The Final Regular Season Decision

The second wild card looked like it might goose the final weekend, but all it did was lightly spank it. There’s only one team with anything more than 1% chance of making the playoffs that’s not currently in a playoff spot. Team Entropy has failed, and only the Mariners can bring any chaos to the final weekend, unless the Pirates and Royals catch their division leaders on the final day.

Most of the juice comes from home field advantage in the wild card game. And that might not have as much meaning as it does in other sports. From this LA Times piece in 2011:

“Baseball in general has the lowest home-field advantage of all sports,” said Tobias Moskowitz, coauthor of “Scorecasting” and a professor at the University of Chicago. “We don’t find that there is any difference in the postseason versus the regular season, once you adjust for the quality of teams.”

Even though baseball is the one sport where the dimensions of the field vary in each ballpark, allowing teams to mold their rosters to the idiosyncrasies of their home stadiums, it is also the sport with the lowest historical home-team winning percentage. Over the last three complete seasons, the home team has won 55.5% of the 7,288 games. Over the last century, that figure has hovered around 54%.

The Giants, who would have dropped from a Steamer-projected 3.02 FIP from Madison Bumgarner to a 3.85 FIP projection from Jake Peavy in the same system, have already made their choice. No matter where the NL Wild Card game is played, Madison Bumgarner will be pitching in it.

Will the A’s, Royals, and Pirates follow suit and declare their best pitcher their wild card game starter?

The Sunday starter for the A’s is Sonny Gray, and currently Jon Lester is slated to go for the wild card game there. Since Gray’s expected work (3.61 Steamer-projected FIP) is so close to Lester’s (3.49), there’s little reason to muck with that schedule if only a few percentage points of advantage in a one game playoff are on the table.

The difference is larger for James Shields (3.63) and Yordano Ventura (3.91), but still not as stark as the one between the Giants’ two possible starters. Shields is Big Game Shields, acquired for just this sort of game, so he’ll start to the Wild Card game.

The Pirates, though. They start Francisco Liriano (3.31) on Saturday and Gerrit Cole (3.56) on Sunday, or at least that’s what the schedule says right now. If they do indeed use those pitchers in a quest for the division, and fail, they’ll be left with Edinson Volquez (4.12) most likely. So that’s your rotation and battle to watch.

If the Pirates are tied or one game out in the division on Sunday — will they start Cole and leave an inferior pitcher for the wild card game? Team Entropy has one last situation to root for, it seems.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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9 years ago

The Pirates are 1 game back! ONE game… go for it.

Also, apparently Volquez is awesome now.

9 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Andrew McCutchen < Ryan Braun.