Red Sox have a better than 99.99999999999% chance of making the playoffs

For the Red Sox to not at least tie for a playoff spot, a lot of things would have to go exactly right (or wrong, depending on your perspective) at this point.  3 teams would have to overtake Boston to knock the Red Sox out of both the division title and both wild card spots.  As it turns out, only 3 teams in the American League that can still overtake the Red Sox in the race for the 3 playoff spots available to the Red Sox:  the Rays, the Indians, and the Rangers.  Since Baltimore can only tie at this point by winning all their remaining games, and since doing so would knock the Rays out of contention by giving the Rays at least 4 losses when they can only afford 3 to catch the Red Sox, the only scenario that can work is the Rays beating Baltimore.

Because Cleveland has 69 losses against Boston’s 92 wins, they must win all their 12 remaining games, and the Red Sox must lose all their 11 remaining games, for Cleveland to overtake them.

Tampa Bay, with 67 losses, can afford to lose no more than 2 games and still overtake the Sox; Texas, with 68 losses, can afford to lose no more than 1 game.  These teams are scheduled to play 3 more games against each other, however, so between them they must lose at least 3 more games.  Therefore, for both to overtake the Sox, the Rangers must beat the Rays 2 games out of 3, and both teams must win all their other remaining games (10 each).

So between the 4 teams, Boston, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Texas, 43 scheduled games must go a certain way, while the other 3 have a little more flexibility, with 3 of the 8 possible outcomes working to bump out the Red Sox.

If we assume each game has a 50-50 chance of going to one team or the other, that makes (3/8)*(1/2 to the 43rd power) as the chances of this happening: that’s less than one in 23 trillion.

However, the chances of the Red Sox losing any one of their games has to be less than 50% right now, and with Texas scuffling through a 7-game losing streak right now, I’d say the odds are even slimmer.

Yeah, it’s not yet a mathematical gaurantee, but come on, do you really need better odds than that?


Red Sox fans: enjoy what may be the peak point of optimism in this season

Red Sox fans are probably feeling pretty darn optimistic right now, and rightfully so.

The Red Sox have won 13 of their last 16.  They’ve grown their division lead to 8 1/2 games, with only 16 games to go.

Their two mid-season rally-killing strikeout artists, Napoli and Saltalamacchia, have stopped striking out, have started making contact, and in Napoli’s case, have started mashing the ball.  Middlebrooks’ lost swing has been found again, and is better than ever.  Their backup infielders are performing about as good as, and in some ways possibly better than, their very good starters.

They’re assured that Ellsbury will be back in time for the playoffs.

And there is enough of a lead in the playoff race and enough off days in the schedule that the starters should be able to get ample rest before the playoffs arrive, and start the postseason sharp and fresh.

Lester is Lester again.  Lackey is Lackey again.  They have three other starting pitchers who have been very good for most of the year, and are now getting rest as needed to assure they stay very good into the postseason.

Their closer Koji Uehara is unreal – with his last 28+ innings scoreless, and his last 31 consecutive batters faced retired, a team-record-matching feat.  He just seems to keep getting better, but then how can you do any better than GETTING EVERYBODY OUT?

They’re beating the best teams in dramatic ways, starting with a defeat of this year’s certain Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who was aiming to tie the record for the most wins with only one loss at 20, thowing John Lester in his path and winning with a 2-1 score, giving Scherzer only his second loss of the season.  Follow that with a record-breaking 20-4 outburst with seven different Red Sox players hitting home runs.  Follow that with a thrilling comeback win against Mariano Rivera with an inning that brought to mind that most pivotal moment in the last 9 decades of Red Sox history, the stolen base heard ’round the world in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against this very same closer.  And two more thrilling wins to follow that left the Red Sox offense looking like an unstoppable force, scoring 54 runs over 4 games.

And now after Tuesday’s game against the Rays, everyone’s favorite remaining question mark has been answered – Clay is still Clay.  That’s saying a lot.  Clay Buchholz is a guy who was the game’s best starting pitcher through the first 2+ months of the season, with a 1.71 ERA and a 9-0 record in 12 starts, on the best run of his career, a career peppered with some very good runs.  Was his spectacular start to the season just that, another “hot streak”, or has Clay matured into the kind of player who can produce at an elite level consistently?  Did the 3 months off throw him off whatever sweet spot he was in in terms of feel for his pitches and precise mechanics?  We his not-so-elite results in his minor league rehab starts an indication that he hadn’t refound whatever made him so dominant before?

Fans watching Buchholz’ start this Tuesday saw a guy that earned a win against long odds considering the circumstances.  With a pitch limit of 75 to 80 pitches, things would have to go very well for him to complete the number of innings (5) required for a starter to earn the win.  Also, he was facing last year’s Cy Young Award winner David Price in a game with big playoff consequences, a pitcher who, it turns out, brought his best game.  But the Red Sox just happened to string together a few good at bats against him in the fifth, just in time to put Buchholz ahead before exiting the game.  And Buchholz, with some help from his catcher Saltalamacchia gunning down two stolen base attempts to shorten his time on the mound and allow him to go deeper into the game, managed to get through 5 innings in 74 pitches and exit with a 2-0 lead which the bullpen made stand.

Shutting out a playoff-quality team, earning a difficult win, hearing the catcher say how all his pitches were working, and actually lowering his already miniscule season ERA, Buchholz exceeded expectations and hopes for this start and gave Red Sox fans something to be thrilled about.  A lot of people have probably stopped worrying about what Buchholz will do in his remaining starts.  But should they?

We all know that pitchers can look great in one start but poor in the next.  A different lineup, a different city, different weather, and suddenly everything that was going right could start going wrong.  We don’t know yet that Buchholz can keep giving the Red Sox what he gave them Tuesday or what he gave them in the rest of the season.  Things could go downhill …

Also, while everyone seems to be hot at the same time, “being hot” doesn’t always last.  Is it the time of year and anticipation of a playoff spot that has them playing at this level now?  Or is it just good timing?

What if the injury bug bites over the remaining 2 and a half weeks of the season?

Things rarely stay as good for a team as they have been going for the Red Sox these last few weeks.  While there’s plenty of reason to believe the Red Sox can keep producing as they have been, there’s also plenty of ways things can get derailed a bit, if only because of “regression to the mean” – return to a more normal level of “good” after the statistical anomaly that is a hot streak.  And if that happens, the optimism of the Red Sox fan could wane a bit.

So enjoy this moment Sox fans.  Enjoy it to its utmost!  It may be the high point of your optimism for the season.

This is exciting

Man, is this exciting!
This past Sunday morning, the Rockies chances of taking the division were almost nil. If you take the chance of any game going one way or the other to be 50-50, then they were one in 2048.

Now, today, they’re just one in 4.

But it gets better! Today the Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals both lost. The Phillies had the upper hand over the Rockies in the race for the best record in the NL. They were tied, but a tie would go to the Phillies for home field advatage in the playoffs, because the Phillies won more games against the Rockies. Now, if the Rockies win the division the only way they can, by winning the next two games, then they’ll have a better record than the Phillies no matter what.

In fact, they’ll have the best record in the entire National League. They’ve never even had the best record in their division before!

So it’s all in the Rockies’ hands now. Nothing that happens in any other games can determine where they’ll land in the playoffs. Either they win the division and play the Cardinals with home field advantage in that and the next round, or lose the division and play the Phillies without home field advantage in any round.

Then again, lately the Rockies don’t seem to need that home field advantage. Somehow, in this year and in 2007, when the odds are getting to just about, but not quite impossible, impossible is what they do. Somehow, it seems as though they are destined to win tonight and make it a one-game playoff for the division.

But I mustn’t get too confident about that. *They* mustn’t get too confident about that, and they must play it like it’s a playoff game. Because really, isn’t it?

Rockies division hopes now in their own hands

On Saturday night, the Dodgers reduced their magic number to clinch the division to 1, with 7 games to go for both themselves and the one team that could catch them, the Rockies.

With the Dodgers’ loss last night, their fourth in a row, they gave the Rockies a gift … the Rockies’ division pennant fate is in their own hands. Because all 3 of the Dodgers’ remaining games are against the Rockies. And the Rockies, having won all three games they’ve played since Saturday, have kept that magic number at 1.

The Rockies are lucky to be playing the Dodgers this weekend. Think about this: if they weren’t, then 7 games would have to go the Rockies’ way for them to take the pennant. But because of the schedule, because they’ll be playing the very team they’re trying to catch, only 4 games have to go their way. That’s like the difference between a 1 in 128 chance versus a 1 in 16 chance. One in sixteen are much better odds, 8 times more likely to happen. Plus, I’m sure it’s relieving for the players to not have their fate determined by goings on elsewhere in other parks, needing a team that is out of the playoffs to win 3 straight.

What’s more, two days ago their hold on the wild card was looking very much in doubt, with a white-hot Braves team only 2 games back with 6 games to play. Now they’re four back with four to play, and the magic number in that race has gone from 5 to 1. The Rockies, in their last home game this afternoon at 1:10 pm, have a chance to clinch their playoff spot at home. Last chance, and it took a remarkable week to get to this spot. I hope for their sake, and for their fans’ sake, that they get it.

I was at last night’s game. This is fun.

Red Sox could catch the Yankees by this time next week

Improbable, but not that improbable.

The Red Sox play four in Kansas City. The Yankees play 3 in Anaheim. There couldn’t be much more difference in the strength these opponents. If the Red Sox seep KC, and the Yankees lose 2 to the Angels, that moves the Red Sox to 2 and a half games behind the Yankees. Then a sweep of the Yankees in New York next weekend would put the Red Sox on top.

That last part, of course, is the rather improbably part. Still, even coming a little short of that, the Red Sox could end the week withing striking distance of the division title, with one week to go in the season.

Rockies could still get the division

The Colorado Rockies still have a chance to get home field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Chances are slim, though. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Rockies each play 9 games before their 3-game series against each other to finish the season. The Rockies will have to gain at least 3 games on the Dodgers over the next 9 games to have a chance to overtake them for the division by sweeping them in the final 3 games. The good news for the Rockies is that those 9 games will be at home for the Rockies, and they’ll be on the road for the Dodgers.
The bad news is that the Dodgers play 7 of those 9 games against the two worst teams in the league, and the other two against San Diego, one of the worst of the rest. The Rockies, on the other hand, have a series next weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals. By then, however, the Cardinals will likely have clinched their playoff spot, so hopefully won’t play with quite their full fervor.

What would a six-game gain on the Dodgers look like? Perhaps the Rockies go 7-2 while the Dodgers go 4-5, then a sweep of the Dodgers; or, the Rockies go 8-1, the Dodgers 3-6, then the Rockies take 2 of 3 in LA.

Not likely, but possible. And if they do this, they will likely also surpass the other division leaders and end up with the best record in the whole league, thus having home field advantage through the playoffs.

Lugo the loser

Julio Lugo rejoined the Red Sox at the start of their current road trip, which they started with a 10-game winning streak. The Red Sox are 1 and 4 in games Lugo has played on this road trip, and are 3 and 0 in games in which Lugo hasn’t played.

Not to say it’s all his fault, but …

You know how with some players, it seems they’re always doing something to help you win? With Lugo it seems he’s always doing something to help you lose. And by something, I mean critical fielding errors.