Pirates Playoff Odds: Sweep Catapults Bucs Over 75 Percent

Pirates Playoff Odds: Sweep Catapults Bucs Over 75 Percent

Andrew McCutchen pirates

Both PECOTA and ZiPS project Andrew McCutchen as the most valuable player the rest of 2013. (Photo by: David Hague)

Five weeks ago, the Pirates’ chances of reaching the playoffs were at 40 percent. Since then, Pittsburgh has gone 22-13 and improved their average odds to almost 80 percent. That’s good police work, Lou.

If the second Wild Card did not exist, the team’s odds would be about 50 percent. That’s what happens when baseball’s three most-winning teams are all in the same division.

All right, reset. What do the standings look like now?

National League Central

St. Louis: 47-29 (—)
Pittsburgh: 46-30 (1.0 game back)
Cincinnati: 45-32 (2.5 GB)
Chicago: 31-43 (15.0 GB)
Milwaukee: 31-43 (15.0 GB)

National League Wild Card

Pittsburgh: 46-30 (+1.5)
Cincinnati: 45-32 (—)

San Francisco: 38-37 (6.0 games back)
Colorado: 39-38 (6.0 GB)
San Diego: 38-38 (6.5 GB)
Washington: 37-38 (7.0 GB)
Philadelphia: 36-40 (8.5 GB)

Those Wild Card standings may be the most improbable aspect of the Pirates’ first-half surge. The Bucs are 7.5 games ahead of the last playoff spot in the National League.

Odds time!


Baseball Prospectus: 89.9 wins, 72.1 losses, 84.3% chance to make playoffs

BP’s playoff odds give the Pirates a big jump compared to last Monday, when they gave Pittsburgh a 63.5% chance to reach the postseason. Playing competitive baseball in Cincinnati and sweeping Anaheim improved the Pirates’ underlying statistics, and now BP projects the Bucs to go 44-42 over the rest of the season. The BP simulations say Pittsburgh will beat the San Francisco Giants by eight games (!!) for the second Wild Card but finish three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

Their PECOTA projections see the biggest contributors the rest of the season as: Andrew McCutchen (2.5 WAR), Neil Walker (1.1 WAR), Gerrit Cole (1.1 WAR), Francisco Liriano (1.0 WAR), Pedro Alvarez (1.0 WAR) and Russell Martin (1.0 WAR).

FanGraphs: 89 wins, 73 losses, Projected to tie with Reds for Wild Card

The FanGraphs/ZiPS projections have the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds tying to play in the Coin Flip Game, beating all others by six games. FanGraphs still sees Pittsburgh as a .500 team the rest of the season, but has the Cardinals winning the National League by five games for baseball’s best record.

FanGraphs’ depth charts project the following players to add the most wins over the rest of 2013: Andrew McCutchen (2.9 WAR), Russell Martin (1.6 WAR), Pedro Alvarez (1.4 WAR), Starling Marte (1.3 WAR), Neil Walker (1.3 WAR) and Francisco Liriano (1.3 WAR). 89.5 wins, 72.5 losses, 75.1% chance to make playoffs

Davenport’s Pirates odds have gone up by 19.4 percentage points since last Tuesday. Although Baseball Prospectus give Pittsburgh a 23% chance to win the division, Davenport’s projections say it is a 26% chance. The biggest differences between the two NL odds are the projections for the Washington Nationals (82 wins from BP, 84 wins from Davenport) and the San Francisco Giants (82 wins from BP, 87 wins from Davenport).


ZiPS projections (used by FanGraphs) see Gerrit Cole posting the following numbers over the rest of 2013: 4.28 ERA, 4.0 FIP, 7.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and 0.6 wins above replacement, just a bit better than last week’s projection.

Prospectus’ PECOTA numbers project Cole to do better the rest of this season: 3.25 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 1.1 wins above replacement.

Who are the Contenders?

Finally, we average out the playoff odds from BP and Davenport to figure out the Pirates’ biggest competition to reach the postseason.

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (92-70, 91% odds)
  2. Cincinnati Reds (90-72, 84% odds)
  3. Atlanta Braves (90-72, 87% odds)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates (90-72, 80% odds)
  5. San Francisco Giants (85-77, 47% odds)
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks (85-77, 46% odds)
  7. Washington Nationals (83-79, 27% odds)
  8. Colorado Rockies (79-83, 12% odds)
  9. Los Angeles Dodgers (79-83, 11% odds)

  • Mostly meaningless stats but still fun to look at. Whatever predicitive indexes ESPN uses has the Bucs around 69% chance right now.

    • James Santelli

      How so?

      • How so meaningless? I think if you looked at the pirates’ percentages the last 2 years at this time you will see they can mean nothing unless you keep playing well. We are definitely better this year but we still have to go out and win games. The Pirates only have outscored their opponents by 29 runs….flip that and add some bad luck and some mistakes and a 5-15 streak can happen. I am a SABR guy but definitely can’t get too excited about the predictive index. Maybe it is the last 20 years in the back of my head. But I think it is more the 2011 & 12 second halves. I do think if Alvarez keeps playing well and Cutch improves even slightly and they add a decent bat and if the pitching holds up of course they are as good as anyone in the NL.

        • Also, shame on me for thinking ESPN was using a usefull index…I would lik to see a complete breakdown of everything that goes into the predictions.

        • James Santelli

          “If you looked at the Pirates’ percentages…”

          I would say the exact opposite of your conclusion. The 2011 BP odds never got better than 5% for the Pirates. Last year’s odds topped out at 62%.

          I would actually say the playoff odds were more realistic (read: less optimistic, and rightly so) about the Pirates’ chances than fans were. Look at what Nate Silver does in predicting the presidential election. They are odds, not predictions, but they are very useful. Guess what? PECOTA is his brainchild, and it has done well at predicting baseball. I think these odds are not only meaningful, but if you are reading them the right way, one of the better ways to observe a team’s chances.

        • Cato the Elder

          If you are interested here is a good primer on the various projection systems.

  • veinteuno

    Enjoyable read

  • rburgh

    I think ESPN is using the numbers from

    • James Santelli

      That’s right, but I don’t analyze CoolStandings projections, because they don’t have much predictive value. They pretty much use only run differential and remaining schedule, and BP/FanGraphs/Davenport integrate many more important factors.

  • brilemon

    Does this make anyone else extremely nervous?…
    What is the track record for each organization predicting playoff makeup accurately?
    Basically: I’m looking for a guarantee of the predictability of the statistics. Ha.

  • jon6er

    Being a long time Pirates fan I’m just happy to be in the conversation. So far I like the resilience we have had to display this year that we didn’t in the first half last year. If you remember, last year St. Louis and Cincinnati were not playing as well as they are now. Also we seem to find a way this year to win when last year it was either we had a well pitched game or McCutchen just led the team to a blow out win


James dabbles in the baseballey-writey world. He won the SABR Analytics Conference Research Award for contemporary baseball analysis. It was for that defensive shifts piece, you remember that? Not a huge deal, he also lost a bunch of other awards. He has also written for, Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh Sports Report and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. By night, James is a television news reporter and weekend anchor for WKBN and WYTV in Youngstown, Ohio. Makes sense, seeing as how his degree from the University of Southern California is in Broadcast Journalism. James dispenses more bad jokes at his Twitter account, @JamesSantelli. It's there that he promises to write in the first-person.

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