What looked like a pretty crappy week for our playoff chances on Monday night, has turned around as the Diamondbacks have uncorked four straight wins, to finish 4-3. Meanwhile, the rival Giants have strictly alternated wins and losses: with their off-day Monday, they went 3-4 for the period. As a result, for the second straight week, this extended our lead in the division by half a point, and it now sits at three games. However, also as before, what's more important is that a week came off the schedule, leaving the Giants significantly fewer games to catch up.
After the jump, we'll look at some projection systems, and do the usual break down what the Giants need to do the rest of the way, if they want to overtake us.
CoolStandings.com: Arizona 77.9%, San Francisco 20.8%
Baseball Prospectus.com: Arizona 46.5%, San Francisco 53.6%
shoewizard looked at the reasons why BP's numbers are so out of what with common sense: basically, they are continuing to over-estimating the Giants offense hideously, while also believing the Diamondbacks will allow more than five runs per game. Obviously, it's not a conspiracy: just some bad pre-season projections (which is fair enough) that BP are clinging onto 80% of the way through the season (which isn't), in a way that just makes them look like desperate McC refugees...
Here's an interesting one. What if we project that teams will go over the rest of the season, how they've done over the last X games. For example, the D-backs are 73-59, thirty games to go. Over their last 30, they are 18-12, so add that on, and you get 91-71. How do the final standings stack up if we do that for all five teams?
Well, that's startling, isn't it: this systems projects that Arizona will cruise to victory, by a double-digit margin, and the Giants find themselves sitting at .500, barely above the rest of the division. Obviously, it doesn't in the slightest take into account schedule or home-road breakdown, but as a rough, "finger in the air" mark, it's extraordinarily encouraging for the Diamondbacks.
As there's now only thirty games left, there probably isn't much point in breaking down the differences between Arizona maintaining their current winning percentage (.553), projected Pythagorean winning percentage (.517) and going .500 the rest of the way. Those project to 16.6, 15.5 and 15 wins respectively, so there's only about a game and half of difference between the best and worst of those.
Instead, the chart below is simply a grid. The rows show the D-backs record in the 24 remaining games against opponents other than the Giants. The columns show the record (from an Arizona perspective) in the six games versus San Francisco. Each box shows what the Giants would need to do in their 24 games elsewhere, to force a one-game playoff for the division [assuming the wild-card or a third team are not in play[. Boxes colored Sedona Red are ones where the Giants have no possible route; those in Tenderloin Orange are the scenarios where the Giants just need to show up.
In case you're interested, here's the formula:
X = D-backs wins against non-Giants.
Y = D-backs wins against Giants
Z = Giants wins needed against non-D-backs
Z = X + 2*Y - 3
This will not be on the test. :-)
Just to point out a few highlight. If we just go straight .500 across the board, including 3-3 vs. San Francisco, the Giants would need to go 15-9 in their other games to tie with us. While that's possible, the .625 winning percentage required would be better than any calendar month they've had to date [they reached .607 in June]. If we can do just fractionally better, winning one extra-game elsewhere, the Giants would need to win two out of three, simply to force a playoff.
The six games against the Giants still loom large, but with a three-game advantage at this point, even going 2-4 would mean Arizona simply has to match San Francisco elsewhere, and the division is ours. Every day we can take one off the magic number - whether that's with our own victory (the preferred option!) or the Giants losing, is another significant step forward in this most-unexpected of seasons.