So, after I made about 50 comments about our season being over, I took a look at Baseball Prospectus' playoff probabilities. The A's are still clocking in at a 98% chance to make the postseason. Unfortunately, just a 9-10% chance at the division. But still, the situation is not as dire as I thought.
You can see them here (use the drop-down menu to select AL Wild Card to see all the teams): MLB Probabilities
A lot of commenters pointed out that if the Angels go 13-12, the A's would have to go 18-5 to clinch the division. By the same token, given that the A's are nursing a 3.5 game lead over the Mariners for the WC2 spot and a 3 game lead over the Tigers. In other words, the A's have built a similar cushion as the Angels, and two teams will need to pass the A's (one of KC and Detroit and also the Mariners) for the A's to be completely knocked out.
Right now, if the season ended today, the A's would host a wild card game against the Tigers. Yeah, Oakland hasn't been so hot in elimination games against the Tigers the past few seasons, but look at who has pitched in those games: A rookie, Jarrod Parker, vs. Justin Verlander. Then another rookie, Sonny Gray, again facing Verlander. Isn't replacing Lester in that scenario huge? Bigger than huge?
Yes our offense will need to score more than 1 run to win that game. But Lester's postseason ERA is 2.11 over 76⅔ innings. In 21 innings in the World Series, he's allowed just 1 run. One.
Jerry Crasnick has an article today with a quote from a scout on the A's deadline trades:
"They were an offensive juggernaut when they made those deals, and there's no way they were going to keep that up for 162 games," said a scout. "The reason they made the moves was because they got their [butts] kicked by Detroit every year in the division series because they didn't have the horses on the mound. They were proactive. They got the guys they wanted. I don't think you can downgrade them too much, because that team is built for a short series now."
The A's have 23 games left, the majority against losing teams. If they can manage say, 12-11, then simply to tie the A's the Tigers would have to go 15-8, Kansas City would have to go 14-10, and Seattle would have to go 16-8. Incidentally that would mean a 2 way tie for the AL Central and four way tie for the two wild card spots, necessitating a crazy round robin. To be eliminated (no tiebreakers, play-in games, etc.), it's DET 16-8, SEA 17-7, AND KC 15-9, with the A's going at least 12-11. It just seems unlikely for all of those things to happen, despite the A's recent struggles. Remember that Detroit isn't exactly lighting the world on fire either, having played about .500 ball over the past three months.
In other words, three teams have to have great months and the A's have to go through September with a .500 record (13-13 overall) for missing the wild card to even be an issue. The A's, even at the peak of their patheticness, managed to take 2 of 3 from the Astros. They will find a way to beat the Astros, the sorry Phillies and the tanking Rangers.
The seas are rough. This is far from the dominant back-to-back-to-back division championship team that we were envisioning earlier. But it's also far from over.
And let's be real. In the 2012 and 2013 game 5's, I was hoping for magic to carry the A's to victory. We all were. Parker and Gray beating Verlander...those were incredible longshots at best. Now I can pin my hopes on Jon Lester in an elimination game situation. So while our team is in big time tailspin, if they can just be a middling, average team, we can call on Lester to put us right back where we've been the past two years: In the ALDS and with a chance at the World Series.
So, even if the division is lost (nothing short of sweeping the Angels later this month will convince me otherwise), all is not yet lost, my friends. True, the A's might tumble and stumble and fall. But the odds are they won't. Once the page turns on the regular season, it's anyone's game.