Sixty is a Magic Number

While the Arizona Diamondbacks have only been gone a week it seems a lot longer than that. Part of the reason might be the fact that the Diamondbacks went 1-3 against the Milwaukee Brewers and 2-1 against the Chicago Cubs making the trip 3-4. Even the two wins against the Cubs yesterday and today seemed brutal. The Diamondbacks offense still seems to be dragging in the mud with hits being more valuable than a Todd McFarlane mini-figurine stadium giveaway. The one positive seems to be that whenever the Diamondbacks lost so did the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Of course whenever the Diamondbacks won so did their divisional rivals meaning that the team remains 3.5 games back in third place in the National League Western Division and they have 7 fewer games to catch the leaders.

Time is definitely going to start to become a factor. Today’s game marked the 100th game of the 2007 season for Arizona. Roughly one-third of the season remains and the Dodgers magic number for eliminating the Diamondbacks is 60 with 63 games remaining. You just have to love the “magic number”. It does not usually come into play until the middle of September but I track it beginning with Opening Day. The calculation of it is quite simple. It is 163 – (division leader wins + team in question loses). When the result becomes less than 0 the team in question is eliminated. A real world example can be gathered from the current standings:

Los Angeles 55 44 .556
San Diego 53 44 .546 1.0
Arizona 52 48 .546 3.5
Colorado 49 49 .500 5.5
San Francisco 41 55 .427 12.5

The Dodgers magic number to eliminate the Giants is 53 (163-(55+55)). The magic number to eliminate the Rockies is 59 (163-(55+49)). The magic number to eliminate the Diamondbacks is 60 (163-(55+48)). And to eliminate the Padres the Dodgers magic number is 64 (163-(55+44)). Every time a Division leader wins or your team loses the magic number decreases.

So why do we even care about the magic number? Well, we care because it gives us a barometer of when it is appropriate to panic. If there is a big discrepancy between the magic number and the number of games left in the season then the team is fading and it might be time to make a trade for next year or begin playing to evaluate talent rather than win for this season. This helps to determine whether your team is going to be a buyer or a seller as the trade deadline looms.

In the Diamondbacks case the difference between the Dodgers magic number to eliminate Arizona and the number of games left is 2 which mean that they are within striking distance and could make a serious run at the divisional title. With that knowledge it is probably safe to say that the Diamondbacks will not consider themselves sellers and will most likely not sell off pieces of this team to build for next year. With nine games remaining against the Dodgers and 10 games left with the Padres the standings could take a serious swing one way or another. The key though is that the Diamondbacks need to start being more consistent at the plate and hope that their starting pitching remains strong. With a young team those are a lot easier said than done. So for the next 70 days there will be a lot on the line as we move closer and closer to the post season. This could still be the year of the Diamondbacks but the team will need to be a lot more consistent than they were during this last road trip.

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