14 August 2014

Orioles in the Catbird Seat

As we are wont to say, the Orioles are in the catbird seat as they open up that Thursday in first place by seven and a half games.  You may recall that I have a simple rule in declaring a team out of the running for a position.  It is not based on anything other than anecdote, faulty memory, and gut.  Here is the formula for a team still being in the race:
Games Back <= Weeks Left + 3
What that equation declares is that it is highly unlikely for any club to be able to overcome a lead greater than that.  To put it in more concrete terms, here is what it would mean for this season:
8/11 10 GB
8/18  9 GB
8/25  8 GB
9/1    7 GB
9/8    6 GB
9/15  5 GB
9/22  4 GB
With that in mind, the safe assumption is if the Orioles can keep their current lead for the next two and a half weeks, then we can all retire our anxieties until the post-season.  Or, maybe even this week we could find comfort if the Orioles continue to win and the Yankees and Blue Jays continue to fall behind.

Of course, this makes me think about past years and whether any club enjoying a hearty 7.5 game lead, give or take a game, in mid-August wound up being relieved of first place.  Below are similar instances over the past ten years:
Dodgers up 7.5 games over Diamondbacks, wound up 11 games up.
Reds up 7 games over both the Cardinals and Pirates, wound up 9 and 18 games up, respectively.
Phillies up 8.5 games over Braves, wound up 13 games up
Rangers up 8.5 games over Angels, wound up 10 games up
Yankees up 7.5 games over Red Sox, wound up 8 games up
Tigers up 6.5 games over White Sox, wound up 5 games up
Braves up 8 games over Marlins and Phillies, wound up 13 and 10 games up, respectively
Dodgers up 6.5 games over Padres and Giants, wound up 6 and 2 games up, respectively.
Above are eight races and three of them were three team races.  In all cases, the team with a lead similar to the Orioles' current lead held on to win their division with only two races narrowing.  If the Orioles somehow do not hold on, then it will be relatively unique as far as I can tell.  This is largely in part to a team having to be pretty dominant to be able to produce a lead this great.

We can also compare all of this to ongoing models.  The two most prominent ones in use in the general public are Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report and the Fangraphs' Cool Standings.  Baseball Prospectus has the current Division crown chances as follows:
Orioles 92%
Blue Jays 4%
Yankees 3%
Rays 2%
Red Sox 0%
Fangraphs has it as:
Orioles 89%
Blue Jays 5%
Yankees 4%
Rays 2%
Red Sox 0%
So those are the three ways we can look at the Orioles' current position.  You can go by a napkin scratch, look at history, or use historical comparisons of players to construct team projections. However you do it, the Orioles look like they are going to enjoy baseball in crisp Baltimore weather in October.

Fan up.


Unknown said...

There's some arbitrariness here, because there are examples of teams with this large a lead later in the season not making the postseason. The 2007 Mets led by seven games on August 25 but were overtaken by the Phillies. Whether it's more of a feat to build a 7-game lead by August 15 or to overcome a 7-game deficit after August 25, I don't know.

Unknown said...

I do want to explicitly state that I agree with the premise of this article; that the Orioles are very likely to make the playoffs. 90% seems to be about right.

Jon Shepherd said...

Sure...the data set used here is limited for that one tool. Exceptional things certainly happen.

Unknown said...

Very encouraged by the O's recently, especially after the series against NYY and Toronto. Attending the 2012 playoff games in Baltimore are some of my fondest memories as an O's fan. Excited about the very real possibility of doing it again this year. I think they have a real shot to compete in the post-season as well. They've shown they can hold their own in a series against basically anyone. Not that they would be the favorite by any means, but it's certainly possible they could make a decent run.

Musicturtle said...

The Orioles have been one of the most consistent teams in MLB since June 1st. They would have to really go into the tank to lose this lead. Just don't see it happening.

Nice to be in the catbird seat again.