Giants/Cards Sitting at 60-50

Giants/Cards Sitting at 60-50

At first glance, it would look like Wednesday Night's nationally televised MLB matchup featuring the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN was showcasing two teams who have a lot in common. Both are in the heart of the National League playoff picture with identical 60-50 records. Both are basically playing playoff games NOW because there's so little margin for error.

Yet, different methodologies paint very different pictures about the 2012 postseason hopes for these teams.

If you look at current records and what's ahead over the last seven weeks of the season, San Francisco would seem to be in a comfortable position. First of all, they don't HAVE to worry about the Wildcard because they can win the NL West outright to snare a playoff spot.

NL WEST STANDINGS
San Francisco 60-50
LA Dodgers 59-52 (1.5 games back)
Arizona 56-54 (4 games back)

AVERAGE RECORD OF REMAINING OPPONENTS
San Francisco 51-58
LA Dodgers 55-54
Arizona 52-57

The Giants are ahead now, and have the easiest schedule going forward.

St. Louis on the other hand looks like they have a much tougher task. They're in third place in the NL Central, tied for third place in the Wildcard race, and teams ahead of them have easy schedules. Since the Cards are six games out of first place in the NL Central, we'll skip running those standings for you. Cincinnati has a big lead, and a ridiculously easy closing schedule against opponents who currently have an average record of 50-59. Here's what the Wildcard race looks like.

NL WILDCARD STANDINGS (top two make it)
Atlanta 63-47
Pittsburgh 62-47
St. Louis 60-50 (2.5 games out of playoffs)
San Francisco 60-50 (still a chance to "settle" for WC)
LA Dodgers 59-52 (4 games out of WC)
Arizona 56-54 (6.5 games out of WC)

AVERAGE RECORD OF REMAINING OPPONENTS
Atlanta 53-56
Pittsburgh 52-58
St. Louis 54-56
San Francisco 51-58
LA Dodgers 55-54
Arizona 52-57

The Cards trail Atlanta and Pittsburgh, and have a tougher schedule. It could be hard for St. Louis to even finish better than San Francisco given what looks like an easy path for the Giants.

Okay...there we go...San Francisco enters tonight's big TV game with the easier path. Let's go to the "Playoff Odds" numbers posted on the standings page at ESPN's website for confirmation.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES
Atlanta 76.1%
Pittsburgh 69.3%
St. Louis 60.3%
San Francisco 49% (?????)
LA Dodgers 29.6%
Arizona 29.2%

What the heck? How can St. Louis be at 60% to make the playoffs while the Giants are just a coin flip after all the data we went through? San Francisco has an easier schedule and already leads its division. Is ESPN smoking crack?

Well, maybe. ESPN puts a lot of weight on run differential, and the Cardinals have had a knack this year for running up the score in blowouts. If you believe this makes them a "hidden superpower", then you can make the case that they're positioned to close the season well. If you've been losing money on the New England Patriots in the NFL playoffs in recent seasons...they you might think otherwise.

RUN DIFFERENTIALS FOR WILDCARD CONTENDERS
St. Louis +114
Atlanta +64
Arizona +44
Pittsburgh +34
San Francisco +15
LA Dodgers +11

So, there you have it. Different methodologies paint different pictures of what's ahead for the two TV teams tonight. San Francisco has the easier schedule while leading a division. St. Louis looks like it has a more potent lineup that could storm home with a fury that makes opposing schedules irrelevant.

23
Nov

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