It doesn’t matter who you ask, when it comes to determining Major League Baseball‘s best team during the 2015 regular season, you’re bound to get a plethora of different answers. That’s usually what happens when people can’t help but be subjective. And sometimes, that’s a real bummer.
Fortunately for us, we don’t have to deal with that sort of nonsense. As long as we’re willing to accept fact-based analysis, there is a way to objectively determine which teams stood above the rest during the 2015 regular season. One just needs to look at the Elo ratings.
Calculating these figures is a tall order. Which is why we’re glad FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine did all the legwork necessary to determine — according to Elo ratings — the best teams in Major League Baseball in 2015.
For those in need of a quick crash course in Elo ratings, Paine has you covered:
How does Elo work for MLB? The basic formula is the same as it is for pro football: Both teams come into a given game with initial ratings (on a scale where league average is 1500) that generate an expected win probability for the matchup, and they leave the game with some of the loser’s rating points re-allocated to the winner. If the game plays out as expected, the transfer of Elo points is small; if it’s a shocking upset, more points are transferred between loser and winner. The ultimate goal is for the Elo ratings to adjust themselves so that when the two teams play again, we’ll have an accurate sense of which is stronger and by how much.
So as we get ready for the start of the 2015 MLB postseason, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the teams that happened to finish the regular season on a high note. Therefore, according to their Elo ratings, here’s a look at the five best Major League teams in 2015.
5. Kansas City Royals
- Elo rating: 1543
Despite finishing the year with the best record in the American League at 95-67, the Kansas City Royals are only the No. 5 ranked team in baseball as far as Elo ratings are concerned. By FiveThirtyEight’s calculations, the AL Central champs concluded the 2015 season with an Elo rating of 1543. And while some may believe the Royals deserve to be higher up on the list, they should take comfort in knowing that the good folks at FiveThirtyEight are giving Kansas City a 27% chance of making it back to the World Series, and a 13% chance of actually taking home the title.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
- Elo rating: 1549
Once again, FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings refuse to show much love to a team with the best record in its league. In fact, at 100-62, the St. Louis Cardinals just finished the regular season with the top record in all of baseball. Still, with an Elo rating of 1549, the Cards will have to settle for the No. 4 position. Of course, given this team’s track record over the last few years, no one would be shocked to see St. Louis win it all again in 2015.
3. Chicago Cubs
- Elo rating: 1553
After closing out the 2015 regular season with a 97-65 record, the Chicago Cubs look to take full advantage of the team’s first postseason appearance since 2008. While the club may be coming into the playoffs as the NL’s second wild-card team, according to FiveThirtyEight, Chicago ended the year with an Elo rating of 1553 — the third best in Major League Baseball. Does this mean the Cubbies will finally put an end to the curse that’s taunted this city since 1908? We have no idea. But it can’t hurt.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
- Elo rating: 1559
The Pittsburgh Pirates may represent the other wild-card team in the National League but, according to their Elo ratings, they finished the year as one of the two best squads in Major League Baseball. Considering Pittsburgh had a 98-64 record — the second best in all of baseball — it’s not surprising that it had a final Elo rating of 1559. If only that would help the Pirates defeat the Cubs in their upcoming one-game playoff.
1. Toronto Blue Jays
- Elo rating: 1572
The Elo ratings have spoken. And it’s not even close.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s numbers, the AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays finished the 2015 MLB regular season as the best team in all of baseball. Not only is this club being given a 19% of winning the whole thing, but even Vegas likes Toronto’s chances. How does all this information affect the playoffs? It doesn’t. Not one bit.
The 2015 MLB regular season is over. The postseason is a whole new ballgame. Batter up!