Last updated June 25.
As a Phillies fan, I’ve become adept at constructing outlandish scenarios for how the team can pull it together. For the millions of fans who root for struggling baseball teams, it’s this faith in baseball miracles that keeps us hanging on. The chart above is your guide to how often those miracles actually happen.
In mid-May, when the Phils were still dog paddling around a .500 record, I started to wonder how many teams in their same position at that point in the season went on to make the playoffs. Using Retrosheet.org, I pulled the box scores for the 43,404 regular season games that have been played since 1996, the first full season after Major League Baseball went to a three-round playoff system with eight teams.
By the morning of June 8, for example, the Phillies were carrying a 25-35 record. As it happens, 18 teams since 1996 have had that same record after 60 games. Only one of them, the 2005 Houston Astros, made the playoffs. Judging by history, in other words, the 2014 Phillies had only a 6 percent chance of seeing the postseason on June 8. (The list at the bottom of this article has always-current standings based on these odds.)
Of course, every season is different, and to make the postseason a ball club is competing against the other teams in the league, not other teams in history. Flukes and miracles do happen. (Recall that the Padres won the NL West in 2005 with an 82-80 record.) Judging by history, however, teams like the Phillies have virtually no chance whatsoever to turn things around. It’s over long before it’s over.
The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet. The data does not include tie-breaker games played among wild card contenders or the small handful of tie games that have occurred since 1996.
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