2 back of the AL Wild Card with 5 left to play, and 5 back of the AL West with 5 to play. The Angels have a shot at each of the five seeds in the American League bracket, and I'm sure that many of us here at HH (and in the fanbase in general) have thought of the road ahead should the Angels reel off this Cinderella story and put together another run that began with a dismal 6-14 start.
Let's start with what would be the LIKELIEST of all scenarios. If the Angels clinch either wild card, they'll be facing, in order of likelihood, Baltimore, Oakland, New York or Tampa Bay. The Angels, in this situation, ought to be hoping that they face Baltimore. Out of the four teams listed, the Angels have a winning record against only the Orioles, memorably going 7-2 against them in the regular season. Meanwhile, the team managed a 9-10 finish against the A's, 4-5 against the Yankees, and a horrific 1-9 against the Rays.
Looking for a more sabermetric approach than simple wins and losses? Using Pythagorean expectation, a method of calculating how many games a team SHOULD have won and lost using runs scored and runs allowed, the Angels would have a slightly better outlook (although largely unchanged), with Pythagorean records of 7-2 against Baltimore, 11-8 against Oakland, still 4-5 against New York, and still 1-9 against Tampa Bay.
What do these Pythagorean records all mean when it comes to a single game? Well, the Angels would project, independent of any on-field factors, to defeat Baltimore 7-2, defeat Oakland 4-3, lose to New York 6-5, or lose to Tampa Bay 9-1. In short? If the Angels clinch a wild card spot, it would be better to face either Baltimore or Oakland (preferably Baltimore). If this happens, the team advances to the ALDS to face either New York, Baltimore (if they won the East AND claimed baseball's best record) or Texas. Against New York, the team would face an ALDS loss of 3 games to 2. Against Baltimore, the team would win the ALDS, 3 games to 1. Against Texas, the results are presently undetermined, seeing as there are 2 games left to play against the Rangers, in which case the Angels can very plausibly jump the Rangers in terms of runs scored against the other team, as well as stay behind. In either case, the Angels would likely either win 3 games to 2 or lose 3 games to 2.
Let's stick with this train of thought--that the Angels defeat the Rangers in the ALDS and make the ALCS. They'd be facing either Baltimore, New York, Detroit or Chicago. The Angels would claim any ALCS against Baltimore 4 games to 2, or against either of Detroit or Chicago, 4 games to 3 (due to the team's slim run differentials against both teams, which would produce a tied Pythagorean record). Against the Yankees, the team faces a heartbreaking 4-games-to-3 loss.
But what if the unthinkable happens--what if the Angels buck the staggering odds against the following situation, and win the AL West? For this to happen, the Angels need to win every remaining game and finish at a clip of 92-70, the Rangers need to LOSE every game to finish at a clip of 92-70, and the A's, ideally, need to lose every game and finish at a clip of 89-73, but, mathematically, this could happen should the A's finish no higher than 91-71. In this situation, the Angels would mathematically be awarded the division (for if they win every game, the Angels would have the season series against Texas, 11 games to 8), and would have either the second or first seed in the playoffs. Second seed, they face the Tigers or White Sox. First seed, they face either Baltimore, Texas, New York, Tampa Bay, or (even still) Oakland (who, if they finish at 91-71 exactly, still would have a mathematical chance at the second wild card, behind Texas).
Let's take this division-crown scenario a little slower. In this situation, the Yankees have clinched the best record in the AL and the Angels are the second seed. This would have the Angels facing either the Tigers or the White Sox. With Pythagorean records of 5-5 and 4-4 against each respective team, we would need to go sheerly off of runs scored and runs allowed to each team to gain a perspective on who would win in which case. In both cases, the Angels would be on pace to win the series in 5 games, where they would await either Baltimore, Texas, New York or Tampa Bay in the ALCS.
Still in the second-seed scenario, the Angels would, in the ALCS, want to face Baltimore (whom, mathematically, they would beat 4 games to 1), Oakland (whom the Angels would beat 4 games to 3) or Texas (whom the Angels would beat 4 games to 3, should the Angels surpass the Rangers in runs scored on the season. Should this not happen, the Angels would be on pace to LOSE 4 games to 3). Against New York, the team would lose 4 games to 3, and against Tampa Bay, the team would lose 4 games to 1. So, to recap, against Baltimore, Oakland, or (contingently) Texas in the ALCS, the team would advance to the World Series. Against New York, Tampa Bay or (contingently) Texas, the team would lose.
Now, if you're still with me at this point and your head is NOT short-circuiting like a switchboard in a swimming pool, let's delve into the EVER-SO-SLIM possibility that the Angels finish the season with the best record in the American League, and claim the top seed (and homefield advantage) in the AL (by the way, the Yankees must lose every game for the rest of the season for this to happen). If this happens, the Angels face the wild card winner, who would, in order of likelihood, either be Baltimore, Texas, New York, Oakland or Tampa Bay. We went through this above. Apply the ALCS scenario to here to see the results of this series. Against Baltimore, the team wins 3 games to 1. Against Oakland, the team wins 3 games to 2. Against Texas, the team either wins or loses 3 games to 2. Against New York, the team loses 3 games to 2. Against Tampa Bay, the team loses 3 games to 1.
In this first-seed scenario, let's say the Angels have faced Baltimore or Oakland (for certainty's sake) and advanced to the ALCS. If they were to have defeated Baltimore in the ALCS, the team would either be facing New York, Detroit or Chicago in the ALCS. We already saw the Angels' predicted fate against the MFY in the ALCS--a full-series loss. Against either Detroit or Chicago, the results would be a 4-games-to-3 victory, and the Angels march to the World Series. If the Angels defeat Oakland in the ALDS, the results are the same, except with the OTHER slim possibility that the Orioles have won the East and taken the second seed in the AL, and advanced to the ALCS (in which case the Angels would win 4 games to 1, as noted above).
With all of the above scenarios, there are at least two possible ways that the Angels make the World Series. So let's ride that gravy train all the way to the 2012 Fall Classic. The Angels have the possibility of facing either Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles OR Milwaukee. Here, the predictions get a little harder to make. This season, the Angels faced only two of those seven teams in interleague play--San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the case of either a 10-year reunion of the Angels' ride to the promised land, or the first-ever Freeway World Series, the Angels would (drumroll, please) win it all! Against the Giants, it would be 4 games to 1, and against the Dodgers, it would be 4 games to 3 (still according to Pythagorean records).
About these other five teams, though...what happens then? I could dig back for their most recent Pythagorean records against each of the other 5 NL possibilities, but the results will be less accurate than those against the Dodgers and Giants, since the other 5 go back up to 8 years. I only had to go back one year to 2011 to find results against the Braves and Nationals, both of which yielded results of the Angels winning 4 games to 1. One more year to 2010, and I get results against the Cardinals and Brewers, neither of which are pretty: the Angels would lose 4 games to 3 against St. Louis, and lose a grisly 4 games to 1 against Milwaukee. I had to crawl back to 2007 for the most recent results against the Reds, which yielded a 4 games to 3 World Series victory over Cincinnati.
If you've made it down to the end of this arduous wall of text, congratulations! Now you have the sabermetric knowledge of what to basically expect of the Angels in any postseason scenario. Is this the most trustworthy source for this information? Probably not; I'm sure other sabermetrics could factor into every single scenario to alter these results. But without any other factors involved, here's the final rundown of what to expect of the Angels (the simplified version):
IF THE ANGELS ARE IN THE WILD CARD GAME...
...against Baltimore? WIN. Facing Oakland? WIN. Onto the ALCS! Facing New York? LOSE. Facing Texas? Undetermined.
...against Oakland? WIN. Facing Baltimore? WIN. Onto the ALCS! Facing New York? LOSE. Facing Texas? Undetermined.
...against New York? LOSE.
...against Tampa Bay? LOSE.
IF THE ANGELS ARE THE SECOND SEED...
...against Detroit? WIN. Facing Baltimore/Oakland? WIN. Onto the World Series! Facing New York/Tampa Bay? LOSE.
...against Chicago? WIN. Facing Baltimore/Oakland? WIN. Onto the World Series! Facing New York/Tampa Bay? LOSE.
IF THE ANGELS ARE THE FIRST SEED...
...against Baltimore? WIN. Facing Detroit/Chicago? WIN. Onto the World Series! Facing New York/Tampa Bay? LOSE.
...against Oakland? WIN. Facing Detroit/Chicago? WIN. Onto the World Series! Facing New York/Tampa Bay? LOSE.
...against New York? LOSE.
...against Tampa Bay? LOSE.
...against Texas? Undetermined.
IF THE ANGELS GO TO THE WORLD SERIES...
...against Washington? WIN. WORLD FREAKING CHAMPIONS!
...against Cincinnati? WIN. WORLD FREAKING CHAMPIONS!
...against San Francisco? WIN. WORLD FREAKING CHAMPIONS!
...against Atlanta? WIN. WORLD FREAKING CHAMPIONS!
...against St. Louis? LOSE.
...against Los Angeles? WIN. WORLD FREAKING CHAMPIONS!
...against Milwaukee? LOSE.
And there you have it.