I know SOME of you are still hanging on to that last thread of hope, daydreaming of an epic September run that rouses up a David vs. Goliath battle where Tampa and New York collapse under the forces of Darnell McDonald and Jed Lowrie. Someone out there still thinks that John Lackey is going to pick it up soon and that Josh Beckett is going to figure it out.
I doubt it’s you though. You don’t think so because you understand numbers. But maybe if you were seven years old and all you knew about was hope and to never give up – you might still believe.
Believe me. SOMEBODY out there still believes. Somebody is still tuning into NESN to hear what Tom Caron and Gordon Edes have to say before the game. It’s not a complete exodus because Red Sox fans have clung to their team with prayer and hope since the beginning of last century. This isn’t a region that stops paying attention. Even if you say you aren’t watching and don’t think the playoffs can happen– I bet somewhere there is an ounce of you that still thinks “Well, maybe if…” – even if only for a minute.
So don’t look now, but the Red Sox have improved their chances of making the playoffs to 1.7%. As of Friday, September 10, 2010, the Red Sox magic number to make postseason baseball was 30. That’s pretty reasonable, right?
It’s probably 98.3% pointless to sit around conjuring up ways that this Red Sox team will be playing into October, but people are wired in New England to always keep the faith. It started with the Patriots in 2001, carried to the 2004 Red Sox and continued with the 2008 Celtics.
But at the same time, how can you argue for this team? They are hurt, broken down and many of their current regulars (Lowrie, Hall, Nava, McDonald, etc.) don’t exactly evoke an optimist’s opinion.
“But all it takes is a run.”
It will take more than a run. It would need to be a full-on sprint while the leader of the pack surprisingly sprains his ankle falling on his face and eating a mouthful of gravel. It would be a burst that no one saw coming from a guy no one thought could do it. And it would be gut-wrenchingly fun.
If something DID happen and say JD Drew ran off a two-week stretch that fantastically-defied the odds, the fans would reference his June 2008 month when he went wild, carrying the offense during a torrid pace of 12 HRs, 27 RBI, 27 runs and a 1.309 OPS.
If it were to happen again, many crumpled Red Sox hats would come back out of the closets in the Northeast now that they’ve been put away and the Boston diehards would claim complete allegiance, yelling to the skies that they never left. “I knew it all along!” we would yell. Maybe the Ryan Kalish Show begins or Clay Buchholz surges the rotation and secures himself a Cy Young, cementing his place in Boston folklore. Maybe it can happen in 2010.
Poetically, it sounds good to me. Realistically, it’s a pipe dream.
Lloyd: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me… ending up together?
Mary: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really…
Lloyd: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?
Mary: Not good.
Lloyd: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?
Mary: I’d say more like one out of a million.
Lloyd: So you’re telling me there’s a chance… *YEAH!*
Right now, the Red Sox expected win-count is 89. The Red Sox have not had a sub-90 win season since 2006, when Boston was also decimated by injury. At least get to 90 wins this year and stay out of the 80’s, please. I don’t want to be like the Toronto Blue Jays.
CoolStandings.com provides an expected playoff percentage for each team in baseball, evaluating their chances statistically of reaching the postseason. For the Red Sox, their highest playoff percentage mark came on July 3 when Boston was projected to have a 60.7% of getting to the playoffs after throttling the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 at Fenway Park.
On September 4th, the team reached its lowest point of the year when it sank to a 1.1% mark following two losses in a double-header to the Chicago White Sox.
From the 4th of July weekend until now, we have witnessed a precipitous 59% fall from grace for the Red Sox — complicated by injuries, bad umpires, strange bullpen usage and elite winning streaks from both New York and Tampa.
But teams have come back from worse deficits in Major League Baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals had a .6% of making the playoffs on September 6, 1934 and then rattled off 18 wins the rest of the month to edge the NY Giants by two games securing the NL Pennant. The Cards went on to beat the Detroit Tigers 4-3 in the World Series, becoming the unlikeliest of champions.
The 1962 San Francisco Giants were similar in that the team had just a 1.9% chance of making the playoffs on September 22nd 1962. Suddenly, the Bay Area came alive as the Giants racked up 103 wins to fend off the hated LA Dodgers. LA had 102 wins that season and 98.1% chance of winning the pennant. On September 22nd of 1962, the Dodgers already had 100 wins, but the team went into a tailspin down the stretch, managing to win just two more games over 11 days.
You can go back to as recent as the 2004 Houston Astros who were another team with a .6% chance of a postseason berth to winning the NL Wild Card as they surged past the SF Giants.
As far as the Red Sox are concerned, the biggest deficit the team has overcome late in the regular season was the 1999 team who had a 24.4% chance of postseason play on August 22. Pedro Martinez’ single-greatest season was rewarded with a September surge that pushed the Sox to 94 wins and an ALDS matchup with the Cleveland Indians. Boston went on to beat the Indians but fell to the Yankees in five games during the ALCS.
The reality of a 2010 postseason involving the Red Sox is essentially non-existent. But for the rose-colored, never-say-die Red Sox fans – there is still a chance. 1.7% happens and it can happen this year.
To you I say: Keep the Faith.