The AL East might go down to the wire

There are less than two weeks of regular season play and as it stands, the Yankees are three games behind Boston for the AL East. If those standings hold, then the Red Sox will visit Houston in a reversal of their final series; while the Yankees will host a one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins.

But given the Yankees current run-differential pointing to them being the second-best team in baseball, is there a chance for them to overtake and skip the Wild Card game? Well, according to a model I ran this morning: yes, there is.

Based on an expected goals model I took from Soccer — yes, I know baseball has its own expected runs model but I wanted to build my own — I created my own, very primitive model in Excel (I’m still not comfortable doing this in R or Python). I took runs scored and runs allowed (RS and RA, respectively) at home and away, number of games played home and away, and replicated the data for the Yankees, Twins, Reds, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Royals, and Astros (since these are the teams involved in both Boston and New York’s final 12 games.)

I calculated expected runs scored and expected runs allowed and calculated the probability of the likeliest score and outcome using a Poisson distribution. What I got was the following table:

Game Home Team Away Team Home W% Home L% Winner
151 NYA MIN 52.9% 47.1% NYA
152 NYA MIN 52.5% 47.5% NYA
153 TOR NYA 24.2% 75.8% NYA
154 TOR NYA 24.3% 75.7% NYA
155 TOR NYA 24.2% 75.8% NYA
156 NYA KCA 58.1% 41.9% NYA
157 NYA TBA 55.4% 44.6% NYA
158 NYA TBA 55.0% 45.0% NYA
159 NYA TBA 54.7% 45.3% NYA
160 NYA TOR 56.6% 43.4% NYA
161 NYA TOR 56.1% 43.9% NYA
162 NYA TOR 55.7% 44.3% NYA

According to this, the Yankees have a better than 50 percent chance of winning each game — the chance of actually winning their final 12 games is 0.207 percent. Similarly, the Red Sox are shown to be heavy favorites in their remaining series, except their final homestand against the Astros, were they’re expected to be swept. The probability of this actually happening is 0.301 percent.

Game Home Team Away Team Home W% Home L% Winner
151 BAL BOS 31.6% 68.4% BOS
152 BAL BOS 31.2% 68.8% BOS
153 CIN BOS 31.5% 68.5% BOS
154 CIN BOS 31.3% 68.7% BOS
155 CIN BOS 31.0% 69.0% BOS
156 BOS TOR 51.5% 48.5% BOS
157 BOS TOR 51.1% 48.9% BOS
158 BOS TOR 50.5% 49.5% BOS
159 BOS HOU 36.6% 63.4% HOU
160 BOS HOU 36.1% 63.9% HOU
161 BOS HOU 35.7% 64.3% HOU
162 BOS HOU 35.4% 64.6% HOU

Both outcomes are highly unlikely. In fact, the probability of both of these events happening is about 0.001 percent! That’s 1 in 160,144! So there’s a really small chance that the season ends with the Yankees overtaking the Red Sox with a one-game lead.

Team W L WPct GB
NYA 95 67  0.586 0
BOS 94 68  0.580 1.0

But baseball is mired with randomness and models are not magic crystal balls. We do this because we love to check the data and come up with several possible images of what may happen.

And who knows? Perhaps the Yankees get into a hot streak and win their next four games while the Red Sox slip and lose the next four. Everything and anything is possible.

Photo Credit: Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports

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