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The Mathematics of Disaster

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At this very moment, the Twins sit 6.5 games back of Detroit for the lead in the American League Central, and 7 games behind both New York and Seattle for the wild card.  Minnesota is 60-60 on the year, and thus has 42 games to go.

It all feeds into the question that's been on the lips of every Twins fan for the last month: "Given up yet?"

The team and the folks at FSN North would have you believe that the odds are not insurmountable.  They point to last season at this time, when the Twins were 8.5 games behind Detroit.  Unfortunately, last season was one of the more remarkable pennant comebacks in the history of baseball, so it's hard to imagine the Twins pulling it off again.

Instead, let's take a look inside the numbers.  It may not settle anything - but it might give us some idea of the uphill battle that the team is facing.

The baseline:
 - The Twins are on pace to win 81 games.
 - They are 15-17 since the All-Star break.
 - The Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball suggests that the Twins should win 83 games this season.  If they match this for the rest of the year, they'll end with 82 wins.

In the division...
If Detroit and Cleveland both play .500 baseball the rest of the way:
The Twins would have to finish 29-13 (.690) to win the division.

If Detroit and Cleveland win the number of games suggested by the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball:
The Twins would have to finish 30-12 (.714) to catch the Tigers.

If Detroit and Cleveland each matches its current pace:
Again, the Twins would have to finish 30-12 to catch up.

If the Twins played .700 baseball the rest of the way, as they did over the season's final 100 games last year:
Detroit would have to finish the season 22-21 or worse AND Cleveland would need to be 23-20 or worse.

In the Wild Card race...

If Seattle and New York (and the rest of the race) all play .500 baseball the rest of the way:
The Twins would have to finish 29-13 (.690).

If Seattle and New York win the number of games suggested by the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball:
The Twins would have to finish 33-9 (.785) to catch New York.

If Detroit and Cleveland each matches its current pace:
The Twins would have to finish 31-11 (.738) to catch up.

If the Twins played .700 baseball the rest of the way, as they did over the season's final 100 games last year:
Seattle and New York would both have to be sub-.500 teams the rest of the way, along with the Indians finishing worse than 23-20 and Toronto failing to do better than 28-16.

We all know that the Twins closed out last year with a 71-33 stretch - that's a .682 clip.  And this was widely hailed as one of the most amazing runs in baseball history.

But it's going to take an even better run - or a bigger collapse - over the season's final 42 games, if the Twins want to get back to the postseason.

Though I want to believe, I just don't see a team that's scooting along below .500 as a good bet to suddenly turn things around and go 33-9 to end the year.