The Pirates are making the playoffs, barring an unprecedented disaster. Pittsburgh’s postseason odds are at 99.6 percent, meaning there is a 1-in-250-chance the Bucs are shut out of the playoffs.
However, posting an 8-9 September record that includes being swept in St. Louis has pushed the Pirates from being favorites in the NL Central division (12.4 percent odds).
There is a 78-percent chance the NL Wild Card game will be a Pirates-Reds matchup. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati play six of their final nine games against each other, and it will be little more than a battle for Wild Card home field unless one of the two teams dominates the other over those six games.
Okay, more numbers. Let’s look at the NL Central standings.
- St. Louis: 89-63
- Pittsburgh: 87-65 (2.0 games back)
- Cincinnati: 87-66 (2.5 games back)
And the Wild Card standings.
- Pittsburgh: 87-65
- Cincinnati: 87-66
- Washington: 81-71 (5.5 GB)
- Arizona: 77-74 (9.0 GB)
Yeah, the Arizona Diamondbacks are still not mathematically eliminated. Let’s just get to the individual projections.
- Baseball Prospectus — 99.7% playoff odds, 10.7% division odds
- Clay Davenport — 99.5% playoff odds, 12.4% division odds
- FanGraphs — 99.6% playoff odds, 14.2% division odds
If you want to, you can also check out Baseball Prospectus’ projections in nifty graph form on MLB.com.
There is not much more to add about this set of projections. The most likely scenario is the Pirates finish about 92-70 and play the Cincinnati Reds in a Wild Card Coin Flip Game that would include 13 hit-by-pitches (estimated). Unless the St. Louis Cardinals decide to start losing, the last two Pirates-Reds series will only decide if they both have to fly back to Pittsburgh for one more game.
One more point, though. The odds and projection saw this coming.
The Pirates had baseball’s best record on July 1, the season’s halfway point. But all the systems recognized that Pittsburgh’s true talent level was that of a .500 team, projecting the Bucs to go about 41-40 in the second half and finish with 92 wins.
That might have sounded silly at a time when the team was steamrolling its opponents, but projection systems are adept at recognizing when a team is playing over its head over a small sample. So far, those projections have been right-on. The Pirates are 36-35 since July began and appear headed directly at 92 wins.
Are these odds perfect? Of course not, and they’re always being adjusted and fine-tuned. However, fans should recognize the projections give unbiased, impartial forecasts that have a higher success rate than the ol’ eye test.
The future is scary. Bring a friend and a calculator.