Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kansas City Chiefs' Playoff Odds, Week 13


Before we get into Chiefs mode, a few housekeeping items:

- For those of you who missed it, I wrote a guest column for my friend John Sickels at minorleagueball.com here. If you’re a die-hard Royals fan, you probably won’t learn anything new from this – but any time I’m offered the chance to gloat in front of a national audience, I’m inclined to take it.

- I’m glad I got my Carl Crawford column up on Saturday, because if it had gone up on Sunday, it would have been obsolete the moment it hit the web. The Jayson Werth contract was just that ridiculous. If Werth is worth 7 years at $18 million a year, it would be hard for anyone to argue if Crawford claims he’s worth 8 years at $22 million a year, or even more.

Of course, what Crawford is truly worth is simply what the market will bear, and the fact that the Nationals lost their mind for Werth doesn’t mean the same will happen with Crawford. But if this is indicative of what the free-agent market will be this winter, the Royals might be better off sitting it out. Sure, they’ll have money to burn in a year or two, but if they don’t like what’s available in free agency at that point, there’s a good chance they can simply trade a token prospect to a team that’s having buyer’s remorse, and get a useful but overpriced player with the old team footing some of the bill.

- As Matt Klaasen pointed out on Twitter, the Jayson Werth signing makes the timing of the David DeJesus trade even more suspect. For one, if the price of an everyday outfielder just went up, then the $6 million that DeJesus is owed for 2011 looks even more appealing today. And secondly, since none of the usual suspects signed Werth, that means one more team that would have been in the running for DeJesus’ services.

For instance, the Red Sox. Going into the winter, Boston looked like clear favorites to sign either Werth or Carl Crawford. But now, Werth is off the market, and they’re unlikely to chase the rising cost of Crawford (especially now that they’re trying to work out a long-term deal for Adrian Gonzalez.) We know that the Red Sox had interest in DeJesus last July. You don’t think that right now, if the Royals had held on to DeJesus, the Red Sox would be showing considerably more interest than they had a month ago?

There’s nothing wrong with a GM being decisive; Kenny Williams has made a living like that. But there is something wrong with a GM being decisive when he doesn’t have to be. There was nothing to be gained by trading DeJesus in November instead of in December or January. There was considerable opportunity to be lost. The Royals have Vinny Mazzaro and Justin Marks; they also have to wonder if they could have gotten more, if they had just shown some patience.

- When I appeared on the Baseball Prospectus Podcast to talk about the Royals 2 weeks ago – you can find that here – Kevin Goldstein asked me if I thought the Royals would trade Zack Greinke this winter. I put the odds at the time at around 20%, because I felt like the Royals had all the leverage in the situation, and they would only move him if they got him an overwhelming offer.

Today, I’d put those odds much higher, for two reasons. The first is that with the money that’s flying around this month, Greinke’s contract - $27 million for 2 years – looks even more enticing than ever. Depending on where Cliff Lee ends up, you’ll have at least one and possibly two of the Rangers/Yankees who will be looking for a fallback option, and Greinke for $27/2 looks considerably more appetizing after you’ve just offered Lee $120/5 and been turned down.

The second is that the number of media rumors hinting that Greinke wants out of Kansas City continues to go up. I don’t trust these rumors 100% - Greinke is a tough person to read, and he’s very private, and unless these rumors are coming straight from his mouth (which I doubt) then I’m inclined to take them with a huge grain of salt. The Royals would know better than anyone spreading these rumors whether their relationship with Greinke is salvageable or not. But there’s certainly a chance that it’s not, in which case he’s likely to go. I’d put the odds that he gets traded by Opening Day at 50/50, maybe a little higher depending on where Lee ends up and just how desperate the bridesmaids get.

---

Sunday was a heck of a day for the Chiefs. They won, which wasn’t surprising; the Chargers lost; which was. And then Josh McDaniels was relieved of his duties in Denver, and given how many teams respond to their coach being fired with sudden, if short-lived, improvement (look at the Vikings post-Childress and the Cowboys post-Phillips), we can only hope that the Broncos respond the same way – given that they host the Raiders in two weeks and go to San Diego for the season finale.

As it stands, the Chiefs are 8-4, and hold a 1.5 game lead on the division with four games to go. Here’s what this means:

1) No matter what happens against the Chargers next week, the Chiefs control their own destiny.

That’s the most important thing to take away from this. If San Diego had won against Oakland, then a scenario was very much in play that had the Chiefs losing in San Diego, finishing their season with three wins and an 11-5 record – and missing the playoffs when the Chargers also finished 11-5 and had the tiebreaker in hand.

The Chargers’ loss eliminates the possibility of an 11-5 team missing the playoffs, at least in the AFC. Which no doubt makes Matt Cassel happy, seeing as how only one NFL team in history has missed the playoffs with an 11-5 record – and he was the quarterback of that team.

(In the NFC, though, all bets are off. The NFC West is so putrid that in each of the other three divisions, there are two teams that are 8-4 or better. One of those teams is guaranteed to miss the playoffs.)

If the Chiefs lose in San Diego, but win their final three games, they are guaranteed to win the division, and in fact are guaranteed to be at least the #3 seed. (They would be guaranteed to have a better record than the AFC South champion – the Jaguars, who lead the division, already have 5 losses, and they lost to the Chiefs head-to-head.)

2) The odds that the Chiefs qualify for the playoffs as a wild-card team, which were already tiny, are now infinitesimal.

Before, there was a chance that the Chiefs might finish 11-5 and lose the division, which would bring the wild-card into play. But now, for the Chiefs to not finish in first place in the AFC West, they would have to finish no better than 10-6. This could happen if they lose to the Chargers and then stumble against the Rams or Titans, while San Diego wins their last three.

In that case, the Chiefs have to hope that either the Ravens or the Jets finish no better than 9-7. Remember, the Chiefs lose almost all tiebreakers outside the division, because of their inferior in-conference record. (There are some scenarios in which, if the Chiefs lose to the Rams, they might win a tiebreaker against the Jets or Ravens, but those permutations are a little too complicated to get into right now.)

For the Ravens to finish 9-7, they’d have to lose three of their last four games, which include home games against New Orleans and Cincinnati, and play Houston and Cleveland on the road. None of those games are gimmes, but I expect them to at least split.

The Jets would have to lose their last four games in order to finish 9-7. Maybe their 45-3 ass-kicking on the foot of New England is fresh in my mind, but I actually wonder if this could happen. The Jets host Miami this week, then play the Steelers and Bears on the road. If they lose to the Dolphins, the chance of a major freefall is there – and then they finish at home against a feisty Buffalo team that is a hell of a lot better than their 2-10 record would indicate.

If the games break right next week, we can revisit these scenarios in more detail. For now, I’d focus on the division if I were you.

There’s two ways this can go. If the Chiefs beat San Diego, then it literally does not matter what happens against St. Louis in Tennessee. Even if the Chiefs lose to BOTH the Rams and Titans, if they beat the Raiders in the season finale, they will be 10-6, and both the Raiders and Chargers will have at least seven losses each.

Now if, like me, the memory of the home loss to the Raiders to close out the 1999 season, costing the Chiefs a playoff berth – because Pete Stoyanovich missed the game-winning field goal as time ran out, then Jon Baker started overtime by kicking out of bounds (his third time that day!) – you’d rather it didn’t have to come down to the final game. But if the Chiefs beat the Chargers, there’s a good chance that it won’t.

If the Chiefs win next week, then their Magic Number is 2 – any combination of Chiefs wins (vs. the Rams or Titans) or Raiders losses (vs. Jacksonville, Denver, and Indianapolis) that equals 2 or more, and the Chiefs will have clinched the AFC West before they kick off against Oakland. They might be playing for seeding, but they won’t be playing for their lives.

If the Chiefs lose to San Diego, they really need to run the table to be safe. If they beat Oakland, then a win against either St. Louis or Tennessee eliminates the Raiders. However, a loss against either team opens up the door for San Diego to win the division if they win their last three games. After playing the Chiefs, the Chargers host the 49ers, then finish on the road against the Bengals and Broncos – all very winnable games for them.

If the Chiefs lose to San Diego and Oakland, then they have to beat St. Louis and Tennessee, for starters. Then they have to hope that both Oakland and San Diego lose at least one of their other three games along the way. Which is certainly possible. We might, in fact, see a scenario in which the Chiefs lose in San Diego, take care of business against the Rams and Titans, and – if both the Chargers and Raiders lose one more game – the Chiefs will still have clinched the division before they take the field against Oakland.

In summary: beat San Diego and the division is yours for the taking. Lose to San Diego and the division is still yours for the taking; you just can’t afford any more screw-ups. That’s what a 1.5-game lead with four games to go does for you.


30 comments:

steak said...

As a long-time Chiefs fan, I am not at all nervous about our playoff chances. I am simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. Matt Cassel will throw 4 interceptions in one game, the defense will give up 300 yards rushing against the Raiders, or Lin Elliott will come out of retirement, Tonya Harding his way on to the squad, and you know the rest...

By the way, this is one of your better posts... lots of miscellany is better than a marathon writeup every two weeks, I say.

Keep up the good work.

Jason said...

Goor grief. There's just nothing worse than the hypotheticals of NFL Playoffs scenarios.

Kansas City said...

I wish Rany would have put probabilities on the scenarios. Right now, I say there is only about a 50% chance the Chiefs win the division/make the playoffs, which is much lower than one woudl think with a two game lead with four to play. [Rany says 1.5 game lead, which I guess takes into account that we lose the tiebreakers.]

Kansas City said...

If you want some good Chiefs coverage, check out Arrowhead Addict.

http://arrowheadaddict.com/2010/12/06/the-chargers-lost/#comments

Michael said...

Right now, I'd say the Chiefs have a 60% chance at the playoffs. If they win next week, it shoots up to 90%. If they lose...maybe its at 30%. Overall, I'm still enjoying this season. Heck, to be talking about playoffs in December is a huge improvement!

Now only if we could be talking about playoffs in September for the Royals....

Charles said...

Chiefs are 70.8% to make playoffs... says: http://www.sportsclubstats.com/NFL.html

Charles said...

Hidden deep in there it also shows a Chief win over the Chargers this Sunday pushes to 93.2%, combine that with a Raider loss and you get to 97.0%

Charles said...

Chiefs lose it's still at 55.8%, if they lose and the Raiders win...52.7%

Nathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan said...

"The Jayson Werth contract was just that ridiculous. If Werth is worth 7 years at $18 million a year, it would be hard for anyone to argue if Crawford claims he’s worth 8 years at $22 million a year, or even more."

See, my impression has always been that ridiculous things are easy to argue with. As you noted, MLB teams aren't obliged to toss their brains off the cliff behind the Nationals'.

RickMcKC said...

Awesome - Royals and Chiefs in the same post. Love it.

It's much more fun to be a Kansas City sports fan these days!

Eric said...

If there's not going to be a Crawford signing wouldn't the next logical step be Brandon Webb and some bullpen help? If the Royals want to keep Greinke it might help to let him know that they are committed to not blowing games for him and are giving him real help in the rotation.

Kyle said...

I don't like the Chiefs chances in San Diego, but after what the Raiders did to them there, anything could happen. I made a bet before the season started that the chiefs would go no worse than 9-7. I really like how this is playing out so far. I really had no thoughts of them making the playoffs, but that was before I realized how bad the AFC west really is. 10-6 is still very doable, and I think that gets them in the playoffs.

George said...

No comments on Frenchy? I'm shocked. Not a bad 1-yr signing IMO.

Michael said...

Thank God they only committed one year. I still don't like it, cause I think he's a hack, but at least they didn't commit much.

Kyle said...

I really think it is a nothing signing. Just like Podsednik and Ankiel last year. He will improve the defense in RF, with a cannon for an arm. And hopefully with a little luck, he can hit in the .280 range with some nice power. He won't walk any, and he will strikeout quite a bit. Hopefully between him and Gordon they don't break any sort of strikeout record for outfielders.

Brian Johnson said...

And steak's other shoe drops in the form of appendicitis.

Darrel said...

I looked up Franceour's similar players on Baseball Reference after I saw he'd signed. #1-Ben Grieve (oh no). #2-Dave Winfield (oh yes). Those were the two opposites. The others, for the most part, were pretty good players for a number of years. Here's hoping we're not "Grieving" this signing, but for $1 mill, it isn't bad.

Darrel said...

I was mistaken, it is $2.5 mill. Still not bad.

Charles said...

The signing is STUPID. Maier is a better player and now he'll play less....

Danny said...

Charles...
It is only a stupid signing if:
1) Maier/Blanco had greater potential OR
2) The Royals expect to be a playoff contender this year.

It appears Maier has hit his ceiling as a 4th OF/platoon guy. And that is fine. But when you are building towards a future team, go for a guy with upside. Maybe it works for you, maybe you trade him for prospects, maybe he just sucks, and it cost you $2.5MM. Worth the risk--cause Maier's return is pretty much a guaranteed mediocre.

If you are going to contend, you need your best OPS in most games. But that isn't the case for the Royals. Not to mention a 90 OPS+ doesn't beat an 85 OPS+ by much--and you can at least roll the dice on Frenchy. While it MAY make the team slightly worse, we are talking about a dip from 69 wins to 68 wins. The expense looks silly, but the possible upside still wins out.

I don't dislike the move. It was super-predictable, but the good news is that it is similar to the Pods/Ankiel signings. Not pleasant to sink money into a risk, but not that expensive. 1 year deal. Potential. Not blocking real talent. That's a win.

The only bad things are the external factors. This means no major Crawford signing, and is another indicator that the Royals were stupidly impatient with DeJesus. So...that sucks.

Nathan said...

Here's an offer that the Diamondbacks would have a hard time turning down, and that would likely make the Royals a better team from 2013 to 2015: Zack Greinke and Alex Gordon for Justin Upton and a prospect (maybe SS Chris Owings?). Crazy?

Michael said...

And now we get Melky. I like that move though. I've wanted a defensive centerfielder this offseason, and it appears we have one now.

bbxpert said...

I'm ok with the Francouer signing, but I hate the Melky Cabrera signing. What is the point? He's better than Blanco/Dyson/Maier? I realize it isn't a lot of money nor a long commitment, but what problem does it solve?

twm said...

Turns out that Crawford was worth about $20 mil over seven seasons after all. Not a bad guess, Rany.

Makes Washington look even more desperate and silly.

Michael said...

Melky is a good defensive centerfielder with a better bat than Maier (whom I consider the best of the group you mentioned). He's definitely an upgrade over any of those guys.

Michael said...

Maier career OPS-.678
Melky career OPS-.707

steak said...

Frenchy. Melky.

Need.

Blog.

Update.

bbxpert said...

On the Rule 5 pitcher, why take a pitcher from A ball and force him to be in the majors before he's ready, rather than take a pitcher from your own AA or AAA team and put him in the majors when you have the flexibility to send him back down if he doesn't work out?

Michael said...

That's easy bbxpert. The A ball pitcher they got is obviously not a top prospect, or else he'd have been protected on the 40 man roster. He's been in pro ball for at least 3 seasons, possibly 4 if he was drafted out of high school, and he's only made it to A ball. If he comes to the majors and fails, oh well, nothing lost (except 25,000). If you bring up one of your top prospects before they are ready and they fail, well, that's a much bigger loss than 25k.