This upcoming week is the most important so far in determining the Pirates’ overall playoff chances and division-winning chances.
The Bucs get three games against the St. Louis Cardinals to extend their lead in the National League Central, then they play three against the Arizona Diamondbacks to chip away at their magic number for a playoff berth. Their current playoff odds sit at 98.2 percent.
It’s easy to see why this week is important when you look at the standings:
National League Central
- Pittsburgh: 70-47
- St. Louis: 67-50 (3.0 games back)
- Cincinnati: 66-52 (4.5 games back)
National League Wild Card
- St. Louis: 67-50 (1.5 games ahead)
- Cincinnati: 66-52 (—)
- Arizona: 5.5 GB
- Washington: 8.5 GB
- Colorado: 11.0 GB
- NY Mets: 11.0 GB
So not only can the Pirates increase their division lead to four or six games, they can extend their 10-game advantage over Arizona to stay in the NL playoff picture.
Pretty big deal, right? So let’s look at the odds.
Baseball Prospectus: 93.6 Wins, 68.4 Losses (98.9% chance of reaching playoffs)
Before the Pirates swept the Miami Marlins and the Colorado Rockies swept the Pirates, Pittsburgh had a 99.3-percent playoff odds. So… no. You (or your stupid friend) were not right to freak out about that sweep in Denver.
The important part of BP’s odds is that the PECOTA-based projections give the Pirates a 54.3-percent chance to win the Central, as opposed to the Cardinals’ 27-percent chance and the Reds’ 18.7-percent chance. Oh, and Pittsburgh wins the World Series in 6 of their 100 simulations.
Clay Davenport: 92.0 Wins, 70.0 Losses (97.6% chance of reaching playoffs)
The Pirates’ odds barely judged this week in the simulations of Baseball Prospectus’ co-founder. That’s largely because Davenport’s system is less optimistic about the Bucs (finishing 22-23) than it is about the Cardinals, Reds and Nationals. We will chalk that up to those teams being playoff teams last year.
Davenport’s NL Central odds:
- Pirates: 47.2 percent
- Cardinals: 29.7 percent
- Reds: 23.2 percent
FanGraphs: 93 wins, 69 losses
The ZiPS projections from FanGraphs have the Pirates finishing the season 23-22 (with improved run scoring and worse run prevention) the rest of the way, two games ahead of the Cardinals. Under their scenario, Pittsburgh would face the Los Angeles Dodgers in National League Division Series while top-seeded Atlanta would face the Wild Card winner of St. Louis vs. Cincinnati.
There is an 86-percent chance those are the five teams in the NL playoffs.
Overall Playoff Odds (Combine BP and Davenport)
- Atlanta Braves (99.9 percent)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (98.5)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (98.2)
- St. Louis Cardinals (95.7)
- Cincinnati Reds (93.2)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (9.3)
- Washington Nationals (4.2)