There are many ways to predict if a team will make the playoffs. That's not what this post is about. Instead, I'm going to break down a rather simple way to "countdown" to the clinching point for a baseball team. In other words, this a way to tell just how many more positive events need to occur for your favorite baseball team (hopefully the Diamondbacks) to clinch a postseason berth.
It's easier when you have a week to go, but how do you express a playoff countdown with a month to go? It's a bit more difficult because you have to take into account quite a few games. This is where the Magic Number comes in. The Number is not a predictor. It will not tell us if the Diamondbacks will make the postseason. It will only describe what has to happen for the Diamondbacks to make the postseason.
Let's start with the formula. Don't worry, it's nothing too scary:
M = 163 - (Your team's wins) - (next closest team's losses)
"Wait, wait, wait," you're saying. "There has to be more to it than that!" Well, yes, there is a bit of interpretation that needs to go along with the Magic Number. I'll use the Diamondbacks as an example.
M = 163 - (72) - (62)
M = 29
So the Diamondbacks are looking at a Magic Number of 29. But what does that mean? Well, it means that the Diamondbacks will clinch the division with any combination of Diamondbacks wins and Giants losses. This means if we go 29-0 the rest of the way, we'll clinch no matter if the Giants also go 29-0. If the we lose all 29 of those games, but the Giants also lose all 29, then we still clinch. Here's the breakdown:
D-backs win, Giants win: number goes down by 1
D-backs win, Giants lose: number goes down by 2
D-backs lose, Giants win: number stays the same
D-backs lose, Giants lose: number goes down by 1
So as you can see, the only "negative" result is a day when the D-backs lose at the same time the Giants win. Any other scenario where the teams are playing on the same day will result in the number going down. In other words, nearly any scenario causes the Magic Number to drop, bringing the Diamondbacks closer to clinching the division.
Ideally, we want our Magic Number to be far fewer games than what is left on the schedule, which means the Diamondbacks potentially clinch earlier. If the Magic Number lines up with the remaining games in the schedule, that means we'll likely be sweating the whole rest of the way. But if the Diamondbacks can but out a 4 or 5 game gap, then that's a little easier to take.
So now you know what the Magic Number means. It will be updated in every recap, but it's easy to keep track at home. Just remember, any Diamondbacks win, or Giants loss, moves the countdown in our favor.