The goal for the 2013 Detroit Tigers is nothing short of a World Series. The players have been hungry for it since last year’s sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants and the fans are demanding it, but actually getting the job done is easier said than done.
Here are two things I believe:
(1) Of all the teams in baseball, the Tigers are most likely to win the World Series.
(2) The Tigers probably aren’t going to win the World Series.
The reason is simple: math is a sonofagun.
FanGraphs has playoff odds posted at their fine internet website. They use some combination of ZiPS and Steamer projections (two respected player projection systems) along with playing time-generated depth charts to calculate relative (or perhaps absolute) team strength. I’m sure it’s all very technical. Anyway, they (i.e. FanGraphs) are currently giving the Tigers a 22.6% chance to win the whole darn thing. No other team has even an 18% chance according to their calculation.
If every Division Series team had equal odds everyone would be at 12.5%, so the Tigers are, more or less (less, actually), being given twice the odds of the average Division Series team. This is excellent news for Tigers fans! A computer model says the Tigers are the best team out there!
But it’s also bad news for Tigers fans. Even though the Tigers are heavy favorites compared to each other individual team, they’re still massive underdogs compared to the field. According to the same computer model there is a 77.6% chance the Tigers don’t win the World Series.
It’s kind of depressing to think about here on the eve of the LDS, but that’s the way the world works. Not winning the World Series (or even not winning the ALDS) doesn’t necessarily mean anyone failed, it very probably just means that baseball happened.
We’re at the point of the year where everyone’s good. Everyone wants to win. Some teams, like the Tigers, are better than others, but the degree to which they’re better than any other remaining team is quite small. In small samples like a five or seven-game playoff series, sometimes (often times) the best teams don’t win.