The Pittsburgh Pirates had a tough week, getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend to drop to 2-4. That also saw a drop in their playoff odds across the board. At this point in the season, the playoff projections are going to be extremely volatile. A big week will see a big jump in the projected standings, while a bad week will see a big drop. As an example of how small sample sizes can dominate early season analysis, the Pirates won their first three series of the year before getting swept by Milwaukee. They played great during their first nine games, and poor in the last three games. That led to a big drop in the projected standings this week. Until about June, I’d expect these projections to be heavily influenced by a good or bad series.
Each week we will break down the playoff odds and projections from the top three projection sites: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and ClayDavenport.com. As the season goes on, this will allow us to track the Pirates’ chances of getting back to the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the odds after week two.
Baseball Prospectus: 79.3 wins, 82.7 losses, 18.3% chance to make playoffs
The Baseball Prospectus odds have dropped about six percent for the Pirates after their 2-4 week. Last week they were projected for an 82-80 season, and now they’re closer to 79-83. A good week or a bad week can really move the needle this early in the season. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have a 63% chance of making the playoffs, and the Brewers are up to a 54% chance.
FanGraphs: 82.7 wins, 79.3 losses, 39.3% chance to make playoffs
FanGraphs was much higher on the Pirates last week, and that seems to be the case again this week. Despite being swept by the Brewers, FanGraphs still gives the Pirates a better chance of making the playoffs, with Milwaukee at 33.2%. However, the Pirates have dropped to sixth place in the projected standings, after being projected for the second Wild Card spot last week.
Clay Davenport: 81.5 wins, 80.5 losses, 32.0% chance to make playoffs
The projections from Clay Davenport seem to be based heavily on the in-season results. The Pirates only dropped about two percent from last week, but the Brewers soared by about 35 points, and now have a 75.7% chance of making the playoffs, with 94 projected wins. I’d expect this projection to be very volatile early in the season, settling down around June.
Here are the rankings of the NL contenders. To get “contender” status, a team must have a 15% or better to make the playoffs in all three projection systems.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers – 74.3% average odds, 90-72 record
2. Washington Nationals - 63.5% average odds, 87-75 record
3. St. Louis Cardinals - 54.7% average odds, 85-77 record
4. Milwaukee Brewers - 54.3% average odds, 87-75 record
5. Atlanta Braves - 50.6% average odds, 85-77 record
6. San Francisco Giants - 49.7% average odds, 84-78 record
7. Pittsburgh Pirates - 29.9% average odds, 81-81 record
8. San Diego Padres - 23.8% average odds, 81-81 record
The Milwaukee Brewers made the biggest jump, going from 7th last week to having the fourth best average playoff odds. Other than that, everything stayed about the same. The Pirates dropped from a 36% average last week to a 29.9% average this week, while also losing one projected win.
The Reds and Rockies both fell off this list, as they didn’t receive 15% in all three projections. Meanwhile, the Padres moved up to the bottom of the list.
Early in the season, it’s looking like 86 wins is going to be needed for the Wild Card. Like all of these projections, that could change from week-to-week.