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    MLB Playoff Chase (09/04/13)

    John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
    By John Ewing
    With the MLB playoffs a month away, we take a look at the baseball playoff chase. Avoiding the one-game Wild Card is key for every team’s chances of winning the World Series. We look at the AL East, AL West and NL Central.  


     
    Avoiding the one-game playoff is key for a team’s chances of winning the World Series. Below we look at three division races, AL East, AL West, and NL Central, and see what winning the division does to a team’s odds of winning it all.
     
    How this works: We simulated the MLB playoffs based on current standings 50,000 times. If the baseball playoffs started today the most likely World Series would include the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are our most likely World Series Champions winning it all 19.1% of the time.
     
    To determine how a team’s odds changed from winning the Wild Card to winning the division we adjusted the seeding for each team accordingly and re-simulated the playoffs.
     
    Tampa Bay Rays
    Season: .555 Win Percentage, 76 wins – 61 losses, 5.5 games back of first
     
    Why they will be in the Wild Card: Rays have 25 games remaining, 15 of them are on the road where the Rays are 32-35.
     
    Why they will win the AL East: The Rays’ last series against the Red Sox is the friendly confines of Tropicana Field where Tampa Bay is 48-28 on turf this season.
     
    Projected odds as Wild Card: 48.9% to win Wild Card (host), 5.5% to win World Series
    Projected odds as AL East Champion: 9.2% to win World Series

     
    Oakland Athletics
    Season: .572 Win Percentage, 79 wins – 59 losses, 1 game back of first
     
    Why they will be in the Wild Card: Regression to the mean in tight games. Oakland is 26-17 in one-run games and a division best 7-5 in extra inning games (Texas is 3-7). 
     
    Why they will win the AL West: 20 of their 24 remaining games are against teams that are at least 10 games below .500.
     
    Projected odds as Wild Card: 51.7% to win Wild Card (host), 3.9% to win World Series
    Projected odds as AL West Champion: 8.8% to win World Series

     
    NL Central



    Pittsburgh Pirates
    Season: .587 Win Percentage, 81 wins – 57 losses, leading division by 2 game
     
    Why they will be in the Wild Card: The Pirates have had 20 consecutive losing seasons. The Buccos have managed to implode and miss the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
     
    Why they will win the NL Central: Defense wins championships. The Pirates convert more balls in plays into outs than the Reds, Cardinals and nearly every other team. 
     
    Projected odds as Wild Card: 53.0% to win Wild Card (host), 5.0% to win World Series
    Projected odds as NL Central Champion: 10.0% to win World Series

     
    St. Louis Cardinals
    Season: .572 Win Percentage, 79 wins – 59 losses, 2 game back of first
     
    Why they will be in the Wild Card: Fatigue. The Cardinals are in the midst of 17 consecutive games against the Braves, Pirates and Reds. That is one short of how many games it took St. Louis to win the World Series in the 2011 playoffs. St. Louis has already lost the division lead in this tough stretch. 
     
    Why they will win the NL Central: The Cardinals are clutch, as a team the Cards have a league-best .327/.404/.461 line with runners in scoring position. The team with the second best average, Detroit, only bats .284 with runners in scoring position.
     
    Projected odds as Wild Card: 54.6% to win Wild Card (host), 6.1% to win World Series
    Projected odds as NL Central Champion: 9.3% to win World Series

     
    Cincinnati Reds
    Season: .561 Win Percentage, 78 wins – 61 losses, 3.5 games back of first
     
    Why they will be in the Wild Card: Cincinnati has 10 games remaining against teams who are currently projected to make the playoffs.
     
    Why they will win the NL Central: 8 of the 10 games against playoff teams are at home where the Reds are 42-23 on the season.
     
    Projected odds as Wild Card: 45.8% to win Wild Card (host), 5.5% to win World Series
    Projected odds as NL Central Champion: 7.5% to win the World Series

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