Do you like stats? Sure you do. Stats are fun, and they tell us things about this wacky world. The Giants have the best collection of position players in baseball. That's a stat. And it's a fun stat! All hail stats!
Except, well, some of them can be real downers. Let's go to the odds, brought to you by stats:
Odds that the Giants will win the NL West (FanGraphs)
Odds that the Giants will win the NL West (Baseball Prospectus)
The chances are good that you just said never tell me the odds under your breath and chuckled a bit at the well-timed reference. Yeah, well, look at what Han Solo is doing these days.
Ugh. At least when he takes a picture with Don Mattingly, his creepy earring can't be the most annoying thing in the picture.
FanGraphs has the Dodgers as having a 20.8-percent chance of winning the freaking World Series. The Giants' odds of winning the World Series are closer to the Red Sox than the Dodgers. Part of that has to do with statistics being dumb and inscrutable. Another part of that, though, has to do with the Dodgers being one of the unluckiest teams in baseball. If they play as well as their raw statistics suggest they can, they should win the division by six games, at least.
That's the setup. Even though the Giants are just 2½ games out and have seven games against the Dodgers left, the odds are against them. My job is to make you feel better. Here's how, in three easy steps:
Step 1: Look at Don Mattingly's face in that picture up there
He's thinking about circus peanuts. He usually is, whether he's managing a baseball game or shaking hands with Jack Ryan. They're so soft and sugary, just the right texture, and he can't stop thinking about them. This makes it harder for him to win the baseball games that he manages.
BaseRuns has the Dodgers as being unlucky. My proprietary statistic, DONNIE+, has the Dodgers as being as lucky as they'll ever be, and don't you forget it.
Step 2: Look up the odds from last year
In late August last year, the Giants had a 2.8-percent chance of winning the World Series. The Dodgers were, again, prohibitive favorites.
Did you need me to tell you that these odds are an estimate, and that they simply use the best available information, then spit out the results based on a reasonable formula? You did not. However, I used this section as an excuse to remind you that the Giants did better than the Dodgers in the 2014 postseason. The Giants are much, much more likely to win the NL West this season than they were to win the World Series last season.
Step 3: Appreciate the lack of a wild card safety net
The Cubs and Pirates will apparently never lose again. This is a problem, see, because the Giants' chances of winning the World Series again are much higher when they have the safety net of the Wild Card. I like it a lot more when the Giants have all sorts of different ways to make the postseason.
But follow this logic, though. If the Giants catch the Dodgers in the NL West and win the division, it'll be because the Dodgers stumbled a little bit. That's the likely path, at least. It's more realistic to hope the Dodgers lose more games than expected from now until the end of the season than it is to hope the Giants can play .700 ball to keep up with a Dodgers team playing .600 ball.
Considering the Dodgers' record is already behind the Cubs and Pirates as is, the kind of stumble that would allow the Giants to move ahead would also be likely to remove the Dodgers from the postseason entirely.
Read that again.
If the Giants come back to win the West, the odds are good that the Dodgers would miss the postseason entirely.
Miss the postseason entirely.
Can you imagine a dream that beautiful? A world in which you don't have to root for the Cardinals and take a shower after? A world where the Dodgers look up at the end of September and say, "Hey, wait a second ..."? Oh, my goodness, it would be a complete disaster, one of the most enjoyable in baseball-schadenfreude history.
It might not happen. The odds are better for the Dodgers to win the World Series than they are to miss the postseason. But this isn't about the odds. This is about feeling better about the odds. And the best way to do that, I've found, is to realize that there's still a chance for the Dodgers to miss the postseason entirely.
The Giants are probably screwed. The odds suggest as much, and the Dodgers not only have the edge in the standings, they pretty clearly have the more complete team. My method of feeling better is a three-parter:
- Don Mattingly is kind of a dolt, and that makes me happy
- Remember that the odds always hate the Giants
- There's still a chance for the Giants to win the division, and that would be murder on the Dodgers' chances to make the postseason at all
If you're a betting person, you'll bet on the Dodgers. Don't be a betting person. There's still a chance that the Giants can figure out how to troll the odd years, too. Sweet dreams are made of these.