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If the Season Ended Yesterday: Phillies Still Tops


The playoff contenders have settled into four distinct tiers. On top, alone, we find the Philadelphia Phillies. One rung down we find the Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox. Occupying the penultimate position are the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers. Finally, the Braves and Diamondbacks constitute the foundation for this lopsided pyramid. So says our Log5 postseason simulator based on numbers from Baseball Prospectus.

Moreover, there's an insurgency brewing just below the surface. The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals are making a late run for their respective leagues' wild card berths with some help from the tumbling Red Sox and the bumbling Braves.

And might it actually make sense for the Yankees to take a dive against the Rays? Read the rest of the story after the jump.

Probability of Postseason Series Victory 9/19/2011

Team Seed Talent

NYY 1 0.626
51.7% 29.3% 17.7%
DET 2 0.581
44.1% 17.6% 8.9%
TEX 3 0.625
48.3% 26.7% 16.1%
BOS WC 0.619
55.9% 26.4% 15.6%

PHI 1 0.615
69.6% 47.3% 24.1%
MIL 2 0.549
56.7% 23.7% 8.7%
ARI 3 0.515
30.4% 13.7% 4.1%
ATL WC 0.521
43.3% 15.3% 4.8%

AL 58.4%

NL 41.6%

Figures of Note:

  • Thanks to Texas' improving peripherals and the Yankees' recent mediocrity, last year's ALCS rivals join the Red Sox in a dead heat for 2nd place in our postseason projections, all checking in at around 5:1 to win it all.
  • Should the Rays supplant the BoSox, they project ~20% to win the ALCS and 10% to win the World Series.
  • In this scenario, the picture becomes a tad rosier for New York and Texas. The Yankees and Rangers increase their WS% to 19.1% and 17.4%, respectively.
  • In the same scenario, all four AL teams would be statistically even bets to advance to the ALCS.
  • In contrast to the AL race, the NL quest for October changes little if St. Louis supplants Atlanta. The odds of the Cardinals repeating their dark horse candidacy a la 2006 are a paltry 21:1.
  • The top seed in the AL is not the brass ring it might appear to be. While they'd enjoy home field advantage should they reach the ALCS, the Tigers would only improve their WS% odds by 0.2% should they supplant the Yanks.
  • Meanwhile, the Rangers would improve their chances by 1.3%, while the Yanks' chances would only decline by 0.2%.
  • Altogether, these numbers should make it clear to Joe Girardi that tanking against Tampa Bay--in order to give the Rays a leg up on the Red Sox--might not be such a bad idea, after all.

Methodology: Our simulator predicts the outcome of every possible single-game match-up in every potential five- and seven-game series match-up between the eight teams currently in line for a playoff berth. Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Hit List serves as proxy for true talent. We use the Log5 method to predict single-game match-ups, adjusting each number to reflect a 0.540 home field advantage (based on Matt Swartz's findings). The simulator does not adjust for roster discrepancies, pitching rotations, or any stadium-specific home field advantages that may or may not exist.