16 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: Orioles Fly Home for Winter

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

Rainbow over Kauffman Stadium • Photo credit: Kari SullivanCreative Commons 2.0

Joe Posnanski shared a quote that's so fitting that I have no choice but to steal it.

Sure, we could have believed that a Kansas City Royals team that just barely squeaked into the playoffs would win eight straight games and reach the World Series, defeating the #1 and #2 AL seeds along the way, not permitting their opponent a single victory and taking many games by a single run and several in extras. I'm sure many—primarily located within driving distance of Kauffman Stadium—believed that they would see their Royals play in the Fall Classic this year.

But most didn't, and that's what's so great about baseball (and sports in general): it defies our expectations in the most magical way.

Many more now believe that the Kansas City Royals could win their first World Series since 1985. Little in sports is impossible. The crazy thing is, this scenario is no longer even improbable. Should they face either the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants, the latter of whom are now one game away from the World Series themselves, they will be my model's favorites.

Regardless of whom the Cinderella Royals (redundant, I know) face in the Fall Classic, the AL's home field advantage this year will boost their chances by about 3%. This will be especially handy against a team like San Francisco, their likely opponent, considering they have essentially identical true talent levels at this point in the season. In other words, 2014's All Star Game has provided Kansas City with their only real edge going forward.

As for the other side of the state, while the Cardinals aren't officially out of the running just yet, they did set their postseason low in World Series expectancy.

At the start of my full coverage, I (that is, my model) granted the Royals a 16% chance of reaching the World Series. I was wrong. When the ALCS began, I gave the Royals a 5% chance of sweeping the Orioles. Again, I was wrong—happily so, in fact! Sure, the model has failed worse this post season than it has since I started doing postseason projections, but that's a testament to the unpredictability of baseball.

The fact of the matter is, we can either dismiss the numbers out of hand or we can appreciate what a feat it is, the Royals winning eight straight postseason games to reach the World Series for the first time in twenty-nine years. We can't do both. If the numbers were wrong, then KC's run was preordained. If KC's run isn't impressive, then the numbers weren't an accurate representation of the reality we observed at the time.

So let's enjoy it, and acknowledge that the Royals rising from 13-1 underdogs to World Series favorites is a sight to see.

St. Louis must win out to keep their postseason alive and advance to the World Series. Unfortunately, they face long 7-1 odds in doing so. The model expects San Francisco to close the door at home tomorrow, and only sees the NLCS returning to St. Louis 23% of the time. But it's far from over: if the Cardinals do force that seventh game, they will be slight favorites.

Stop by tomorrow for updated ratings, probabilities and charts following tonight's LCS action including a possibly decisive Game 5 in San Francisco.

No comments: