20 September 2013

Playoff Horizons: Can the Orioles Still See the Second Wild Card?

Another day, another Orioles' playoff column.  In this post, I try to explain how far back two games could be for the Orioles in their current situation, which may provide light as to why the team's playoff odds may seem too low.  One can think of the games back the Orioles are in the playoff hunt as a horizon where as long as the team can see the playoffs they are still capable of reaching it.  Once those playoffs dip below the horizon, then their day is over.  That second playoff Wild Card slot is what we can call the true horizon.  It is the absolute horizon.  You can think of that horizon as the one you experience every day in the real world.  It would be what you are physically capable of seeing based on the spherical nature of the earth.

However, you may notice that you rarely see the true horizon because you may be behind a stand of trees, a tall building, or down in a valley.  Those perspectives block the true horizon and instead your experienced horizon is actually something we call the visible horizon.  Similar to those objects preventing the view of the true horizon, the same can be said about other teams obscuring the Orioles view of the playoffs.  Without respect to the teams littered around the Orioles' current position, it may seem like the team is a mere two games back, but life often cannot be reduced to its most simple components.  I have yet to observe a spherical cow.

With this in mind, being two games back is not being two games, but how do we better appreciate the difficulties the Orioles are currently presented with?  John Dewan tried to better visualize this truth with his statistic Summed Games Back.  Below is the current Wild Card Scenario:

Rk Tm W L GB GBsum
WC 1  TBR 83 69 --- ---
WC 2  TEX 83 69 --- ---
1  CLE 83 70 0.5 0.5
2  BAL 81 71 2.0 2.5
3  KCR 80 72 3.0 5.5
4  NYY 80 73 3.5 9.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

Baltimore looks OK either way here being two and a half games out in the GBsum perspective.  Of course, with only nine games left, that is not a position a team desires to be in, but it is good to still being in the playoff hunt at this point in the season.  The above table also illuminates the difficulties we might expect for the Kansas City Royals or the New York Yankees leap frogging over Baltimore and Cleveland to knock off the Texas Rangers or Tampa Bay Rays.  To that end, it looks like the Royals season is practically over and the Yankees require some form of divine intervention, a Jeter ex machina.

Another way to look at it is to figure out schedule strengths.  To do this I assume that the current winning percentages are a realistic estimation of the talent level of a squad.  I then use those assumptions as givens in Bill James' log5 calculation.  This will provide a base level expectation on how the season may likely end.  With that in mind, the teams now have certain marks they have to reach.

OppPCT Wins ExWins ExGB ExGBs
Texas .453 83 90 -- --
Cleveland .389 83 90 -- --
Tampa .508 83 88 2 2
Kansas City .453 80 86 4 6
Baltimore .538 81 86 4 6
New York .448 80 85 5 15
Based on log5, the Orioles are expected to finish out the season going 5-5.  If Texas and Cleveland perform as log5 projects, then the Orioles need to go 9-1.  That is how influential Texas' footing is as well as Cleveland having the fortune of facing Houston (.333), Chicago (AL; .395), and Minnesota (.428) as opposed to the Orioles set of Red Sox (.604), Rays (.546), and Jays (.461).

No, not all is quite lost at this point, but one probably should not take too much comfort in the concept of mathematical elimination.  The playoffs are very nearly behind that visible horizon leaving us to the dark night of the off season.


Anonymous said...

Great college education but "past performance does not guarantee future results". The Os just need to keep winning (period)

Jon Shepherd said...

I gave no guarantees.

Games played and games to come were simply assessed to give a better appreciation of the road the Orioles have to travel.

As mentioned, this is a work of assumptions. Try not to deal in absolutes.