## Monday, September 26, 2005

The last week of the major league baseball regular season starts tonight with some tight races ahead. The wild card adds some interesting complexity to the mix (so I can justify this post on the weblog).

My team, the Chicago White Sox (94-61), who have squandered most of their 15 game lead, still leads the Cleveland Indians (92-64) by 2 1/2 games in the AL Central. The White Sox finish the season with three games at Cleveland starting Friday.

Meanwhile the Boston Red Sox (a team many theorists root for since many of us spent time in Boston) are tied with their rivals, the New York Yankees at 91-64 in the AL East. Boston hosts the Yankees for the final three games also starting Friday.

The White Sox magic number is five (White Sox wins + Cleveland losses) to win the division. For the wild card their number is also five (White Sox wins + max(Boston losses, New York losses)). The White Sox get into the playoffs with only three wins since Boston or New York has to lose at least two of their three game series.

White Sox, Red Sox, Yankees, Indians: Three will go to the playoffs. One will end their season.

There are still some races open in the other divisions but it's hard to care, though it will be interesting to see if San Diego wins the NL West with a losing record.

Update 9/29: White Sox have clinched the central division!!! At worse they will be tied with the Indians, but because they will have a better record than any second place team (since the Yankees and Red Sox can't both win the rest of their games since they play each other), there will be no extra game, the White Sox would win the division based on a head-to-head tie breaker and the Indians would be the wild card team. So complex that the Chicago Tribune didn't get it right this morning and the champagne was barely ready in time.

1. To determine whether a particular team has a theoritical chance of finishing first can be formulated as a flow problem.
How about the problem of determining whether one's favourite team will qualify for the playoffs(in which case you have to be within the top x)?
I have no idea what wildcard means, but, as Lance suggests it might add some complexity.

2. Bill James has done EXCELLENT work using
SIMPLE prob stat, and some other SIMPLE
math to analyze what strategies in
Baseball work and don't. What is
surprising (or maybe not) is that
MANY conventional wisdoms are just
plain WRONG. The book MONEYBALL
is about when the Oakland A's used
his stuff and actually won. He works
for the REd Sox now- and they won.
IF you have a child or nephew or niece
who is a baseball fan, get them some
of Bill James stuff and they may get
to like math!

3. Don't forget the Giants! If we can clean out the Padres for the next 3 games, we'll be tied for first in the division.