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October 2, 2010

Between The Numbers

How the West Will Be Won

by Colin Wyers

Heading into the last day of the season there are still two meaningful games to be played: Phillies at Braves and Padres at Giants. Let's break down the various scenarios that are possible.

I took each team's third-order wins (not updated through today, although I don't expect that to make a significant difference), made a crude adjustment to account for home field advantage, and ran everyone through the log5 method to come up with expected win percentages for each game. A little cross multiplication and voila, odds. Without further ado, the likelihood of various outcomes:

Braves win, Giants win - 30%
The single most likely outcome leaves the Padres out in the cold, with the Giants and the Braves advancing to the playoffs. There's very little enjoyment to be had here, unless you happen to be rooting for the Giants or the Braves.
Braves lose, Padres win - 20%
The single least likely outcome means a tie, but one without any real entertainment value. Both teams—the Padres and Giants—advance to the playoffs, with the Padres winning the division on account of head-to-head record. Again, this is a real snoozer unless you happen to root for the Padres or the Giants
Braves lose, Giants win - 25%
This is where things start to get fun. In this scenario, the Giants win the division, but the Padres and Braves remain tied for the wild card, leading to a one game playoff. One game playoffs are the best thing ever. Except for...
Braves win, Padres win - 25%
This. This is what we're hoping for. A three-way tie for two playoff spots. It is something of a long shot (although it's not really any less likely than the other scenarios.) But it is so spectacularly enticing that I want to believe it's inevitable. As Joe Posnanski notes, this could be utterly crazy. Did I mention I really want this to happen?
The biggest spanner in the works for these odds is the Phillies, who don't need to win a game to advance to the playoffs. They'll probably make a show of being competitive, but their hearts won't be in it the same way the other three teams are. The Giants may be slightly less motivated than the other two teams, as there is no scenario that leads to their elimination tomorrow night, but that's not likely to be a major factor.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Reintroducing PECOTA: ... (10/01)
<< Previous Column
Between The Numbers: F... (09/09)
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Between The Numbers: E... (10/04)
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The Week in Quotes: Se... (10/04)

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