The Pirates Are Creeping Back into the Playoff Race

It has been two months since the last update in the playoff odds series. The Pittsburgh Pirates had a horrible start to the season in the month of April, and by the end of the month, they no longer projected as playoff contenders. After some strong play in May and June, they find themselves two games above .500, 1.5 games out of the Wild Card spot, and once again getting good odds to make the post-season.

Each week we will break down the playoff odds and projections from the top three projection sites: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and ClayDavenport.com. Now that we have half a season in the books, the results will be a bit stronger, based more on what the team has done and is doing this year, and less on pre-season projections.

Baseball Prospectus: 81.9 wins, 80.1 losses, 9.1% chance to make playoffs

The Baseball Prospectus odds had the Pirates with a 9.1% chance to make the playoffs at the end of April, with a projected 77-85 record. The Pirates have basically swung their projected record by five wins, although that is only leading to about a ten percent increase to their odds. Right now BP has the Giants and Cardinals taking the two Wild Card spots, with two more teams ahead of the Pirates.

FanGraphs: 82.7 wins, 79.3 losses, 28.6% chance to make playoffs

FanGraphs is similar to BP in that the Pirates are seeing almost five more wins in the latest projections, and have more than doubled their odds of making the playoffs. During the last update they had a 13.7% chance of making the post-season.

Clay Davenport: 83.7 wins, 78.3 losses, 32.0% chance to make playoffs

The projections from Clay Davenport continues the trend of the first two projections. The Pirates have seen an increase in five projected wins since the last update. They have also seen their winning percentage almost double, up from 15.7% last time.

The Competition

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.

Team Odds W L

1

Dodgers

85.1

90

72

2

Brewers

80.9

90

72

3

Nationals

76.4

88

74

4

Giants

70.1

88

74

5

Cardinals

57.1

87

75

6

Braves

55.1

85

77

7

Reds

42.0

85

77

8

Pirates

26.9

83

79

The Pirates are back in the mix, although they’re the last team on this list. They need to jump past the Cardinals, Braves, and Reds in the projections to win the second Wild Card. Looking at the current standings, that doesn’t seem hard to do, since the Pirates are currently 1.5 games back. However, the projections have the other teams doing better for the remainder of the season.

One consolation here is that the projections aren’t final. The Pirates improved their projections by five wins in the last two months. Another five wins would not only put them in position for a Wild Card spot, but it would put them in the hunt for the first Wild Card spot. It looks like it will take 87-88 wins to reach the post-season. The Pirates would have to win at a .575 rate the remainder of the year. They’ve been winning at a .571 rate in May and June, with the results in June being higher. Making the post-season isn’t out of the question, but the Pirates will have to continue their success from the last two months.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • israelp

    The consolation is NOT “that the projections aren’t final.” The consolation is that the projections are ultimately meaningless.

    • PitPirates

      I agree, the projections don’t mean anything but it tells us how other people feel about the Pirates and their ability to make the playoffs.

  • lonleylibertarian

    The projections do not factor in the impact of trades/acquisitions over the next month. Moving Price and or Smard. to teams ahead of the bucs will make the challenge even larger…

    I will probably shock a few by noting that I am actually fairly optimistic ;-)

    • Timothy Wolfe

      How do you know they don’t? Projections factor in literally everything. Slumps, steroid suspensions, typhoons, locust swarms, Tommy John injuries, accidentally slicing the end of your finger off (bob ojeda)

  • lonleylibertarian

    A couple of things would seem to be working in the Pirates favor…
    1. Much better offense with Polanco in place and Marte and Pedro doing better than they did in April.
    2. Really deep pitching depth in the rotation – I count 9 pretty servicable options – 10 if Pimentel were stretched out and used as a starter.
    3. The steal deal – Frieri could be a big help in the 8th and 9th – and provides insurance for Melancon – who still scares me a bit…
    4. A change at 1st base could make the offense even better – this will require the BMTIB to admit that Davis is a mistake OR that Davis somehow magically returns to a 20+ HR hitter. Still think Davis is a huge defensive liability – does not make some pretty basic plays – and seldom makes the “saves” that most 1st basemen are able to make on off line throws.

    • piratemike

      I didn’t like Davis but they didn’t have a lot of options.
      After last season I too thought Jones was done so I can’t argue with hindsight that the Pirates should have kept him.
      The reality is that the Pirates are stuck with Davis at least for this season and probably the next two. Reading over the list of next seasons free agents there is really nobody better than Davis unless the Pirates spend 15m or more for LaRoche or somebody like that and we all know the Pirates aren’t spending that kind of money.

      • Timothy Wolfe

        LaRoche and Davis are so similar they even look alike.

    • Timothy Wolfe

      Davis hasn’t lost his power, he is trying to be a better hitter. they have talked about this literally dozens of times on the TV broadcasts. The pirates want him to use all fields and be a better hitter versus a guy hitting .220 and 30 homers, cause that’s basically their choices. We don’t need two Pedro’s, so i’m perfectly happy with Ike the way he is, maybe a tad more power and a tad more average, but i’m not upset. His at bats are battles, he will use the whole field. I’m not sure what your issue is with him, literally noone sees him as a defensive liability but you

      • https://profiles.google.com/102688850599440394897 craggy1000

        I’ve heard all of this talk about changing his batting stance and how now he is trying to make more contact, I wish he would go back. I would much rather have him hitting 30 homers and batting .220 then hitting .240-.250 with feeble power numbers…Jordy Mercer has more home runs! He is not driving in runs and I cannot think of many teams with a weaker hitting 1B. Check how his slugging avg compares to all of the other MLB first baseman. He ranks 22nd out of the 25 first baseman listed…that’s horrible. And that is with him only getting starts against right-handed pitching.

  • leowalter

    With ” two clowns ” at first base, the loss of Ace AJ Burnett, the looming disaster Edison Volquez replacing him, Liriano on the DL, Cole just off and their closer self destructing and now traded, how is this team EVER going to stay close to the powerful St. Louis Cardinals ?

    • leadoff

      Simple, they are better than the Cards

      • leowalter

        Leadoff : if I would have had a sarcasm font to use on that comment, it would have been on. That was aimed at several commanders here who in the past, have indicated they think the best way to proceed is ” the Cardinal Way “. Which I have been a bit skeptical of.

        • Scott Kliesen

          I agree with you in that the Pirates can and will give the Cards a good fight this season and beyond, but I disagree with you vehemently concerning your skepticism of their organization. They are a model franchise in terms of developing talent and supplementing with FA’s when needed. Very strong FO track record, great fan base and a long tradition of winning makes me wonder what you see that the rest of the world doesn’t.

          I can understand if you have a competitive dislike of them as a Pirates fan, but not on how they operate their franchise. This Pirate fan would be ecstatic if our franchise models their future course on the same path the Cards are on.

          • Timothy Wolfe

            how can you disagree vehemently with someone who is “a bit” skeptical…….that’s like saying you are apalled that someone is neutral towards your favorite food. Dude, seriously, chill

          • leowalter

            It has nothing to do with me being a Pirate fan Scott. With the money they spend, they should be better.

            • Scott Kliesen

              Not sure what your perception is of the Cardinals, but here are the facts:
              1. Ave over 90 wins last 5 years
              2. Ave over 90 wins last 10 years.
              3. In last 10 years they’ve been to the post-season 7 times, they’ve won 2 WS Titles, won 4 NLCS, and been in two other NLCS.

              As I said, this is the franchise the Pirates should model. Quite simply, they are like the Steelers of MLB.

              • leowalter

                I have been watching MLB for at least 60 years. Now tell me something I do not know about the Cardinals. Talk about Captain Obvious……..besides,I just mentioned that I was skeptical of their current 25 man,and you go through their last 10 year history. Let me tell you something else Scott : I don’t care ! Besides the point,they are more like the Patriots than the Steelers. How does that fit your narrative ?

    • Timothy Wolfe

      hahaha, Leo, I love your sense of humor! Way to bring everyone back with sarcasm :)

  • smurph

    Even when the Giants were tearing it up, I never felt they were close to being the best team in the NL. Now they have blown an 8 1/2 game lead in less than 2 weeks. A month and a half ago, you could have confidently stated the Central will only get one WC (at most). Now, unless the Giants turn it around, it is likely there will be again two WC teams from the NL Central. I can’t see both Atlanta and Washington making it. The bad news is the Pirates haven’t really gained much ground, as the 3 teams above them have all been playing well. I still think the Brewers will come back to the pack, but they have enough firepower to be the NLC favorite right now. Everyone still likes the Cardinals, but I am not so sure. Their lineup is weak, and injuries to SPs could hurt them. Polanco has come back to earth. His avg. down to .285. Maybe they should drop him down in the lineup for a couple of games. By putting themselves in an early hole, they don’t have as much room for error in the 2nd half. They need to keep winning, especially against teams in their division.

    • Timothy Wolfe

      Polanco is a 1 or 2 hitter regardless of if he hits. 212

  • st1300b

    If Alvarez gets hot, that could swing the division. Polanco may need a day off or so, but he’s still doing damage. Cole’s inability to get on track is concerning but the closer situation needs resolved. I like Watson the best with Wilson moving into the 7th inning possibly with Frieri in the mix?

    • smurph

      At some point you do have to consider Watson as your closer. He has been almost unhittable most of the season, and has been doing it for 3 seasons now.

      • Lukas Sutton

        Melancon has done very little to lose the closer role, with a sub 3 ERA, FIP and xFIP along with quality projections. Watson having a fantastic year in the 8th inning is a good reason to not mess with either guy being good at what they do.

      • leadoff

        Rather have him than Melancon closing. I still think Melancon is setup man. I think Hurdle has it backwords.

        • Timothy Wolfe

          They are both setup men, hence why Grilli was closing.

      • Timothy Wolfe

        No. Hell No. That is all. Watson is pitching well, but his command is garbage, its smoke and mirrors. He hasn’t been pitching well either over the past couple weeks, neither has Melancon. I’m interested to see Frieri

  • leadoff

    There are 3 months left and we are looking at odds! Since I don’t, won’t look at any odds because I don’t have a lot of respect for outside sources that don’t know anything about the Pirates to accept their odds or even care about their odds.
    St.Louis is high on every outlets list and as far as I am concerned the Pirates are a better team, the Reds are for real, the Brewers will fade. The reasons are simple, the Pirates have more depth than any of the 4 contenders in the NL Central and I have said this a hundred times, depth will win out in the end. The Pirates in case the odds makers were paying attention have the best record in baseball since the 1st week of May.

    • leowalter

      I couldn’t agree more leadoff.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    It is such a tough division. Every time the Pirates win, so does the rest of the division. I think they have a good shot at a wild card regardless.

  • Scott Kliesen

    In order for the Pirates to be legitimate playoff contenders, they’ll need to be much better vs Brewers, Reds, and to a lesser extent, the Cards. For the season they are 9 games under .500 vs these teams and will face them 25 more times.

    • Timothy Wolfe

      True, but wow are you stating the obvious.

      • leowalter

        Scott has a knack for spotting the finer points Tim.

  • Pie Rat

    If the Pirates play 45-36 in their last 81 games they would end up with 87 wins. These other projections have them playing at .500 the rest of the way. It seems they have worked out many of their problems. Too bad they didn’t cut Rodriguez a month sooner. I also don’t think the Pirates will have 5 blown saves from their closer the rest of the way. They may now be in position to look at rentals.