Last September — and more specifically, the very end of September — the Rangers were veritable shoo-ins to win the American League West. Owning a 5-game advantage on your division with 9 to play is like having a 10-point lead with only a minute left in a basketball game. It’s about as secure as it gets, but miracles can and will occasionally happen.
That is why I understand the doubt many fans share in computer-generated playoff expectancy odds. At this time last year, the Rangers were hovering dangerously close to the 100% asymptote with regard to winning a 3rd consecutive Western division title. It was inconceivable to think they would relinquish such a thing. That is, until it actually happened.
So to that end I will never have strong faith in the percentages. Not until the job is done.
Nonetheless, for the sake of objectivity, the computers do help illuminate the shadows between your typical glass half-full vs. glass half-empty John Doe Rangers fan. If you are an optimist, then you are confident the Rangers will generate some magic over these last 8 games; if you are a pessimist, the Rangers suck and there’s no way they will make it to the postseason and oh hell just fire everybody already. It’s pretty cut and dry. After all, this isn’t the time of year for the tepid, on-the-fence baseball fan.
I’m still a little boy at heart, and unashamedly always will be, so I tend to side with the optimist crowd. I’m just not yet willing to give up on a baseball season until the fat lady sings.
Now let’s get to some numbers!
FanGraphs projects the Rangers to finish 89-73, with a 51.1% chance of getting into the wild card game.
Baseball Prospects has Texas finishing 89-73 as well, with 56.1% odds of playing in the play-in.
ESPN doesn’t show a final record, and they give the Rangers a 48.0% expectancy.
Finally, Dan Symborski — who runs the ZIPS projection every year — updated his wild card odds a couple hours ago, and has the Rangers checking in at 54.0%.
Essentially, the Rangers have coin-flip odds to reach the wild card game where, you guessed it, they would also have coin-flip odds. Deductive reasoning would seem to suggest that Texas has roughly a one in four chance of playing in the ALDS against the Red Sox.
Those aren’t very good odds, sure, but looking back about a week ago when the Rangers appeared dead in the water, I for one will take it.