Central Destinies Divergent: How Cleveland Seized Control and Minnesota Fell Away

Ken Tops USA Today Sports

What does it mean that a team is 55% likely to make the playoffs, or 45% likely? It seems to mean he’ll be on the cusp of the playoffs at the end of the year – the kind of team that spends the last week of the year either sighing relief in a tight escape or taking some losses in the one round that did. in.

Sure, that’s definitely true sometimes. Often times, though, the numbers don’t work out alarmingly. Sometimes your chance dwindles 50% to zero or rises to almost certain before any dramatic end. For proof, look no further than the race for AL Central, which went from relegation to a fait accompli during the first half of September.

On September 4th, the Guardians just finished cleaning their watches by fellow qualifier hopefuls. Over ten games – seven against Seattle, three against Baltimore – they went 2-8, reducing their record to 68-64. In that same period, the twins went 6-3, raising their record to the same 68-64. Our playoff odds gave the Guardians a better chance of winning the AL Central race, but they were about the same: 43% for Cleveland, 39% for Minnesota.

That’s as close as you can get – identical records, nearly identical chances of winning the score, and only one team in the rear-view mirror (White Sox, who has been in two games back, though has been squabbling somewhat at 4-6 in the last ten games) ). The stage is set for the duel to the end, with Minnesota and Cleveland facing each other eight times in September. To add to the spice, the White Sox had four games against the Guardians and six against the Twins.

According to our predictions, the Guardians and Twins are roughly equally talented, with better White Sox hair (although they’ve been below their expectations all year long). Play those 8 games a million times, in a million potential futures, and their split should average 4-4. In their previous 11 meetings, they were divided roughly evenly; Cleveland had a 6-5 advantage, but the twins had 16 runs in overall scoring. Not that head-to-head matches mean a lot predictively, but these two teams seem like perfect chips.

The Guardians have gone 6-1 in the first seven of their last eight fateful clashes. They now lead Minnesota by six games. In games where they did not play each other, they played roughly the same clip. But head-to-head domination upended the entire divisional race. As of this morning, we’re giving The Guardians an 86.3% chance of winning the score. Twins are nearly eliminated, with a 1.2% chance of capturing the crown.

Baseball seasons are massive. You can’t wrap the 2022 Minnesota Twins or the Cleveland Guardians in eight games in September; They will have played 162 of them by the time all is said and done. If the two teams haven’t matched evenly in the 127 games they’ve played against everyone but each other – each team went 67-61 against all the other opponents – the September showdown probably wouldn’t have mattered. But it was, and it was decisive, in a way that never seems inevitable in baseball.

What was important in those seven fateful matches that turned the race upside down? The Rangers were able to bring their team’s strength, and super-revolution, to bear. It’s too simplistic to say that the Cleveland team is about to get into the seventh inning with the lead and then win from there, because really, that’s what every baseball team is about. The guards are better than anyone else.

On September 9, which may forever be known as Hergiton the twins James Karenshak For twice, but the painkillers of other guardians – Nick SandlinAnd the Trevor StefanAce Relief Emmanuel Class Firm contract. The next day, the security blanket Tito Francona Brian Shaw He gave up four on the ninth by six runs, but Klass shut the door. The following game was similar: Sam HuntingsAnd Stefan and Karenchak were flawless to take another win over the Guardians.

After two more wins, Stefan and Karenchak made a smooth relief work in one and Shane Pepper Throwing the twins one gem at the other, he finally made it to the Cleveland Bullpen, hanging three on Stefan and another running on Hentges and Karinchak. Only one problem: they simply could not cross the finish line. The Guardians won that match, 7-6, in 15 rounds, on the back of six excellent runs from the bulk of Bulls: Shaw, So MorganAnd the Enel de los SantosAnd the Kirk McCarty. The twins won the next day, but that was too little, and it was too late.

If I feel like I’m giving short attention to Cleveland’s offense, it’s no accident. The team as a whole has been excellent this month, 11-6 overall. The offense was below average, placing the hitting streak .261/.330/.361 on aggregate and scoring 3.5 points per game. Of the top 40 baseball hitters per war in September, there are exactly two guards: Oscar Gonzalez And the Miles Str. In fact, the team was scored in this stretch, poorly by opponents other than the Twins; The Guardians don’t have a lot of firepower, and when they’re not likely to win a particular game, Francona isn’t afraid to let young shooters wear one.

For their part, the twins were worse. Carlos Correa He was one of the top hitters in baseball in September, coming in at .348/.408/.667 with six Homers. Do you think the Guardians attack was stress-free this month? The Twins only score 3.3 points per game, even with the breakout of Korea and plenty of extra rounds to score juicy points. Their starters have also faltered; It’s no coincidence that most of those games I mentioned showed Guardians jumped to the top early and then protected them.

Is this how baseball works? not exactly. Your whole season is important; Replace these seven head-to-head clashes with seven random games in May or June, and the records will remain the same, but the story will instead be that the Guardians jumped into an early lead in the division and then protected it. Instead, the division’s qualifying odds look like a muddled mess with surprising clarity:

Were these two teams equally likely to make the playoffs on September 4th? I would be hard pressed to believe otherwise. They had the exact same record, after all. Every system to drop the playoff odds agreed as neglect. It’s easy to say in retrospect that the Guardians are better built, and that they will always win these games against twins, but that’s simply not the case. The twins’ crime did not have to collapse in September; They averaged 4.5 runs per game before the last fainting. The guardsmen’s monument would have gotten stuck in one or two of those games; It’s hard to say one team was clearly better in a 7-6 game that lasts 15 rounds, for example. This is how the cookie collapsed. Sometimes two identical teams play seven matches and one wins by six. That’s just the nature of the sport, though the Twins’ front office will certainly be combing the wreckage for any hitherto unseen issues.

Also leave a thought for the White Sox, who have done everything they can to get back into racing this month; They are 12-5 years old and have gone 3-1 against the Guardians and Twins. If Cleveland and Minnesota split their games equally, the Sox will be within a game or two of the first in the division. Instead, they will have to sweep Cleveland in the last series of the season, which begins on Tuesday, to settle the score. They will have to win two out of three just to stay in the race. But hey, it can happen. Look no further than the disparate September fates that have been the subject of this article.