Rob Neyer has this to say about the NL Wild Card as we head into September:
Speaking of the wild card, there are really only five teams seriously involved in the conversation, which seems to happen most years and makes me skeptical when “people” say the wild card results in a big attendance boost. In the American League, only the Red Sox and the Rangers are serious contenders. In the National, it’s the Giants and the Rockies and the Marlins (and the Marlins have to be considered a fringe candidate, as they’ve actually been outscored this season).
The fact that he mentions us and forgoes the Atlanta Braves, who for all intents and purposes appear to be the better team (we’ll get to test that in the next three days), is a bit off, but it’s otherwise absolutely true. As much as I’d hate to admit it, the Marlins chances of making the playoffs are slim. Currently, the Marlins stand 3.5 games back of the Wild Card lead, shared by the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies. We’re tied for third place with the Braves. That means there are three teams, not including potential clubs behind us, that we need to pass in the next month in order to make the playoffs.
Right now, the Marlins stand at 68-62. At the same time (game-wise) in 2003, the Marlins were 70-60, half a game back of the Wild Card leading Philadelphia Phillies. From then on that season, the Marlins strung together an amazing stretch, running off a 21-11 record en route to the Wild Card berth and eventually the World Series. At this stage in the game, I would say the Marlins are likely to need that sort of push to win the Wild Card as well.
As an interesting exercise, I wanted to calculate the odds the Marlins had of going 21-11 to end this season. For this, I’m using Beyond the Boxscore’s Power Rankings (provided by JinAZ, thanks Justin!), which takes the component batting, fielding, baserunning, and pitching runs above average and tacks them onto an average team, then uses Pythagenpat expectation to determine an expected win%. I’ll use the eW%lg value as the true talent level of the team as we know it; I know it isn’t likely to be true and this adds its own errors into my little calculation, but it’s probably a decent approximation and won’t be so far off as to severely hurt the calculation.
Taking the Marlins’ recorded .506 eW%lg, I calculated the eW%lg of the combined total of the remaining opponents. The total came out to .480 winning percentage, which translates to a .514-.487 head to head win% edge for the Marlins. I then calculated the odds the team could put together at least a 21-11 run, and it came out to a whopping 4.8% chance. Keep in mind that a 21-10 finish would leave the team at 89-73.
Of course, to figure out the club’s playoff odds, I’d have to take on a separate calculation to see the chances the other three teams would land below us in the standings even after this run. In order for this total to win the Wild Card, excluding the other teams behind us, the Rockies and Giants would both have to finish 16-15 at most, while the Braves would have to end at most 20-12.
Running through the numbers in a similar fashion gives you a 93% chance the Braves will fall short (slightly lower than our chances), a 53.4% chance the Giants won’t make it (though it seems they are massively outproducing their component expectation, at least according to Justin’s calculations), and the Rockies have a significantly smaller 23.5% chance that they won’t play .500 baseball. As a result, putting all those probabilities together gives the Marlins a 0.56% chance at making the playoffs.
That figure is pathetically small. But it’s a chance, and I suppose a chance is better than nothing, right?
(Note: As I complete this analysis, two things occurred. One, I noticed I made a calculation error regarding the percentages on the Marlins and Braves, but due to the difficulty in writing up the sheet for this work, I’d rather not attempt it at this time. You can knock it up slightly, but it still wouldn’t be more than 1%. Also, the Marlins just lost 5-2 versus the Braves, meaning now the Marlins have to make a 21-10 run for the playoffs, presuming 89 wins is the cutoff. We’re going to need some SERIOUS 2003 magic, and then some.)