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Checking in on the Rays playoff odds

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It's that time of year again.

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It can be tempting to think of the season as being over when the trade deadline passes and your team sells, but that's not actually the way baseball operates. The commissioner, for some reason, makes teams actually play out the games after the trade deadline rather than picking the four teams reporters wrote most about as "deadline winners."

It's barbaric, I know.

So as we enter the stretch run, let's establish where exactly the Rays stand.

The Rays are eight games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East. They are also looking up at Toronto (3.5 games ahead) and Baltimor (two games ahead). That's a tough mountain to climb, and by the simulations available on FanGraphs, the Rays only have a 3.7% chance of coming out atop the division if every game were decided by a coin flip.

Games aren't decided by coin flip, though, and FanGraphs has another set of playoff odds where they do their best to estimate actual strength of each team. These ratings aren't perfect, but they're pretty good, and they see the Rays as a .490 team for the rest of the season. By those ratings, the Rays only have a 1.2% chance of winning the division.

The wild card race is more interesting, because the Rays are both closer and chasing more teams. Currently, the Los Angeles Angels are sitting in the first wild card spot with the Blue Jays in the second spot, half a game behind them. Next comes the Orioles at 1.5 games back, the Texas Rangers at 2.5 games back, the Minnesota Twins at 3.0 games back, and the Rays finally coming in 3.5 games back.

If games were coin flips, the Rays would have a 14.2% chance of making the wild card game, says FanGraphs, and given their relative weakness, that chance drops down to 9.8%.

So there it is. One-in-ten. It's better than one-in-more-than-ten. People hit on those odds all the time. Now let's go watch the scoreboard.