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Monday, September 11, 2006

Does any hope remain?

Joe Sheehan posted an article today at BP handicapping the remaining contenders to the wild card. It will come as no surprise that he's favoring the Padres or the Dodgers (whoever doesn't win the NL West). What about the Reds? Well, the Reds' 2 of 3-game defeat of the Pirates this past weekend helped their cause -- especially given the Cardinals sputtering performance vs. the Diamondbacks -- but obviously things are still looking rather grim. As cited by Sheehan, BP's PECOTA-based predictions give the following likelihoods that these wild card contenders will take the crown:
             Division     Wild Card     Overall
Padres 27.2% 36.8% 63.9%
Phillies none 14.5% 14.5%
Giants 3.4% 10.3% 13.8%
Astros 10.7% 2.4% 13.0%
Reds 8.0% 4.6% 12.6%
Marlins none 7.4% 7.4%
Braves none 2.1% 2.1%
This table leaves out the second-most likely wild-card team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, at 19%.

A 12.6% chance of making the playoffs isn't insignificant, but it's not very compelling either. Nevertheless, the most interesting thing about this graph is that it indicates that the Reds' best chance for a post-season berth is to catch the Cardinals.

It'd be tough, but let's break down the numbers. The Cardinals have 20 games remaining to the Reds' 19. If the cards split their remaining games, they'll end the season at 85-77. For the Reds to top that record, they would have to go 15-4 (0.789). By comparison, in their best month of the season, April, the Reds went 17-8 (0.680).

So it's likely going to take one heck of a surge for the Reds to catch a 0.500-Cardinals team. It's possible, however, that the Cards could play less than 0.500 ball. None of their remaining games (Astros, Giants, Padres, and Brewers) are against complete-pushover teams. And 10 of the Reds' remaining 19 games are against either the Cubs or the Pirates.

So I'm not going to completely give up hope. Nevertheless, perhaps the more immediate concern should be whether the Reds finish above 0.500 at the end of the season. They're currently a game under. It would be a real shame to have this season go down as a losing season, especially after all the strides forward the Reds made this year. Hopefully, the Reds will get hot and salvage something from what has easily been the most enjoyable season this millennium--even if it doesn't turn out to be a playoff spot.