Great stuff on the choking Sox from Nate Silver today -
After beating the Texas Rangers on Sept. 3, the Boston Red Sox were 84-54. Although half a game behind the Yankees in the American League East, the Red Sox had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card and roughly a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Since then, however, the Red Sox are 5-16, and following their loss to Baltimore Monday night, their lead over the Rays has evaporated into a tie.
The season isn’t over, of course, and the Red Sox do have one big advantage: their games Tuesday night and Wednesday are against the 68-win Orioles, while the Rays are playing New York. But there is obviously the potential for a catastrophic collapse.
There are different ways to measure the magnitude of pennant race collapses. One approach, which I’ve used in the past, is to calculate a team’s playoff probability after every game of the season, and to see which team had the highest probability of making the playoffs but failed to do so.
By that standard, the Red Sox collapse — if it comes to fruition — might rank as high as the second or third worst of all time, rivaling that of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 2007 New York Mets. It wouldn’t be quite as bad, however, as that of the 1995 California Angels, who had in excess of a 99.9 percent chance of making the playoffs on Aug. 20, 1995, when they held a 9-and-a-half-game lead over the Texas Rangers in the A.L. West, and were 12 games ahead of the Yankees for the wild card, but missed the playoffs after finishing their year 12-26.
Not all these collapses were created equal, however. The 1951 Dodgers, for instance, played well enough down the stretch, going 25-24 over their final 49 ballgames, but were caught by the streaking (and possibly cheating) New York Giants, who went 39-8 over their final 47 games.
The problems facing the Red Sox, on the other hand, are mostly of their own making. Tampa Bay has not even played all that well: they are 15-10 in September, but if not for their 5-1 record against the Red Sox, they’d be a pedestrian 9-9.
I think this does get lost in this story sometimes. The Rays are not making a charge. It’s all on the Sox. They’ve really earned this one…major league choke job.