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69 Billion to 1: The True Futility of the Twins Postseason


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.

 

The Methodology

 

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. At some point during 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.

 


 

Oct. 6, 2004: ALDS Game 2

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 12th, 1 out, Twins ahead by 1 at New York

 

Twins Win Probability

87.3%

 

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 loss

7.87:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 8, 2004: ALDS Game 3

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 2nd, 2 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York

 

Twins Win Probability

64.5%

 

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 streak

22:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 9, 2004: ALDS Game 4

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 7, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 4 vs. New York

 

Twins Win Probability

97.0%(!)

 

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 streak

739:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 3, 2006: ALDS Game 1

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 1, 0 outs, tie game vs. Oakland

 

Twins Win Probability

58.3%

 

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 streak

1,773:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 4, 2006: ALDS Game 2

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 6, 0 outs, tie game vs. Oakland

 

Twins Win Probability

57.6%

 

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 streak

4,181:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 6, 2006: ALDS Game 3

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 2, 0 outs, tie game at Oakland

 

Twins Win Probability

56.3%

 

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 streak

9,569:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 7, 2009: ALDS Game 1

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 3, 2 outs, Twins ahead by 2 at New York

 

Twins Win Probability

68.7%

 

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 streak

30,571:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 9, 2009: ALDS Game 2

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 9, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 2 at New York

 

Twins Win Probability

91.7%

 

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 streak

368,333:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 11, 2009: ALDS Game 3

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 7, 1 out, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York

 

Twins Win Probability

72.6%

 

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 streak

1,344,281:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 6, 2010: ALDS Game 1

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 6, 1 out, Twins ahead by 3 vs. New York

 

Twins Win Probability

87.7%

 

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 streak

10,929,120:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 7, 2010: ALDS Game 2

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 3, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. New York

 

Twins Win Probability

66.5%

 

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 streak

32,624,240:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 9, 2010: ALDS Game 3

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 2, 0 outs, Twins tied at New York

 

Twins Win Probability

50%

 

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 streak

65,248,481:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 3, 2017: AL Wild Card

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 1, 1 out, Twins ahead by 3 at New York

 

Twins Win Probability

81.8%

 

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 streak

358,508,138:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 4, 2019: ALDS Game 1

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 3, 2 out, Twins ahead by 2 at New York

 

Twins Win Probability

67.1%

 

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 streak

1,089,690,390:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 5, 2019: ALDS Game 2

 

[table]

 

Game State

Top 1, 1 out, Twins tied at New York

 

Twins Win Probability

53.6%

 

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 streak

2,348,470,670:1 against[/table]

 


 

Oct. 7, 2019: ALDS Game 3

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 2, 0 outs, Twins losing by 1 vs. New York

 

Twins Win Probability

62.6%

 

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 streak

6,279,333,342:1 against[/table]

 


 

Sept. 29, 2020: AL Wild Card Round Game 1

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 5th, 0 outs, Twins ahead by 1 vs. Houston

 

Twins Win Probability

78.4%

 

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 streak

29,070,987,697:1 against[/table]

 


 

Sept. 30, 2020: AL Wild Card Round Game 2

 

[table]

 

Game State

Bottom 6th, 0 outs, Twins tied vs. Houston

 

Twins Win Probability

57.9%

 

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 streak

69,052,227,309:1 against[/table]

 


 

Conclusions

 

 


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There are variables in the equation left out that make it much more likely to have this historically incompetent run.

 

1). The budget. Until the Donaldson signing this year, the team has really never signed a significant free agent.

 

2). Prospect hoarding. Until this year the team has never made a significant trade.

 

1 and 2 above consistently put this team behind the 8-ball against teams that legitimately supplement their rosters. They’ve never had a chance against a team like the Yankees in the playoffs.

 

3). Awful management. Until recently, they’ve been lagging behind in analytics. Now that they’ve caught up in that department, they have a manager that routinely makes awful decisions in game. The litany of low baseball IQ plays in that one two game series was off the charts. That’s a reflection of poor coaching. Outside of the game, he holds nobody accountable. His lazy (yes, I’m calling lazy) approach has been lauded around here as a contributing factor to this teams success. It’s actually holding them back, IMO.

 

When you run things as poorly as this club historically has, every game isn’t a 50/50 proposition, which is how you’re calculating the odds. In reality, these series were all over well before they started. Surprising that they haven’t lucked into a win? Maybe. Surprising that they’ve been this historically incompetent? Nope. All of the people who have been on the Pohlads case were called unintelligent by the “enlightened” fans. It’s becoming clear which side has the most firm grip on reality.

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I actually don't doubt the number is stupid high. Imagine placing a parlay bet against the Twins. Really Imagine just placing an 18 game parlay bet against the same team. Winning that bet would be crazy high odds to lose 18 in a row. I blow at math but that would be, to me, the correct odds to figure out.

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Reddit says - The simple answer to your question is 2. This is the average length of a win streak.

The chance that a streak has length exactly 1, is 1/2

The chance that a streak has length exactly 2, is 1/4

The chance that a streak has length exactly 3, is 1/8

and so on. So what you are looking for is the result of the infinite sum

1*(1/2)+2*(1/4)+3*(1/8)+...

That is the infinite sum of n*2{-n} for n running from 1 to infinity.

The result is 2. Showing this would be a good exercise for a first year math major. If you are interested in a proof that this is indeed the sum, I can provide.

 

And I have no idea what that means.

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I had forgotten that we were up 3-0 in Game 1 of 2010. Between that and Game 2 of 09 it's depressing to read.

 

To say nothing of the fact that the streak would have never started if Cory Koskie's double in 8th inning of game 2 in 2004 hadn't bounced over the wall.

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<quote>And I have no idea what that means.<\quote>

 

Basically, you're chance of losing any one game is 1/2 at it's simplest.

 

Your chance of losing 2 games is 1/4, [WW, WL, LW, LL are all the pairs, one of the four is two loses or mathematically chance of losing game one (1/2) multiplied by chance of losing game two(1/2)=(1/2)^2=1/4] on and on, so the chance of losing some number, n, straight games is (1/2)^n.

 

The average length of a losing streak is the length weighted (multiplied) by its chance of happening, so an 1 game streak is 1*(1/2), two game 2*(1/4), etc. To finish finding the average you add up the weighted chance of each (1*(1/2)+2*(1/4)+3*(1/8)+...) to find a total of each length of streak, which eventually approaches effectively 2.

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<quote>And I have no idea what that means.<\quote>

 

Basically, you're chance of losing any one game is 1/2 at it's simplest.

 

Your chance of losing 2 games is 1/4, [WW, WL, LW, LL are all the pairs, one of the four is two loses or mathematically chance of losing game one (1/2) multiplied by chance of losing game two(1/2)=(1/2)^2=1/4] on and on, so the chance of losing some number, n, straight games is (1/2)^n.

 

The average length of a losing streak is the length weighted (multiplied) by its chance of happening, so an 1 game streak is 1*(1/2), two game 2*(1/4), etc. To finish finding the average you add up the weighted chance of each (1*(1/2)+2*(1/4)+3*(1/8)+...) to find a total of each length of streak, which eventually approaches effectively 2.

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You're assuming the Twins would have actually held on to that lead, which seems generous given the evidence we've seen since!

Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan did pitch the next innings anyway, and they didn't give up any runs. No logical reason they'd be more nervous up 1 than in a tie, but who knows. The Yankees were Juan's daddy as we'd learn two days later.

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