They came so very, very close! After four years of season-long disappointment and mediocrity, my Twins were blessed with, literally, a winning season. Last Sunday they ended the 2015 season with a record of 83-79 (.512) — four games above the .500 mark!
The Post-Season ship left the dock on Tuesday; my Twins were not on board, but they only barely missed having a berth. It wasn’t until the penultimate game last Saturday they knew the ship would sail without them. They were in the hunt that long!
So thanks for a fun season, Twins! (And an even better one next year!)
This year’s post-season fun started with the AL Wildcard game Tuesday night. The Yankees hosted the Astros in a do-or-die loser-goes-home game to see who would be the “real” wildcard team.
I was delighted to see the Astros, as the visiting team, shut the Yankees out, 3-0! So bye-bye Yankees, no soup for you. Astros now face the AL Division winner, the Kansas City Royals.
Tonight the Pirates host the Cubs in the matching deal on the NL side. The winner faces the NL Division winner, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Minnesota’s sister team, the Texas Rangers, got the AL-West pennant and will play the Toronto Blue Jays. Nothing against the Jays, but I gotta root for my sis.
I cannot, though I would normally, root for my Division loyalty, in this case the Kansas City Royals.
I don’t like the chip-on-shoulder way the team has been acting this season, so for me they’ve gone from the little engine that almost ran the table last year to an annoying relative I wish had missed the party.
On the NL side, I only care that the Cardinals lose. Immediately. Given their performance this season (they won 100 games), I suspect this will be another disappointing World Serious for me. I’m not sure any AL team can beat them.
As for the Twins, they did okay. For fans, the original ask was pretty much just, “Please don’t suck again this year!” When it became clear they were playing at a different level, our hope rose, and the ask became, “Give us a winning season! Finish above .500, please!”
During Mighty May, some of us began to entertain thoughts of post-season. The World Serious seemed maybe a little presumptuous (but the last year we won 20 in May was 1987!), but it really seemed like we could at least get a foot into the post-season door.
And you know what? We came pretty close. We actually had a chance up until the last two games. Granted, the chance became smaller and smaller as the season wound out, but the chance existed!
I had some fun tracking the Twins’ dwindling chances using a simple combination table trick you might find useful some day. The first version involves two parties (teams, groups, people, whatever) whose results do not interact or interfere with each other. This results in a table where every cell is a combined outcome for the two parties.
|LAA||win 0||win 1||win 2||win 3|
For example, the Twins and Angels played different teams during the final three games, but the combined outcomes determined who, if either, would make it to post-season. The above table shows the 16 possible outcomes.
The Twins win when the right side of the pair of win numbers is higher than the left side. Those outcomes are shaded blue. The Angels win (shaded red) in the reverse case. You can see each team has a 6-in-16 chance (37.5%) of winning (or losing), plus a 4-in-16 chance (25%) of a tie.
The Twins lost their first game, which means they couldn’t make it to 86 wins (the right-most data column). The Angels won their first game, which means they had more than 83 wins (the top-most data row). So we adjust the table by removing those possibilities:
|LAA||win 0||win 1||win 2||—|
Now there are nine possible outcomes. The advantage is clearly Angels. Minnesota has only one chance to win while the Angels still have six. And there are two chances to at least tie.
Note that the current status, in this case 84:83, is always in the upper left corner of the table. In the table below, the status after two games each was 85:83.
As it happened, the second games for both teams went the same way; the Twins lose, the Angels won. Either of those killed Minnesota’s chances:
|LAA||win 0||win 1||—||—|
There are four outcomes now, but it doesn’t matter — it’s all Angels. The removed row contained the Twins’ winning chance; so did the removed column. The ties are gone, too. As far as the Angels were concerned, the Twins were sunk.
You can make a table like that for any situation where outcomes aren’t related, but where the combined outcomes matter.
The table looks a bit different if the teams play each other, if one’s outcome implies the reverse outcome for the other. Then the table looks like this:
|LAA||win 0||win 1||win 2||win 3|
The Texas Rangers were playing the Angels. A win for the Rangers was a loss for the Angels. Unlike the above tables, only the cells shaded blue are possible outcomes. (You can see the Rangers win regardless.)
As always, the upper-left corner is the current status; start there. You can move right or down (but not diagonally) for three moves (games). You’ll end up in a blue square. Moving right is a Rangers win; moving down is an Angels win.
As mentioned previously, the Angels won the first two:
|LAA||win 0||win 1||—||—|
But the Rangers won the last one and closed out their season with 88 wins.
Maybe you’ll find the idea useful someday. I amused myself making tables for the various teams still in play and watching as various windows (almost literally) closed.
And I’ll say it again. My Twins got pretty close! When it comes down to the penultimate game, that’s a pretty exciting season!
 Both are former Washington Senators teams; both are the only two AL teams named after their state; both feature a prominent capital letter “T” in their logos.
 No, the Yankees are named after NY City. So are the Mets.
 Their nickname, after all, is the “Bronx Bombers” — the Bronx is a city (a borough, actually… same thing).
 Normally I root for the home team first, a Division team second, an AL team third, an MLB team fourth, a USA team fifth, an Earth team sixth, a Sol system team seventh, a local galactic arm team eighth,…
 Except the Yankees.
 Except the Cardinals (or Braves (or Giants)).
 Except the Mars Red Dogs (or the Triton Titans, but the Titan Tritons are cool).
 This assumes, and I think the assumption is well-warranted, that game outcomes are essentially random — coin flips — 50:50 chances. Given the nature of baseball, the outcome of a game may indeed have a lot to do with chance.