Thanks to there being not one but TWO Game 163s today, the losers of which will head to the one-game NL Wild Card Game, the first part of this year’s postseason in the NL is basically a double-elimination tournament.
And that’s not too bad.
Don’t get me wrong – every one of the four teams playing today would rather be the Braves, already secure in their fate in the NLDS (with five fewer wins than the Cubs (I’m not bitter (you’re bitter))). But the folks who were saying you might be better off saving yourself yesterday to rest up for the Wild Card Game, rather than go all out to make it to 163, never made much sense to me.
The reason is simple: now the Cubs have two cracks at making the NLDS instead of just one.
Think of it this way. Let’s imagine the Cubs are solid underdogs today (they aren’t), and have a whopping 60% chance of losing this game to the Brewers. Furthermore, if they do lose, let’s also imagine they’ll be underdogs tomorrow (they won’t be), and have a whopping 60% chance of losing the Wild Card Game to the Rockies or Dodgers. Sucks, right? But even in that world of underdog-dom, the Cubs would still have a 64% chance of winning at least one of those two games and going to the NLDS! (To lose both: 0.6 x 0.6 = 0.36.)
If we were looking at more accurate odds, the Cubs would be slight favorites in each of today’s and tomorrow’s games thanks to the home-field advantage. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be enough to shift the numbers in that top paragraph to something more like a 20% chance that the Cubs lose both games. Sure, it’s still within the realm of possibility, but it isn’t the most likely outcome.
Thinking about all of this another way: only one of the four teams playing today will not make it to the NLDS. That team, of course, could be the Cubs. But there are three other possibilities.
Hopefully, in the abstract, that provides a little comfort today. The double-elimination tournament is a good thing. The Cubs can punch their ticket to the NLDS today. And if not, they get another chance tomorrow.