.

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Colorado Rockies

Chris Humphreys - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 64

Team WAR: 74

WAR Difference: 10

Win Floor: 69

Win Ceiling: 79

Win Average: 71.5

Luck Factor: 7.5

For as bad as Colorado was last season, this shows just how unlucky they were. When your actual win total is five less than your win floor, the baseball gods must be mad at you.

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Seattle Mariners

Steve Bisig - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 75

Team WAR: 71.2

WAR Difference: -3.8

Win Floor: 69.2

Win Ceiling: 73.2

Win Average: 72.15

Luck Factor: -2.85

Safeco Field is the devil.

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Miami Marlins

David Richard - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 69

Team WAR: 74.6

WAR Difference: 5.6

Win Floor: 73.6

Win Ceiling: 75.6

Win Average: 73.2

Luck Factor: 4.2

Maybe Ozzie deserves another chance? No? Okay, you're right.

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New York Mets

Brad Penner - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 74

Team WAR: 75.8

WAR Difference: 1.8

Win Floor: 74.8

Win Ceiling: 76.8

Win Average: 75.35

Luck Factor: 1.35

The Mets are who I thought they were.

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Kansas City Royals

Gary A. Vasquez - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 72

Team WAR: 76.5

WAR Difference: 4.5

Win Floor: 78.5

Win Ceiling: 74.5

Win Average: 75.38

Luck Factor: 3.38

The Royals are hoping Ervin Santana helps makes that 3.38 number into a negative one. Good luck with all that.

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San Diego Padres

Christopher Hanewinckel - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 76

Team WAR: 75.3

WAR Difference: -0.7

Win Floor: 69

Win Ceiling: 79

Win Average: 75.48

Luck Factor: -0.53

The 2012 San Diego Padres are proof advanced statistics can depict a team to a tee.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

Charles LeClaire - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 79

Team WAR: 76.7

WAR Difference: -2.3

Win Floor: 75.7

Win Ceiling: 77.7

Win Average: 77.28

Luck Factor: -1.72

When your actual wins total is over your ceiling, a collapse can easily be explained.

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Boston Red Sox


Actual Wins: 69

Team WAR: 78.7

WAR Difference: 9.7

Win Floor: 73.7

Win Ceiling: 83.7

Win Average: 76.28

Luck Factor: 7.28

I believe I just measured the amount of wins heart equals, since I wouldn't call the Red Sox unlucky by any means.

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Baltimore Orioles

Anthony Gruppuso - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 93

Team WAR: 76.1

WAR Difference: -16.9

Win Floor: 65.1

Win Ceiling: 87.1

Win Average: 80.33

Luck Factor: -12.68

Not that we needed anymore proof that the 2012 Baltimore Orioles were a statistical anomaly, but here you go. This team is what we would call an outlier, considering it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

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Chicago White Sox


Actual Wins: 85

Team WAR: 81.3

WAR Difference: -3.7

Win Floor: 78.3

Win Ceiling: 84.3

Win Average: 82.23

Luck Factor: -2.78

And these numbers are why I am not a very optimistic White Sox fan.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

Gary A. Vasquez - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 86

Team WAR: 81.1

WAR Difference: -4.9

Win Floor: 81.1

Win Ceiling: 81.1

Win Average: 82.33

Luck Factor: -3.68

This goes to show how ridiculously lucky the Dodgers were in the beginning of the season. In 2013, however, the Dodgers should rock the NL West.

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Philadelphia Phillies

Steve Mitchell - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 81

Team WAR: 86.7

WAR Difference: 5.7

Win Floor: 86.7

Win Ceiling: 86.7

Win Average: 85.28

Luck Factor: 4.28

The Phillies were one of the unluckiest teams in baseball last season. This model should give Phillie fans optimism for 2013, especially if everyone is healthy.

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Oakland Athletics

Rick Osentoski - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 94

Team WAR: 86

WAR Difference: -8

Win Floor: 84

Win Ceiling: 88

Win Average: 88

Luck Factor: -6.00

Like the Baltimore Orioles, the Oakland A's were a great story in 2012, but I highly doubt we will see them playing October baseball in 2013; although, a 88-win average is pretty solid.

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Arizona Diamondbacks

Jennifer Stewart - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 81

Team WAR: 91.6

WAR Difference: 10.6

Win Floor: 86.6

Win Ceiling: 96.6

Win Average: 88.95

Luck Factor: 7.95

Well, it's comforting to know that my World Series pick was one of the unluckiest teams in baseball last season.

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Detroit Tigers

H. Darr Beiser - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 88

Team WAR: 90.1

WAR Difference: 2.1

Win Floor: 89.1

Win Ceiling: 91.1

Win Average: 89.58

Luck Factor: 1.58

According to Pythag, the White Sox were better than the Tigers in 2012. But according to my formula, it gives Detroit the proper respect they deserve.

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Tampa Bay Rays

Kim Klement - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 90

Team WAR: 89.7

WAR Difference: -0.3

Win Floor: 84.7

Win Ceiling: 94.7

Win Average: 89.78

Luck Factor: -0.23

It makes me feel good when my formula is super close to a team's actual win total.

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San Francisco Giants

Kelley L. Cox - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 94

Team WAR: 88.6

WAR Difference: -5.4

Win Floor: 82.6

Win Ceiling: 94.6

Win Average: 89.95

Luck Factor: -4.05

This is where Giants fans curse at me. You won the 2012 World Series, and nobody can take that away, but the Giants were a little lucky. But that's why they play the game!

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Los Angeles Angels

Jim Cowsert - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 89

Team WAR: 91.6

WAR Difference: 2.6

Win Floor: 92.6

Win Ceiling: 90.6

Win Average: 90.95

Luck Factor: 1.20

All I want to say is: Mike Trout is awesome.

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Milwaukee Brewers

Eric Hartline - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 83

Team WAR: 94.3

WAR Difference: 11.3

Win Floor: 92.3

Win Ceiling: 96.3

Win Average: 91.48

Luck Factor: 8.48

And here is baseball's unluckiest team in 2012. Also, this shows the effects of what a horrible bullpen can do to a team. Needless to say, I will be picking the Milwaukee Brewers to win the Central in 2013, especially if they get a pitcher of Greinke's caliber.

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Atlanta Braves

Charles LeClaire - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 94

Team WAR: 91.5

WAR Difference: -2.5

Win Floor: 89.5

Win Ceiling: 93.5

Win Average: 92.13

Luck Factor: -1.88

I expected the Braves' luck factor to be higher, due to the awesomeness that is Craig Kimbrel. But since they are losing the man pictured above, the Braves are very unlucky. First ballot hall of famer - - no doubt.

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Cincinnati Reds

Andrew Weber - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 97

Team WAR: 90.9

WAR Difference: -6.1

Win Floor: 83.9

Win Ceiling: 97.9

Win Average: 92.43

Luck Factor: -4.58

The 2012 Reds were basically as good as they could have been.

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Texas Rangers

Tim Heitman - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 93

Team WAR: 94.6

WAR Difference: 1.6

Win Floor: 92.6

Win Ceiling: 96.6

Win Average: 94.20

Luck Factor: 1.20

There's nothing that really needs to be said here. The Rangers were one of the best teams in baseball last season.

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St. Louis Cardinals

Kelley L. Cox - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 88

Team WAR: 96.3

WAR Difference: 8.3

Win Floor: 91.3

Win Ceiling: 101.3

Win Average: 94.23

Luck Factor: 6.23

It is extremely ironic knowing the Cardinals could have won 101 games, yet they only won 88. I guess their success in the playoffs wasn't as annoying as I previously thought.

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Washington Nationals

Rafael Suanes - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 98

Team WAR: 94.1

WAR Difference: -3.9

Win Floor: 96.1

Win Ceiling: 92.1

Win Average: 95.08

Luck Factor: -2.93

The Nationals won more games than they should have, but they were still the best team in the National League.

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New York Yankees

Rick Osentoski - US PRESSWIRE

Actual Wins: 95

Team WAR: 95.3

WAR Difference: 0.3

Win Floor: 95.3

Win Ceiling: 95.3

Win Average: 95.23

Luck Factor: 0.23

It appears the Yankees should have won 95 games in 2012, and they did just that.