Hope And The Prediction Machine

A little over a week ago, Jonathan Willis looked at a number of respectable publications that were so bold as to make predictions about which team would fall into what place in the standings. It’s all a bit of a crap-shoot (heck, some of the predictions out there are literally for the purposes of gambling) but the general consensus seems to be that the Leafs are not expected make the playoffs this coming season. Instead, the predictions have them finishing around 9th or 10th in the East.

After heaving an existential sigh, I’d have to agree that it certainly looks that way.

Now, it’s too early to fret about what will happen if/when the Leafs don’t make the playoffs because 1) I can’t deal with being negative about a rebuilding team for the next seven months, 2) the lineup may well change before the Leafs play their first regular season game (we’ve heard Burke is trying to move a defender, probably Gunnarsson), and 3) if the Leafs do miss the playoffs, it might be for reasons that we couldn’t predict. For the moment, I’m going to take interest in the smaller storylines that appeal to me and just enjoy the ride.

Perhaps most importantly, however, there are sometimes events that appear headed directly down a fateful pipeline that take an unexpected turn: on Wednesday night, the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays respectively lost and won two games that made for one of the most unlikely narratives basebally fans are likely to ever witness. There was always the mathematical possibility that the Rays would wind up making the post-season, but most of the time, this kind of story ends like it did for the Leafs at the end of the last NHL regular season, with a hot team giving too little, too late. Every now and then, even those of us who spend so much time looking at numbers, have to throw our hands in the air, and just marvel at the wonderful storyline that is an upset. This graph, taken from Nate Silver’s New York Times Blog post, articulates rather succinctly the lieklihood of the Sox or the Rays of making the playoffs, over the course of this past MLB season:

Here’s hoping the Leafs can thumb their noses at the projected odds and achieve their first-ever post-lockout playoff birth. Of course, they would be crushed by the top seed if they manage to crack 8th but I’ll be thrilled with anything I can get after April 7th.

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