Yes, the number in the title is not an exaggeration. The true odds of the moment we find ourselves in at the close of the Twins 2020 postseason campaign, brief as it was, comes to one in 69 billion. Somewhere in the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox fired up the Improbability drive and Minnesota got caught in the wake.
Let's do some math, shall we?
Setting a baseline
Now, there's a very good chance you've seen the number 262,144 floating around Twins Twitter in the last day or two, and that's because if you were to flip a coin 18 times, the odds of each flip resulting in the same outcome are 262,144:1 against, or 218. Already, this feels bad. This feels unfair. We want to fight against this statistic. BASEBALL GAMES AREN'T COIN FLIPS, I hear you cry out. So many of those games were as underdogs against the almighty Yankees, surely the odds weren't THAT bad?
And yeah, from that perspective, you'd be correct. @Awoodruff3 on Twitter looked at the problem from a gambling odds perspective:
28,524:1 against! Already, this is 10 times as likely as the coin flip scenario, so the sting should only be a fraction of what we currently feel, right?
Sadly, no. Here's how it really breaks down.
I have gone into the Fangraphs archives for each of the 18 games in the losing streak and made note of the moment in time where the Twins had the highest expected win probability. In 17 of the 18 games, the Twins were favored to win - and in a few cases, extremely favored - before eventually taking the L. With that information, we can look at the odds of losing from these moments where the Twins had the greatest amount of leverage to create a future other than the ones we find ourselves in now.
October 6th, 2004: ALDS Game 2
Game StateBottom 12th, 1 out, Twins ahead by 1 at New York
Twins Win Probability87.3%
How'd things look?With Joe Nathan on the mound for his third inning of work, John Olerud strikes out and the Twins are 2 outs away from taking a 2-0 lead in the series.
What happened?Nathan gives consecutive walks before A-Rod hits a ground rule double, followed by an intentional walk and a Matsui sac fly to win.
Odds of a loss7.87:1 against[/table]
October 8th, 2004: ALDS Game 3
Game StateTop 2nd, 2 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York
Twins Win Probability64.5%
How'd things look?Carlos Silva gets a ground ball out from Bernie Williams. It's still early, but teams in the lead tend to stay in the lead.
What happened?Silva immediately gave up 5 consecutive singles and 3 runs before the 2nd inning was over, and the Twins never saw daylight again.
Odds of a 2-game losing streak22:1 against[/table]
October 9th, 2004: ALDS Game 4
Game StateBottom 7, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 4 vs. New York
Twins Win Probability97.0%(!)
How'd things look?A-Rod concludes a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 7th by fouling out to first base. The Twins have retired 9 straight batters.
What happened?Yankees tie the game in the top of the 8th on an RBI single and a 3-run homer, game goes to extra innings, Yankees take the lead in the 11th, Twins fans begin to wonder if this is the start of something dire. (Narrator: It is.)
Odds of a 3-game losing streak739:1 against[/table]
October 3rd, 2006: ALDS Game 1
Game StateBottom 1, 0 outs, tie game vs. Oakland
Twins Win Probability58.3%
How'd things look?Luis Castillo leads off for the Twins with a walk. This would be as good as it got.
What happened?Frank Thomas homers to take the lead in the 2nd, and despite the Twins making things interesting in the bottom of the 8th, they would never be favored again.
Odds of a 4-game losing streak1,773:1 against[/table]
October 4th, 2006: ALDS Game 2
Game StateBottom 6, 0 outs, tie game vs. Oakland
Twins Win Probability57.6%
How'd things look?Down 2, the Twins start the bottom of the 6th with consecutive homers by Cuddy and Morneau to tie the game, and Oakland goes to the bullpen.
What happened?Oakland responds in the 7th with 2 runs off an inside the park home run.
Odds of a 5-game losing streak4,181:1 against[/table]
October 6th, 2006: ALDS Game 3
Game StateTop 2, 0 outs, tie game at Oakland
Twins Win Probability56.3%
How'd things look?Morneau opens the 2nd with a double, with Torii Hunter on deck.
What happened?Morneau doesn't score, Oakland opens up a 4-0 lead, and eventually win 8-3.
Odds of a 6-game losing streak9,569:1 against[/table]
October 7th, 2009: ALDS Game 1
Game StateTop 3, 2 outs, Twins ahead by 2 at New York
Twins Win Probability68.7%
How'd things look?Twins take a 2-0 lead when Joe Mauer scores on a Jorge Posada passed ball
What happened?Yankees immediately tie the game on a Derek Jeter home run, and the Twins never score again. Yankees win 7-2.
Odds of a 7-game losing streak30,571:1 against[/table]
October 9th, 2009: ALDS Game 2
Game StateTop 9, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 2 at New York
Twins Win Probability91.7%
How'd things look?After the Twins take a 2 run lead in the top of the 8th, the Yankees go down 1-2-3, and Joe Mauer comes to the plate to open the 9th.
What happened?Yankees tie it up in the bottom of the 9th, Joe Mauer hits a double in the 11th that Phil Cuzzi incorrectly rules foul, and settles for a single- only to be followed by 2 consecutive singles that would have scored him had the double stood. Instead, Mauer doesn't score, Yankees walk it off on a Mark Teixeira homer, and just typing out this sentence makes me want to die inside.
Odds of an 8-game losing streak368,333:1 against[/table]
October 11th, 2009: ALDS Game 3
Game StateTop 7, 1 out, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York
Twins Win Probability72.6%
How'd things look?The Twins have struck first on an RBI single by Mauer, and the Yankees have responded with a Mark Teixeira groundout.
What happened?Yankees immediately take the lead with home runs by A-Rod and Posada. Twins threaten to tie in the 8th with a leadoff Punto double, but fail to capitalize. Yankees win 4-1.
Odds of a 9-game losing streak1,344,281:1 against[/table]
October 6th, 2010: ALDS Game 1
Game StateTop 6, 1 out, Twins ahead by 3 vs. New York
Twins Win Probability87.7%
How'd things look?Francisco Liriano has only given up 2 hits to the Yankees, who are down three and open the 6th with a Nick Swisher strikeout.
What happened?The wheels come off moments later as Lirano gives up a double, a wild pitch, 2 singles, and a triple to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. The Twins would later tie it, only to lose 6-4.
Odds of a 10-game losing streak10,929,120:1 against[/table]
October 7th, 2010: ALDS Game 2
Game StateBottom 3, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York
Twins Win Probability66.5%
How'd things look?Twins opened the scoring in the 2nd on a Danny Valencia sac fly, and the Yankees go down 1-2-3 in response.
What happened?Yankees would later take a 2-1 lead before Orlando Hudson ties the game with a solo shot, but that tie doesn't last long. Yankees win 5-2.
Odds of an 11-game losing streak32,624,240:1 against[/table]
October 9th, 2010: ALDS Game 3
Game StateTop 2, 0 outs, Twins tied at New York
Twins Win Probability50%
How'd things look?This is the only game in the 18-game streak where the Twins were never favored. It remained 50/50 after both teams failed to accomplish anything in the first inning.
What happened?Twins fall behind in the 2nd, and never get close, losing 6-1.
Odds of a 12-game losing streak65,248,481:1 against[/table]
October 3th, 2017: AL Wild Card
Game StateTop 1, 1 out, Twins ahead by 3 at New York
Twins Win Probability81.8%
How'd things look?You remember this inning, right? Twins go into Yankee Stadium and immediately knock Luis Severino out of the game with homers by Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario, followed by an Escobar single and a Kepler double. 3 run lead, 2 men on, only 1 out. We've got this. Yankees don't have a CHANCE.
What happened?Buxton and Castro strike out to end the inning, Ervin Santana gives up the lead on a 3-run homer, Yankees win 8-4, and everyone in my generation starts to develop serious anxiety complexes revolving around who the hell we hurt to cause this.
Odds of a 13-game losing streak358,508,138:1 against[/table]
October 4th, 2019: ALDS Game 1
Game StateTop 3, 2 out, Twins ahead by 2 at New York
Twins Win Probability67.1%
How'd things look?Twins were already leading 1-0 when Nelson Cruz comes up big with a solo home run against James Paxton.
What happened?As per usual, Twins lose the lead immediately. They tie things up in the 5th, but that also doesn't last. Twins lose 10-4.
Odds of a 14-game losing streak1,089,690,390:1 against[/table]
October 5th, 2019: ALDS Game 2
Game StateTop 1, 1 out, Twins tied at New York
Twins Win Probability53.6%
How'd things look?Inexplicably known as the Randy Dobnak game, the Twins were statistically favored for the briefest of moments when a HBP and a single put 2 men on in the first inning with only one out.
What happened?Those baserunners are stranded on a double play, Yankees score first and never look back. Twins lose 8-2.
Odds of a 15-game losing streak2,348,470,670:1 against[/table]
October 7th, 2019: ALDS Game 3
Game StateBottom 2, 0 outs, Twins losing by 1 vs. New York
Twins Win Probability62.6%
How'd things look?The only entry on this series where the Twins were favored while losing. Why? The Twins opened the 2nd inning by loading the bases with no outs. This is a scenario where you are highly likely to score multiple runs.
What happened?They didn't.
Odds of a 16-game losing streak6,279,333,342:1 against[/table]
September 29th, 2020: AL Wild Card Round Game 1
Game StateBottom 5th, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. Houston
Twins Win Probability78.4%
How'd things look?Twins open the 5th with consecutive walks while already leading.
What happened?Strikeout, pop fly, groundout. Twins twitter immediately fears the worst due to the failure to capitalize, and their fears are proven valid.
Odds of a 17-game losing streak29,070,987,697:1 against[/table]
September 30th, 2020: AL Wild Card Round Game 2
Game StateBottom 6th, 0 outs, Twins tied vs. Houston
Twins Win Probability57.9%
How'd things look?After loading the bases in the first inning and still failing to score, the Twins have done very litte. Still, it's a tie game, and the Twins are coming up to bat as slight favorites.
What happened?The bats continued to stay silent, and couldn't overcome a 2-run deficit in the 9th. I cried, and then began writing this article as a coping mechanism.
Odds of a 18-game losing streak69,052,227,309:1 against[/table]