Reason for hope? It’s the schedule

Posted on July 16th, 2009 – 9:08 AM
By Howard

(Howard’s Note:  Section 220 regular JimCrikket hasn’t been able to find enough to do during the All-Star break, which is in its fourth and final day. So he did some schedule gazing and found some reason for Twins feels to feel confident, providing … well, you know…)

One way I can tell I’ve been bored lately is that I’ve clicked on some “statistics” links. It’s not that I don’t like statistics or that I don’t believe in statistics. I appreciate them especially those that can be used to support my personal beliefs/opinions.  (Admit it… that’s when you appreciate them, too.)

Anyway, this isn’t about statistics. It’s about odds. (What’s the difference? Odds are fun. Statistics are. ..well… not.)

I was glancing through the site over the weekend and an entry entitled “Playoff Odds Update” caught my attention. “Cool”, thought I, “let’s see what the odds are that the Twins make the playoffs.”

The link from MLBTR was to Baseball Prospectus’s odds page.

I found a lot of numbers there. Numbers tend to give me a headache so I had to go have a beer before I could return to actually check in to what the computers at BP calculated the Twins’ odds of making the playoffs were. Once I did so, I found something puzzling. As we all know, the Twins are in third place in the AL Central Division, behind the Tigers and White Sox.

“Naturally,” thought I, “the Twins will have the third best odds among the divisional rivals at making the playoffs.”

Also naturally, I was wrong. (I’m wrong a lot.)

According to the BP computers, the Tigers’ odds of winning the Central Division are just under 40%. I can buy that. But here’s the surprising (to me) part: the Twins’ odds of winning the Division are ALSO just under 40%. I’m no mathematician (I couldn’t even SPELL mathematician without “spellchecker”), but that didn’t seem to leave many % left for White Sox. Sure enough, their odds are right about 20%. (Sorry KC and Cleveland… that leaves very little % for you.)

“Why would the Twins’ odds be TWICE as high as Chicago’s and virtually the same as Detroit’s?” asked I.

Immediately, I skipped to the bottom of the page to find out how these odds were calculated. There, I read that BP’s calculation was compiled by running a Monte Carlo simulation (Hey, I like the sound of that!)  1,000,000 times! Wow! Anything a computer calculates a million times must be right… right? Then I started reading the next paragraph wherein BP explains how the computer uses EWPs and W3s and L3s and… well… by then I had another headache, requiring another beer.

Coming back to my laptop, I decided I didn’t really need to know how the computer came up with the results, only that in almost 400,000 times out of the million simulations, the Twins won the Central Division (and the WhiteSox managed to do so half as often. HAH! Take that AJ, you bum!)

This is where I took matters in to my own hands. It occurred to me that the only way these results made any sense would be if the schedule heavily favored the Twins over the Sox and, at least somewhat, over the Tigers. So I checked.

Guess what? The schedule heavily favors the Twins over the Sox and, at least somewhat, over the Tigers.

I think it’s pretty well accepted that there are 3-4 truly good teams in the American League. The Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Angels are really the only teams who deserve to be called “truly good.” That must be true because ESPN says so, after all.

Since those are the only good teams in the AL, I checked to see how many games the Twins, Tigers and Sox have left with those teams.

Know how many the Twins have left with them? Six. Three home and three on the road with the Angels (and quite possibly all coming before Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero return to full strength). No more Evil Empire. No more Red Sox Nation. No more Jason Bartlett’s revenge.

The Tigers, however have 17 games remaining with those four opponents. 17 is more than 6. Not only that, but 13 of those 17 games are on the road. They have 3 games at Yankee Stadium, 4 at Fenway, 4 at the “big A” and three in the only indoor stadium worse than the Metrodome. They also host the Rays for a 4-game series.

Then I checked the Chicago schedule. Now, I’m a 53-year-old man. I don’t giggle much. But when I checked their schedule, I came pretty darn close to giggling.

AJ and friends have 25 games with those four “good” teams. That is literally over 1/3 of their remaining games (I think… someone check my math… my head hurts again). True, 15 of those games are at home and “only” 10 on the road, but any schedule with 8 games vs Boston, 7 vs NY, 6 vs the LAAA and 4 vs the Rays is downright giggle inducing.

So, I decided to figure out what I think each of the three AL Central rivals final records will be, based on their current records and their remaining schedules. (Did I mention I’ve been bored, lately?)

As much as I’d like to say my calculations convincingly conclude that the Twins will win the Division, alas, I did not project them to catch the Tigers. (This is as good a place as any to insert the obligatory plea to Bill Smith to improve this ball club before the trade deadline.) I admit I was less than generous with my evaluation of the Twins’ chances of winning many of the seven games they have remaining scheduled in hell (aka Texas).

Anyway, I projected the Tigers to end up winning 90 games, the Twins 85 and the Sox 82 (and frankly I think I was being generous to them).

So what does this all mean? Not much. (Hey, if you’re searching for “meaning” in a blog, you’ve got bigger issues than being concerned about how the Twins play.)

But I’m going to say it means the Twins are not out of the Division race yet. Of course, it would help if the Twins added a key piece of the puzzle or two soon.

Bill Smith, your phone is ringing.

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