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Watching the odds change: Baseball Prospectus’s’s Playoff Odds and the 2012 New York Mets

So, last night, R.A. Dickey was knocked out of his astral plane and the world is a worse place for it (stupid Yankees). The Mets took 1 of 3 against the Yankees, mostly because their bullpen is terrible. I’d link to a facts, but when your bullpen combines to lose 17 games before July, I lose the will to finish sentences.

But I don’t like bad news; I like good news, because of confirmation bias and a slew of other behavioral problems I have. And so, I’d like to draw your attention to Baseball Prospectus’ Playoff Odds Report. BP gives the results from Monte Carlo simulations on the rest of the season. So they play out the rest of the season using a simulation, say, a million times, and then they calculate what percentage of the alternate realities featured the Kansas City Royals winning their division (0.0%) or what percentage feature the Philadelphia Phillies spending the Fall playing golf and watching on TV (88.2%).

At the beginning of the season, the probability of the Mets making it to the postseason was 0.5%, or 1 in 200.

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So, out of a million simulations, the Mets made it to the postseason in 50,000 of them. Now, seeing the Mets in the postseason 50,000 times might be cool, but enduring 950,000 “rebuilding years” would get a little tiring (Sorry Cubbies!)

It’s been a good season to be a Mets fan: I had low expectations; the starting rotation has been enjoyable to watch; R.A. Dickey exists; David Wright can, as it turns out, carry much of an offense single-handedly; some unexpected contributors have been improving maybe, more likely outplaying their underlying talent, which, again, is fun to watch.

But so what does that mean? Well, it means that as of today, despite the loss yesterday (which, since the Yankees are pretty good, doesn’t have that strong of an effect), BP gives the Mets a 23.2% chance of making it to the playoffs–almost fifty times higher than when they started the season. That’s still improbably, but they’re in contention. They’re not competing for the cellar, as they did in much of my youth. They look like they’re having fun, mostly, and it doesn’t feel like everything is on the line every single game. It’s just baseball.

Still, the first half of the season has been good enough to make the second half exciting. They might tank right after the All-Star Break and we can all go back to our Fantasy Football draft boards. They might keep it together just long enough to stretch the excitement. Maybe Jason Bay and Ike Davis will both come back to find that their bats no longer judiciously avoid impact with the baseballs. I don’t know what’ll happen, and I’m grateful for that. It’s been a crazy spring and summer so far for me, and having Mets games worth listening to makes unpacking boxes and grading exams that much more interesting.

They’re probably not going to be playing meaningful baseball in the fall. But they might. It’s not crazy to think so.

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