Fearless Playoff Predictions…That Are Invariably Wrong, 2006 Ed.
by Mike Carminati
First, some very quick analysis and then some predictions that will seem laughably bad by the end of the month.
Since September 16, the Cardinals went 4-10 en route to a text-book example of backing into the playoffs, topped by a 5-3 clinching loss to Milwaukee on the final day of the season. The Cards were up by 6-1/2 games on the Reds and eight on the Astros on the sixteenth. At the close of the season, they were 1-1/2 ahead of Houston and 3-1/2 ahead of Cincy.
In the other historic near-collapse, the Tigers were two games ahead of Minnesota on September 16 and hadn't spent a day out of first in the previous four months (since May 15). They went 6-8 down the stretch including a five-game losing streak to end the regular season to loss the division on the final game. Unfortunately for the purists like me in the world, they had the wild card to fall back on. Imagine how the '64 Phils would be remembered if they had the wild card to ease their collapse.
Anyway, I've run the numbers for the just about everything, but the one thing that occurred to me was a team that not only backed into the postseason as these two did but that had a collapse leading up to the anticlimactic clinching. I took the record for the last 14 games, or roughly two weeks, for every first-place or wild card team and compared it against the team's postseason performance.
The results were that there is very little correlation between success in the last 14 games and the postseason for game winning percentage (correlation coefficient of .074) and for series winning percentage (.044). It had less to do with postseason success than did the team's overall winning percentage (.229 coefficient with postseason game winning percentage and .173 postseason series winning percentage) or did the team's expected winning percentages (.219 and .173).
That said, what the Tigers and Cards did down the stretch has less bearing on how they will do in the playoffs than their overall performance.
Okie dokie, now let's make with the prognosticating:
ALDS: NYY 3-DET 1, OAK 3-MIN 1
NLDS: NYM 3-LAD 0, STL 3-SD 2
ALCS: OAK 4-NYY 3 (The Real World Series)
NLCS: NYM 4-STL 1
World Series: OAK 4-NYM 1
I picked Oakland coming out of spring training, and I will pick them now. I might as well stand behind this clinching research and take the average clinching A's over the early clinching Yankees, or at least take the A's pitching.
To paraphrase the King of Cartoons, "Let the playoffs Begin!"