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September 17, 2014 6:00 am

What You Need to Know: September 17, 2014


Chris Mosch

The Beltway teams clinch, more action from yesterday, and tonight's premium pitching matchups.

The Tuesday Takeaway

With the Nationals sporting an 11 1/2–game lead over the Braves in the NL East and the Orioles running away with the AL East, 12 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays entering Tuesday, it was inevitable that the two Beltway clubs would be playing when the calendar flips to October. For the nation’s capital, Tuesday night was as exhilarating as it gets, as the two clubs officially punched their playoff ticket on the same night with wins over their division foes.

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We likely already know who is going to make the playoffs. Is there still reason to watch?

This will be painful for some of you, but cast your mind back, if you can, to the baseball standings as they looked a year ago today. Behold: a wondrous world where the White Sox are in first place, the Giants are 16 games over .500, the Nationals are the best team in baseball, and the Orioles are a half-game up on the Rays for the second AL Wild Card spot (like that will last). The names of some of the teams at the top look strange, in light of what’s transpired this season, but I spy something even stranger: pennant races. Pennant races, as far as the eye can see.

On the morning of August 30, 2012, five of the six divisions had separations of five games or fewer between first and second place. Only in the NL Central, where the Reds had an eight-game lead over St. Louis and a nine-game cushion over the collapsing Pirates, was the division title all but awarded. According to our Playoff Odds Report for that day, there were four teams with playoff percentages of over 95 percent: the Reds, the Nats, the Rangers, and the Yankees. But there were a few tiers of lesser, but still strong contenders below that: the Braves and White Sox (oops) over 80 percent; the Cardinals, at just over 60 percent; the Tigers, Rays, and A’s between 50 and 60; the Angels, Pirates, and Dodgers clustered right around 30. And the odds weren’t buying the run differential-defying Orioles, whom PECOTA gave a 20 percent chance to claim the Wild Card they eventually won. In other words, there was an awful lot still at stake.

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August 9, 2013 6:27 am

What You Need to Know: Running Out of Races


Daniel Rathman

Some slim division leads have become more sizeable lately.

The Thursday Takeaway
Fans rooting for maximum entropy in September have suffered blow after blow over the past few weeks, particularly in the National League. The teams currently in first place have won, won, and won some more; those that are now giving chase have suffered setback after setback, leaving them with more ground to gain and less time to do it.

The blows kept raining down on Thursday afternoon—when the Pirates edged the Marlins 5-4—and evening, when the Dodgers downed the Cardinals 5-1.

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