Quantifying Hope: Cubs Turn 1.7 Percent Chance into NLDS Win

When Dexter Fowler struck out looking to end the top of the 8th, his team possessed only a 2.1 percent chance of heading back to Chicago victorious. By the time Conor Gillaspie collected his 57th hit of the series to lead off the bottom of that inning, those odds had dropped to 1.7 percent. Even after Gregor Blanco G’ed IDP, the Giants were well in control. In fact, they would have won 97 1/2 times had the two teams played 100 separate 9th innings.

Of course, they only played one and you probably know by now that it didn’t go according to statistical probability. Four batters into the fateful frame, the odds had flipped in the Cubs’ favor. By the time David Ross G’ed into a DP of his own, the visitors had an 86.4 percent chance of winning. That’s quite a swing, the stomach-lurching extremes of which you can play around with on the chart below.

Source: FanGraphs

If we remove the context, there’s nothing particularly incredible about coming back from a three-run deficit in the 9th inning. But when you add in that it was in the playoffs on the road against a savvy veteran club that had won, like, a million straight elimination games (okay, it was only 10), the significance of the accomplishment kinda takes on a different tone.

It’s not just about that one game, either, as the prospect of having to face Johnny Cueto in a win-or-go-home game Thursday had Cubs fans fearing the worst. Even the most confident among us were clenched up and needed to be reminded to breathe at times. Then you consider the off-key soundtrack of goats and curses and even-year bull*bleep* FS1 had used to provide color and drama to the story of the final innings and the relief offered by Javy Baez and Co. was palpable.


Maybe you wouldn’t use relief to couch your emotions in the wake of Tuesday’s W, but it’s an unavoidable part of the mix. Tension and anxiety are only “fun” in hindsight and it’s always good to be staring at those feelings in the rearview mirror. Having now successfully subsumed the Cardinals’ devil magic and the Giants’ even-year BS, the Cubs have become powerful enough to overcome even the worst national media narratives.

Grandpa goes deep

Almost lost in the exploits of the wild finish was Grandpa Rossy’s game-tying homer in the 3rd, which made him the oldest Cubs player and the oldest catcher in MLB history to go yard in a playoff game. Not a bad final year for Ol’ Graybeard. I hope he gets another standing O or four back at Wrigley just to make the baseball-shouldn’t-be-fun crowd salty.

Your thoughts

Some people hate-watched the middle innings of the clinching game, others sat in resigned numbness. And some even turned it off rather than witness what they assumed was a foregone conclusion. Whatever your feelings in the 8th inning, it’s likely they had shifted about 10 minutes later. I asked folks on Twitter to fill in the blanks to describe how they felt before and after the worm turned.



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I’m hoping for a Nats win Thursday night, but I’m good with whichever team the Cubs get to play next.

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