dweeby baseball fun

For some of us (including me), there is a particular pleasure near the end of the baseball season watching the magic numbers and wild card races and so on. (It’s much easier, of course, when your team has clinched the division and is likely to have the best record in either league.) The fun, also of course, lies in all the math, so that something like this:

NL Central	W	L	PCT	GB	HOME	ROAD	RS	RA	DIFF	STRK	L10	POFF
St. Louis	90	64	.584	-	48-27	42-37	745	582	+163	Won 1	6-4	99.9
Cincinnati	88	66	.571	2	48-26	40-40	674	559	+115	Won 4	6-4	99.6
Pittsburgh	88	66	.571	2	49-30	39-36	599	551	+48	Lost 1	5-5	99.0
Milwaukee	68	85	.444	21.5	36-43	32-42	607	664	-57	Lost 2	6-4	0.0
Chicago Cubs	64	90	.416	26	29-47	35-43	588	654	-66	Lost 1	2-8	0.0

is very intriguing. (These are the NL Central standings as of the morning of 9/21/13.*)

First of all, this is the perfect explanation of why it’s good to have two wildcard teams. Now, in ye olden days (i.e., 2011), if the Reds and the Pirates had ended up tied for the season, they would have had their one-game playoff, and that would have been fine, but, given the current state of affairs, what if they have slightly different records? Then, look at the whole league (again, as of this morning):

NL - combined	W	L	PCT	GB	HOME	ROAD	RS	RA	DIFF	STRK	L10	POFF
Atlanta		91	62	.595	-	52-22	39-40	655	521	+134	Won 2	5-5	99.9
St. Louis	90	64	.584	1.5	48-27	42-37	745	582	+163	Won 1	6-4	99.9
x-LA Dodgers	88	66	.571	3.5	46-32	42-34	624	569	+55	Lost 1	3-7	100.0
Cincinnati	88	66	.571	3.5	48-26	40-40	674	559	+115	Won 4	6-4	99.6
Pittsburgh	88	66	.571	3.5	49-30	39-36	599	551	+48	Lost 1	5-5	99.0
Washington	83	71	.539	8.5	46-33	37-38	633	601	+32	Won 2	8-2	1.4

(BTW, all these layouts are from ESPN, mostly because those are the easiest to mess with and then post. I wish I could claim it was because Nate Silver‘s going to have his new site there, but, alas, no.)

I am only including teams whose POFF (percent chance of making the playoffs) is above 0%. Now, let’s assume that the Nationals don’t do anything miraculous, so we have the top five teams in the league. Now, what if the Dodgers lose the rest of their games while both the Pirates and the Reds have some wins. We could easily end up with something like:

NL - combined	W	L	
Atlanta		97	65	
St. Louis	95	67
Cincinnati	93	69
Pittsburgh	92	70
x-LA Dodgers    88      74
Washington	88	74

And here’s the point: that little X next to the Dodgers is because they’ve clinched their division. That means, as we all know, that they’re in the playoffs, period, regardless of what happens with them or anyone else for the rest of the season. This means, that, in this scenario, which — aside from the Dodgers’ final record — is entirely plausible, then, with the old system, the Pirates aren’t in the playoffs. And, just to say it explicitly, if they had been in the same division as the Dodgers, they’d have been up by four games. So, in spite of my quasi-political grousing that the second wildcard is just an excuse to extend the playoffs, sell more tickets, and televise more games, I’m happy that it will give the Reds and the Pirates a chance.

Second, this is extra fun (for my version of fun) because the two wildcards are very likely to be in the same division (see also the sad 1.4% likelihood of the Nationals making the playoffs). Partly this is nice because it does something to rectify the famous situation where some good teams are punished for splitting their games and a weaker team ends up with a better record. However, I really just like it because it could lead to my ideal scenario, in which there’s a three-way tie for NL central. Then I get to read the explanations of why, say, the Cardinals are still considered the divisional winners for playoff seeding.

Finally, speaking of the Nationals, their logo calls the wrong kind of attention to itself. It’s almost like something from Idiocracy.

*9/21/13 as an equation is 9 = (2+1)*1*3

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