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July 19, 2010

Playoff Odds Update

Biggest Gainers and Losers

by John Perrotto

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The Chicago White Sox were in third place in the American League Central, just one game behind the co-leading Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins following the games of the weekend of July 4. Yet Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report gave the White Sox just an 18.4 percent chance of reaching the postseason.

Two week later, the Playoffs Odds Report gives the White Sox an almost 50/50 shot at playing in October, rating their chances at 47.4 percent as they are now in first place in the AL Central, leading the Tigers and Twins by 1½ games. They have put up a torrid run, as they were 24-33 and 9½ games out following games of June 8, and since then have gone 26-8, ending speculation that either general manager Ken Williams or manager Ozzie Guillen would be fired.

No other club's postseason hopes have gotten a bigger boost over the past two weeks than those of the White Sox. Here is the look at the top five gainers during that span based on Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report:

Odds on 7/4
Odds on 7/18
Net Gain
White Sox 18.4% 47.3% 28.9%
Rays 57.8% 72.4% 14.8%
Giants 6.3% 20.3% 14.0%
Yankees 73.0% 85.5% 12.8%
Rockies 38.5% 46.5% 8.3%

Despite giving up four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday and losing 7-6 to the Twins, the White Sox are 8-3 over the past two weeks. Carlos Quentin hit .391/.483/1.217 with six home runs in 29 plate appearances during that stretch, and Gordon Beckham finally started to emerge from his sophomore swoon by batting .423/.444/.769. John Danks (2-0, 3.60 ERA), Gavin Floyd (2-1, 1.37), and Mark Buehrle (2-1, 2.45) all notched two wins, as did reliever Tony Pena (2-0, 2.25).

Evan Longoria led the way by hitting .371/.511/.657 and Jeff Niemann was 2-0 with a 3.63 ERA in three starts as the Tampa Bay Rays went 7-3. The San Francisco Giants had the best record in baseball, going 9-2 as catcher Buster Posey hit .488/.521/1.023 with six homers in 48 PAs, Aubrey Huff batted .378/.489/.649, and Andres Torres posted a .278/.350/.722 line with five home runs in 40 trips to the plate. Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner won both their starts, posting outstanding 0.56 and 0.64 ERAs, respectively.

CC Sabathia was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts, Javier Vazquez was 1-0, 0.64 in two starts and Mark Teixeira hit .385/.457/.872 with five homers in 46 plate appearances as the New York Yankees went 8-2. The Colorado Rockies went 5-3 as Carlos Gonzalez hit .436/.488/.744 and Huston Street had three saves in five relief appearances.

Meanwhile, the five biggest losers in the Playoff Odds Report over the past two weeks:

Odds on 7/18
Odds on 7/4
Net Loss
Red Sox 36.1% 60.0% 23.9%
Mets 21.1% 40.3% 19.2%
Twins 33.0% 50.4% 17.4%
Dodgers 18.8% 32.6% 13.8%
Tigers 22.1% 33.9% 11.8%

The Boston Red Sox sorely missed injured catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek as Kevin Cash hit .091/.231/.091 with seven strikeouts in 26 plate appearances during a 3-7 skid that dropped the Red Sox six games behind the Yankees and 3½ in back of the Rays in the AL East. Tim Wakefield's knuckleball didn't knuckle very much as he went 0-2 with a 14.09 ERA in two starts.

The New York Mets' 3-7 swoon was a group effort as right fielder Jeff Francoeur (.115/.148/.192), infielders Alex Cora (.161/.188/.194) and Ruben Tejada (.167/.310/.167) and right-hander Mike Pelfrey (0-2, 11.42) all played a big role. The Twins broke even at 5-5, but starters Nick Blackburn (0-2, 9.58) and Francisco Liriano (1-1, 8.68) hurt their odds.

Matt Kemp's disappointing season continued and dragged down the Dodgers during a 4-7 spell as he hit .205/.229/.386 with 12 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances. The Tigers went 5-5 but were swept in a four-game series by the Cleveland Indians, the AL Central cellar dwellers, over the weekend.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

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

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