The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was check Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report. -- It sounds neurotic, I know, but I just had to reassure myself that last night's loss was not a death blow to our playoff hopes. -- The report still lists the Sox with an amazing 96% shot at making the playoffs. I mulled that over my morning pop tarts, unable to get my brain around it. I took a look at each team's remaining schedule, and it became much clearer.
How could this team still have such a good chance at the playoffs? -- First off all it's the way they calculate the rest of the season. They have the Sox finishing the season with an average over 96 wins.
96 wins is good enough to get in the playoffs. Why? Because Boston and New York play each other 3 more times.
Currently both Boston and New York can win 99 games if they win out, but they both can't win 99 at the same time. If one of them wins all of their remaining games, the best the other can do is 96 wins. And that's assuming they can win all 9 or 10 of their remaining non-head-to-head games.
Anaheim and Oakland are relative non-factors because the most they can win is 97 and 95 games, respectively. They also play a 4 game series against each other. So if Anaheim wins 97 games, Oakland can only win 91. Likewise, if Oakland were to win 95 games, the best Anaheim could muster would be 93 wins.
After all that, what's the Sox "real" Magic Number?
8 -- If the Sox win 8 games, there is no possible way that NY and Boston can finish with more wins than them.
Win tonight's game. Take the series tomorrow. Then scratch out a few victories against Minnesota and Detroit, and it should be pretty much wrapped up.