Divisional play math
“nelly + simba” by ynskjen, cc-licensed.
The M’s and Angels have played 5 games, it’s 2-3 for the M’s. There are 14 (!) games between them remaining. If you figure that they’re perfectly equal teams in terms of quality, the importance of these games becomes a little shocking.
Split the remaining 14 games: M’s finish back one. (9 wins v Angels + n other season wins versus 10 wins v Mariners + n other season wins)
M’s go 6-8: M’s finish back three (8 wins v Angels + n other season wins versus 11 wins v Mariners + n other season wins)
M’s go 5-9: M’s finish back five
… and so on.
To make up that gap during the other games, the M’s have to be a significantly better team when not playing the Angels. Making up a one game gap is ~.01 win percentage. Making up three games requires them to put up a ~.02 win percentage. A five game gap — ~.035.
Or, since that’s not really intuitive, if the M’s split the remaining 14 games, the rest of the season they have to play like an 82-win team to catch the Angels if the Angels play .500 ball the rest of the year. Not that hard.
If they go 6-8, they have to play like an 84 win team.
If they go 5-9, they have to play like an 87 win team.
… and so on. And that assumes the Angels tread water the rest of the year. If you think they’ll do better than .500, the difficulty ramps up even more.
The short of it is that getting into a hole against a divisional rival makes getting to the playoffs a lot tougher. Hopefully the M’s can turn this around today.