If you go to ESPN.com’s standings page, you will see a column labeled “POFF” which is a team’s odds of making the postseason. The Mets are on pace for 94 wins and are 10-5 against teams from the National League East, generally considered the toughest division in the league, yet they have just over a 17 percent chance of making the playoffs according to this metric.

ESPN gets this information from coolstandings.com which runs simulations to come up with their odds. According to their Web site, here’s how they do it:

”To determine the chance team A has of beating team B, coolstandings.com estimates the expected number of runs that team A will score against team B, and the expected number of runs that team B will score against team A. These numbers are estimated using team statistics (such as RS and RA), and plugged into a modified version of the Pythagorean theorem. With these results, we simulate the rest of the season, using each team’s remaining schedule, and determine how many times each team wins its division or the wild card.”

The Mets have allowed 13 more runs than they have scored, which goes a long way towards explaining why their playoff odds are so low despite their good start. The team’s record is so good because of a 5-1 mark in one-run games. Last year the Mets were 21-28 in one-run games. On the flip side, the 2012 Mets are 2-5 in blowouts, described as games with a margin of five or more runs. Let’s look at these blowout losses:

4/15 – Mike Pelfrey held a 2-1 lead when he left after six innings. Phils put up two runs in the seventh and five in the eighth off the bullpen for the 8-2 win.
4/17 – Atlanta scored six runs off Johan Santana en route to the 9-3 win.
4/18 – The Braves tallied eight runs off R.A. Dickey in the rain and won, 14-6.
4/23 G1 – Miguel Batista made an emergency start and gave up six runs in the 6-1 setback.
4/23 G2 – Dillon Gee allowed seven runs in the 7-2 loss.

To me, the worrisome games are where the starters get knocked around so I’m not too concerned about the first blowout. Batista may not start another game for the Mets this year, so I’m not worked up about that one, either. Dickey’s bad start came in poor weather conditions. So we are left with two bad outings that raise alarms.

The good news is that Santana has already bounced back from his poor outing with a strong game, as he fanned 11 in 6.2 innings and only allowed one run in a no-decision against the Marlins in a game the Mets went on to win. Gee has yet to have his first start after his lousy outing.

Why the concern about blowouts? A team’s record in blowout games is a greater example of the squad’s quality than is its mark in one-run games. More often than not, a good team will have a .500 or better record in one-run games. Last year there were nine teams that won 90 or more games and seven of those finished .500 or better in one-run games. But all nine of them were above .500 in blowouts. Here are their combined records in both categories:

1-run game: 226-178 (.559)
Blowouts: 244-145 (.627)

Meanwhile, there were nine teams that finished with 90 or more losses last year, too. Here are their breakdowns:

1-run: 213-255 (.455)
Blowout: 132-211 (.385)

Not one of the nine teams finished above .500 in blowouts and six of the teams were 10 or more games below .500 in games decided by five or more runs. Only one of these teams was 10 or more games below .500 in one-run games. The Orioles lost 93 games last year and were .500 (22-22) in one-run games.

So, what does this mean for the 2012 Mets?

There is a lot to be excited about in regards to the team’s start in 2012. After 19 games last year, the Mets were 6-13, so it is really nice to be 11-8 right now. But while we can be excited about their overall record, we should be a bit concerned about their record in blowouts. It is extremely unlikely that the Mets can challenge for a playoff spot if they maintain their current pace in blowout games.

3 comments on “Why are the Mets’ playoff odds so low at ESPN?

  • Mike Koehler

    If only you knew the blowout that would come hours after this post…

  • Metsense

    Interesting analysis Brian. On the surface, the old baseball adage is that good teams win one run games. That still holds true. Teams that get blown out seem to be inconsistent in their pitching and defense and to some degree their hitting (or lack thereof). Having a sub .500 record in blowouts seems to be indicative of weaknesses on the team. Contending teams address these weaknesses. Step one is a regular season plus .500 record (so far,so good), step 2 is addressing the defensive weaknesses of this team. At the end of this season, the Mets will have a nice sample size to evaluate which of these young players they can build on.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks Metsense.

      However, I think I would interpret these findings differently. One-run games, in my opinion, are due to skill and luck, with a greater emphasis on the latter. If you go back and look at the data over 10 years – I bet you won’t find 10 teams that had a W-L record in one-run games 10 games over .500 for a season. Also, you will find 90-win teams every year that were .500 (or worse) in one-run games. In 2011, the Yankees were 21-24 in one-run games, the Rangers were 19-24 and the Red Sox were 19-19. The best record for a 90-win team in one-run games was by the Brewers, who were 30-18.

      Meanwhile, blowouts are much, much more due to skill. Four of the nine teams that won 90 last year had records 12 or more games over .500 in blowouts. The Yankees were *21 games* over .500 in blowouts. The Yankees were a really good team last year because they could kick the snot out of teams in blowouts, not because of their record in one-run games. On the flip side, the worst record in blowouts by a 90-win team was the Diamondbacks, who were 19-16.

      Of the nine teams that lost 90 games last year, four of them were within three games of .500 in one-run games, including the Orioles who went 22-22. The worst record was 11 games under .500 by the Padres, the only team in double digits. Six of the nine teams were double digits under .500 in blowouts, including the Twins who were 15-30 in blowouts.

      Contending teams simply aren’t under .500 in blowouts.

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