How Jon Lester Could Impact a Very Close NL Playoff Race

How Jon Lester Could Impact a Very Close NL Playoff Race

Normally we only do one playoff projection each week. In last Friday’s update, the Pirates had the sixth best odds of making the post season, and were sitting just outside of the second Wild Card spot. Since then, they’ve gone 3-2, with two big wins against the NL Wild Card contending San Francisco Giants. That has given the Pirates a slight jump in the projections this week.

The purpose of this update isn’t to provide the weekly recap of where the Pirates stand. Instead, it’s to freeze the projections before a Jon Lester trade could be made, so that we can see the impact Lester might have on the rest of the season. Below are the projections, and then we’ll look at how Lester could impact the NL Central and NL Wild Card races.

The playoff odds and projections come from the top three projection sites: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and Here are the latest projections.

Baseball Prospectus: 85.5 wins, 53.5% chance to make playoffs

The Baseball Prospectus odds didn’t go up much in terms of projected wins. The chances to make the playoffs went up, largely because the Brewers and Giants continued to slide. The Pirates actually have the lowest playoffs odds of all contenders in the BP projections, but they’re not far from every NL Central and Wild Card team.

FanGraphs: 85.9 wins, 61.0% chance to make playoffs

FanGraphs had the same situation as BP, with the Pirates not adding much in terms of projected wins, but seeing their odds go up with others falling. Unlike BP, FanGraphs has the Pirates ahead of the Brewers and Giants in terms of making the playoffs, and just 1.1% behind the Cardinals.

Clay Davenport: 86.6 wins, 63.3% chance to make playoffs

The projections from Clay Davenport have been higher on the Pirates all year. That continues this week. Just like the other two projections, the wins don’t see a big increase but the odds get a boost. Davenport has the Pirates with the fourth best playoff odds, ahead of the Braves, Brewers, and Giants.

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




































The Pirates were in sixth place last week, ahead of only the Braves. The latest projections have them jumping over the Brewers and Giants, and right behind the Cardinals.

If we look at this from a wins standpoint, the National League is wide open, outside of the Dodgers and Nationals. The rest of the teams are in the 85-87 win range, with the Pirates right in the middle of that group. I’ve got Jon Lester projected for a 1.7 WAR the rest of the way. If the current projections hold up, then that could be the difference between barely winning the first Wild Card spot, and winning the division for the Pirates.

That’s just using a rough projection. It doesn’t consider what Lester is expected to do in the above projection systems. I plan to update that at the end of the week after Lester gets traded, no matter who he gets traded to, in order to reflect the difference. But right now, it looks like Lester could be a big difference maker in the NL, especially if the Rays decide they’re keeping David Price. That would make Lester the only big upgrade out there, unless someone meets the extremely high demands the Phillies have for Cole Hamels.


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, 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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