The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule (more inside).
#2 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 109, [Last Week:] 100): Their pitching staff has been astounding outside of Mark Buehrle. Overall, they boast a 128 ERA+ and while their strikeout to walk ratio is worthy, they're not going to be able to hold opposing batters to just a homerun every 25 flyballs.
Welcome to the Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. A short explanation of our method is probably in order. Basically, the goal is to rank teams based on how they have performed thus far.
However, using something basic like win totals is a bit too simple, as they can be influenced by luck and strength of schedule. On the other hand, if we just looked at a team's Pythagorean record (their expected record based on runs scored and allowed), we'd be discounting the team's actual performance, which isn't fair either. Plus, there's a lot of luck involved in how many runs a team scores and gives up.
So instead, here's our method. We start off with a team's real record; that's simple enough. Then we compute how many BaseRuns each team has scored and allowed. BaseRuns are a run estimation system much like Runs Created, and they take the situational luck out of run scoring. They are a better predictor of how many runs a team will score or allow the rest of the way than actual runs.
Then, we compute each team's expected winning percentage for the rest of the season, based on their BaseRuns totals. (For our more geeky readers: We compute the team's Pythagorean record using a custom Pythagenpat exponent.) We then add the number of wins the team is expected to have the rest of the season to the number of wins it has so far. This gives us a perfect balance of actual and expected performance. As the season progresses, a team's win/loss record becomes more and more important (as it should), and its expected record is given less weight.
Finally, we make one other adjustment, for strength of schedule. Obviously, it's easier to win a lot when you have an easy schedule. So using ESPN's strength of schedule calculations, we subtract the number of extra wins a team is expected to get because of their schedule. For example, if a team has a .490 SOS, they are expected to win (.500 - .490)*162 = 1.62 more games than an average team, so we subtract 1.62 from their "Dartboard Factor." (Another note: Technically, this is not the correct way to make such an adjustment, but it is close enough.)
That leaves us with the final "Dartboard Factor." Essentially, this is the number of wins the team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. It's an easy way to identify not just where teams rank but how good they are (i.e. 90 wins is playoff-caliber, 81 is average, etc). We hope you enjoy this new feature.