Pennant races remind me a bit of elections, in that they both generate an apparently irresistible impulse in some people to “call” the race before it’s over. As far as I can tell, many of those making the early call hold themselves out as “experts” who expect to be able to pat themselves on the back when their early prediction turns out to be correct. Sure, if it’s not correct, an incorrect prediction is embarrassing when documented, but these experts tend to conveniently forget their predictions when they’re proven to be incorrect.
As I type this, the Toronto Blue Jays sit in 3rd place in the AL East, half a game behind the Yankers and 7 ½ behind Baltimore. They’re 4 games back of the wild card, with 2 teams between them and the last playoff berth. With 37 games to go, the Jays have a tough task ahead of them to make the playoffs, no question.
But are they “out”? No, not any more than they were “in” at the beginning of June. Sure, ESPN and sites like the somewhat-defunct coolstandings.com will tell you that the Jays have a 7% chance of making the playoffs now, but their playoff chances were in the 80% range in June. And the same sources told us that the Red Sox would win the AL East in September 2011. Statistical projections, as far as I can tell, are based largely on extrapolations. If the Jays play at their current pace, they’ll obviously miss the playoffs… but if they play the way they did in May, or June of last year, they’ll have a good chance of getting in. This is a streaky club; the .700 win percentage in May was sandwiched between a .462 April and a .444 June. Meanwhile,
Seattle had a lousy July, while ’s record has
worsened with every month of the season. Four games can be made up by
having a 6-1 week while your opponent loses 2 series. Detroit
Let’s put it this way: ESPN says that
has a 98.8% chance of making the playoffs. If you believe that, email me
– I’ll happily put up a dollar against them, if you’ll give me the 82-1 odds
ESPN has them at. Oakland
Or, if you prefer… what were the odds of the Leafs missing the playoffs with a month left in the season this past spring? Ooops.
So, the Jays probably won’t make the playoffs… but they might. There will be plenty of time for blame and second-guessing after the season, so save your post-mortems for when the season is actually post and mort. None of the “experts” know the Jays are going to miss the playoffs – right now, they’re just guessing.