This time of the year, it's hard not to shift into postseason mode, at least a little bit. Some teams have clinched playoff spots, quite a few others have been eliminated from the chase. We can start evaluating possible matchups and those of us who will be covering October madness are already puzzling over our travel jigsaw.
We've got 10 precious days of regular-season baseball left, so let's not completely overlook them. Crazy stuff can still happen and, in fact, late-season shakeups have given us some of our most memorable baseball memories. Admittedly, it's not as easy these days for such history-making meltdowns to occur. First-place teams have two wild-card slots to fall back on even if they collapse, and with the 10-team postseason format, the powerhouse-versus-powerhouse photo finish is no longer possible.
In that vein, let's consider some of the biggest late-season turnarounds in the game's history. Using Baseball-Reference.com, I generated every team's record on Sept. 20 of each season going back to 1901, along with their standing in their division or pennant race. I found five instances in which a team trailed by at least four games on Sept. 20 and still ended up in first place. Let's go through that dashing quartet, plumb for some memories, and see if any of these examples provide hope for teams with flagging playoff probability percentages. Or, conversely, if they serve as a cautionary tale for teams on the verge of booking their postseason passage.
All told, 91.2% of teams in first place through Sept. 20 have ended up in the postseason. But that leaves 8.8%, right? If your team is still chasing and has not yet been eliminated, you can look at history and in all earnestness declare, "So you're saying there is still a chance."