The Pittsburgh Pirates made the post-season for the first time in 21 years last year, winning 94 games during the regular season, winning the Wild Card game, and losing in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. This year the Pirates are hoping to get back to the playoffs, and are off to a good start. After the first week of the season, the Pirates are 4-2, taking series victories against the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals at home.
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 one.
Baseball Prospectus: 80.1 wins, 81.9 losses, 24.5% chance to make playoffs
The Baseball Prospectus odds use PECOTA, which projected the Pirates at 78-84 before the start of the season. The Pirates went 4-2 in week one, which isn’t going to drastically change the projections. The outlook is better going into week two, with the Pirates getting two more season wins in current projections, compared to their pre-season numbers. However, they are still projected for a losing season.
As far as playoff odds, the Pirates have the seventh highest odds in the NL, and the third best odds in the NL Central, behind the Brewers (35.1%) and the Cardinals (64.3%).
FanGraphs: 83.8 wins, 78.2 losses, 48.3% chance to make playoffs
FanGraphs is much higher on the Pirates to make the playoffs than the other projection systems. The projected 84-78 record is a big drop from last year, although no team in the NL is projected for more than 90 wins, and only four teams are projected for more than 84 wins. It’s safe to say the season won’t play out like that.
The Pirates have the fifth best playoff odds, which would put them in the Wild Card game, hosted by the San Francisco Giants.
Clay Davenport: 81.9 wins, 80.1 losses, 35.3% chance to make playoffs
The projections from Clay Davenport fall in between BP and FanGraphs. The Pirates are projected for a record close to .500, although in this case they’re on the right side of that mark. Davenport has the Pirates just missing the playoffs. By “just missing”, I mean the Pirates have the sixth best playoff odds at 35.33151%, while the Los Angeles Dodgers are projected to be the second Wild Card team with playoff odds of 35.36413%.
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 – 68.1% average odds, 88-74 record
2. Washington Nationals - 64.9% average odds, 87-75 record
3. St. Louis Cardinals - 55.9% average odds, 85-77 record
4. San Francisco Giants - 52.1% average odds, 85-77 record
5. Atlanta Braves - 42.5% average odds, 84-78 record
6. Pittsburgh Pirates - 36.0% average odds, 82-80 record
7. Milwaukee Brewers - 31.9% average odds, 81-81 record
8. Colorado Rockies - 27.7% average odds, 81-81 record
9. Cincinnati Reds - 20.7% average odds, 78-84 record
At this point the projections are far from concrete. A lot can change due to injuries, unexpected performances, or transactions that take place during the season. As it stands today, the Pirates are projected to be just outside of the second Wild Card spot.
On a separate note, the Milwaukee Brewers got off to a great start last week. They also didn’t get a chance to pitch Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang, who was drafted out of the Pirates’ system. If Milwaukee keeps doing well early in the season, it might make it difficult for them to keep Wang on the roster, since that basically results in a 24-man roster and an 11-man pitching staff. Things will be even more difficult when Tom Gorzelanny eventually returns, giving the Brewers four left-handed relievers. I still expect Wang to be returned to the Pirates’ system.