Thu Sep 29 11:22am EDT
People keep saying that not even Hollywood would have the courage to write a script about the unlikely comeback of the Tampa Bay Rays.
They're right, of course. How could moviemakers ever expect anyone to buy a story that had a 1-in-278 million chance of happening?
No, that is not a typo. According to calculations made by noted statistician Nate Silver, the series of corners the Rays found themselves backed into made for the unlikeliest escape of all time. According to the bookofodds.com, any of the members were more likely to get struck by lightning (1 in 835,000), win a Powerball drawing (1 in 195,000,000) or die in a shark attack (1 in 250,800,000)
[Related: Rays' trip to postseason is 'beyond fiction']
The list of statistical improbabilities the Rays had to overcome seemingly has no end. Though they 1) erased a 10-game lead once held by a Boston Red Sox team that 45 of 45 ESPN experts picked to win the division, they 2) were behind the New York Yankees 7-0 in the eighth inning of the last game of the season.
Six runs in the eighth changed things, but the Rays' hopes looked bleak when they 3) sent Dan Johnson(notes) (above) and his .389 OPS to the plate with two outs in the ninth and the Rays still down a run. Johnson's homer put the Rays back in the game, but then there was 4) Jonathan Papelbon(notes) entering a 3-2 game for the Boston Red Sox.
Surely one of baseball's best closers over the past five seasons would slam the door and at least force a Thursday tiebreaker between the two teams. Right?
1. The Red Sox had just a 0.3 percent chance of failing to make the playoffs on Sept. 3.
2. The Rays had just a 0.3 percent chance of coming back after trailing 7-0 with two innings to play.
3. The Rays had about a 2 percent chance of winning in the bottom of the 9th, with Johnson also down to his last strike.
4. The Red Sox had only about a 2 percent chance of losing their game against Baltimore, when the Orioles were down to their last strike.
Silver combines all four to arrive at his 1-in-278 million calculation, which he admits is just one of the ways you might arrive at such a figure. But it really does underscore how wild and unlikely the series of events we saw on Wednesday really were. Looking at this very cool win expectancy chart from coolstandings.com, you really realize that we could be watching baseball another 75 years and never see anything like this again.
Big BLS H/N: SB Nation