Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Playing the odds

Speaking of obsessions, one just can't avoid it. I tried to---I told Gill Alexander I would---but I can't. Harper at Oleanders and Morning Glories sort of touched on the subject today, too. It's unavoidable, it's inevitable, and it's relevant.

With approximately 24% of the season complete, the Washington Nationals are in the playoff hunt. Seriously.

"So Basil," you might ask, "what are the odds they make it?"

"I don't know," I'd reply. "Not good, but you never know?"

"No no, what are the odds?" you would then insist.

Well, if you insist . . .

I should disclaim three critical things here, before I begin. If I don't, then I'll look like a fool---well, more so:

1) I have no real idea how "odds" work; consequently, I'm just going to make some numbers up.

2) I'm conceding division titles to St. Louis and Atlanta.

3) As a result of No. 2, teams in the NL West, at least in theory, face better odds of making the postseason, since they would in effect be battling for one surefire slot and another potential opening (the Wild Card berth).

Yeah, No. 2 is sort of lazy, especially in the Nats' division. The Braves, after all, are only 23-16; are only 1.5 games ahead with about 120 games to go; are going to be without a starter, John "No P" Thomson for awhile; and are even riding a two-game skid at present. Whatever; they'll win. Why? Because they always win. Consider it the Jamey Carroll Converse.

So here are the rest of the teams (listed by team/record/odds/recap):

---> Los Angeles (22-17), 5-to-2: The Dodgers are a safe pick, insofar as they're reasonably talented, have two potential postseason spots available, are getting Gagne back, and have some Vicarious Beane Props to propel them onward until they flame out in the playoffs.

---> San Diego (24-16), 4-to-1: They're a hot team (yeah, I know: not necessarily relevant in August or September), are getting contributions from guys who didn't do much last year, are apparently lights-out at home, and have some Direct Beane Predecessor Props to propel them ownward.

---> Florida (20-16), 9-to-2: Pitching, plus Jack McKeon Managerial Levitra = most likely non-West team to make it under the conditions above.

---> San Francisco (18-20), 7-to-1: Sure, no Bonds right now. But if he comes back healthy and full of piss'n'vinegar, watch out. Plus, Brian Sabean is one of those Lonnie Smith-types who improbably always seems to smell the playoffs. (No word on whether Sabean had a drug problem or lacks coordination, though.) I'd take this flier, honestly.

---> Washington (21-18), 10-to-1: A bit controversial to put the Nats ahead of the Mets---though not in some circles, of course---but whatever. Yeah, the Mets are more likely to spend. The Mets are more likely to implode, though. I don't see the Nats going on too many extended losing steaks; our Upside-Down Capital Lettered ace won't abide that, after all.

---> New York (21-19), 12-to-1: Many people, including me, remarked that this team looked like your classic entry of "Overpriced Waste" on the Mets' calendar-by-decade. Maybe yes; maybe no. I wouldn't count on them too much, though.

---> Arizona (23-17), 14-to-1: Looking good so far, but they cry out "Early fluke!" to me. The D-Bucks bounced back well after the Nats beat 'em up and stole their lunch money the first time, though.

---> Chicago (17-20), 15-to-1: I'm tempted to put them much higher on the list, because Pitching Wins Championships(tm), but you know how it is . . . They could be this year's '04 Astros, though. Speaking of which . . .

---> Houston (15-23), 20-to-1: Yeah, I know: fool me once, fool me twice---plus, they're beat up. But, by this point, we're not looking at likelihood, but degree of unlikelihood. Just for kicks, check out the road record.

---> Philadelphia (18-22), 22-to-1: The Phils should probably be higher, but I completely forgot about them. That should probably clue us in on their fate, right? Plus, if Endy Chavez is on a playoff roster, then I'm a hamster.

---> Milwaukee (19-19), 30-to-1: The Brew Crew's got a .500 record and sits in second in the NL Central. No love? I guess not. Then again, if Wes Obermuller can ring together 20 more starts like last night . . . yeah, that's right: no love.

---> Pittsburgh (17-20), 40-to-1: I don't know, just call them "The Brewers, only not as good." What's going on with Oliver Perez? Has Lloyd McClendon stolen any more bases? Is Randall Simon back, or is that Daryl Ward that looks like him? Inquiring minds do want to know.

---> Cincinnati (14-25), 60-to-1: Pass.

---> Colorado (11-25), 1,890,970,000-to-1: Apparently locked in a gripping "Stink it up on the road" competition with Houston; the 'Stros are "up" by a half-game. Take this pick, please. If you win, you could be sufficiently funded to execute my old college roommate's plan of a) buying Boeing or McDonnell Douglas, b) buying Hawaii, then c) using it as a staging area for attacks on the continental US. Really, that was his plan. He was joking, though (I think?), and 1994 was before 2001, I do believe. Nevertheless, the plan is so brilliant!


I knew you'd give in to temptation! Sadly, with apologies to you, I did, as well, on the latest Nats podcast.

By the way, I like your odds. I'd probably give more credit to Florida and less to San Francisco, but other than that, methinks you may have a future as an oddsmaker.

Yeah, I wrote it before I learned that Bonds was on his death bed . . . or something! ;-)
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