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(Photo Credit: David Hague)

Success in Upcoming Road Trip Could Have Pirates Projected For the Playoffs

The Pittsburgh Pirates are coming off a nice week where they went 5-1 against the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The big victory came when they took two out of three against the Dodgers, which probably wasn’t expected. As a result, the Pirates saw their chances of making the playoffs increase in all of the projection systems. They’re still on the outside looking in, but the gap between the Pirates and the projected second wild card team is now slim.

Each week we will break down the playoff odds and projections from the top three projection sites: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and ClayDavenport.com. Here are the latest projections.

Baseball Prospectus: 84.9 wins, 43.0% chance to make playoffs

The Baseball Prospectus odds went up by two wins this week, and the chance to make the playoffs jumped 18%. That’s to be expected from a good week where they beat the Dodgers and swept the Rockies. The week before the All-Star break they dropped by one win, so the net gain of the two weeks was an additional projected win.

FanGraphs: 85.5 wins, 53.3% chance to make playoffs

FanGraphs also had the Pirates picking up two wins, which allowed them to recover the win and a half they lost before the break. Their chances of making the playoffs jumped 20 points, going over 50%. The projections from FanGraphs are a little more bold than BP. For example, they gave the Nationals a 96% chance of the playoffs, even though they’re 1.5 games ahead of the Braves, and aren’t really that far ahead from most Wild Card contenders. FanGraphs also dropped the Reds to 11% playoff odds, which removes them from contender status in the section below.

Clay Davenport: 86.2 wins, 54.0% chance to make playoffs

The projections from Clay Davenport also had the Pirates picking up two wins after their 5-1 week. Davenport has been the most optimistic on the Pirates this year, and still is the highest on their chances to make the playoffs, but the gap is very narrow between these projections and FanGraphs.

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.

1

Nationals

90.5

91

71

2

Dodgers

81.2

89

73

3

Giants

78.8

89

73

4

Brewers

68.1

87

75

5

Cardinals

60.0

87

75

6

Pirates

50.1

86

76

7

Braves

48.5

85

77

Not only did the Reds fall off the list this week (they only dropped below 15% in the FanGraphs projections), but the Braves saw a drop. This, plus the good week for the Pirates, moved them up two spots. They’re currently projected to be just outside of the second Wild Card spot, with 86 projected wins. The Cardinals and Brewers are both tied with 87 projected wins, putting the Pirates one win away from the playoffs. The Dodgers and Giants are both tied at 89 wins, which would be the mark for the first Wild Card spot.

Obviously things can change quickly with a good or bad week. The NL race is so close, with all seven teams sitting with between 54 and 58 wins. The current Wild Card contenders are all between 54-56 wins. The takeaway here is that the Pirates are not only in the thick of things, but they’re on the verge of being one of the projected playoff teams.

The upcoming ten game road trip will really play a big role in the Pirates making it back to the post-season. Maybe not as big of a role as beating teams in their division, as I wrote about last week. They have struggled on the road, with a 20-26 record, compared to a 34-21 record at home. Fortunately they’ve got seven games against Arizona and Colorado. They’re 5-1 against those two, but that’s at home. Right in the middle of a trip comes a three game series against the Giants, who are the top contenders for the first Wild Card spot. The Pirates won the home series against the Giants, and taking the series on the road could provide a shift in the playoff odds next week.

Of course, a week from today will be right after the trade deadline. Any moves that are made could impact the projections going forward, so there’s that aspect to look forward to.

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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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  • Scott Kliesen

    In my mind, whether they make the playoffs or not boils down to whether or not Liriano and Cole pitch up to their capabilities for the last 2 months of the season.

  • Y2JGQ2

    It boils down to whether or not they can beat the brewers cardinals and reds, at least win half of those games the rest of the season. I’m still not too convinced considering they’ve failed miserably at it so far this year

    • S Brooks

      And yet here we are, 3 games up on the Reds, tied with the Cards and 1/2 game out of the wildcard. If the bullpen can just hold a lead in division games, this team should be able to muster at least a 9-9 in those last 18.

    • Lukas Sutton

      Except that most of our remaining games are against teams not listed, so we could realistically play well against all other competition and not great against them and finish with roughly 85ish wins. To win the division we need a good stretch against in division teams, to make the WC we need roughly .500 play against them.

  • Y2JGQ2

    I’ve been projecting this team at 85 wins all season, since spring training, and i stick to that

  • BostonsCommon

    Is this the point on the win curve where it finally makes sense to go after an impact player in the trade market? Can one starter push Worley to the ‘pen, make this a 90 win team, and form a playoff rotation with Morton, Liriano, and Cole?

    • S Brooks

      Short of getting Sabathia circa 2008, no single player is going to take a team from 86 to 90 wins over the last 2 months of the season. The biggest improvement you would see from an impact arm is on the order of 2 WAR, minus whatever your #5 guy would give you. In Worley or Volquez’ case, they would be worth maybe 2/3 WAR over their 12 final starts, assuming they continued pitching as they have so far. And maybe you pick up another 1/3 – 1/2 win by moving one of those guys to the pen, and giving Justin Wilson’s remaining 20 innings (at -0.2 WAR) to Worley/Volquez, who would give you +0.2. So optimistically you get a 2-win improvement.

      But that’s missing a whole lot of context, including:

      1. Can you trust Volquez and/or Worley to continue pitching as they have?
      2. Does Cole make his next 12 starts?
      3. Can those 2 wins get you the division so that you don’t HAVE to play the one and done wildcard?
      4. And if you do have to play the wildcard game and burn your best starter, wouldn’t it be nice to have another good option to start game 1 or 2 of the following series?
      5. What are the other contenders doing to improve? Are they getting key players back from injury or making deals?

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

    FanGraphs says our chance of making the playoffs is now better than half. If the Pirates don’t make it, will FanGraphs pay me for pain and suffering? :D

    • S Brooks

      No but they will refund your money. Or bring back NotGraphs.

  • Jared

    Not starting out well tonight…Frieri not helping at all, allowing all of Morton’s inherited runners to score and allowing another three of his own in a 7-run 7th.

    The Pirates amaze me…how can they be this terrible on the road?

  • bucsws2014

    If they reduce the blown save number from 14 in the 1st half to 7 in the 2nd half, that will go a long way to improving their record.

    The concern for me at the moment is that prior to tonight’s games, the Bucs have 35 games vs. teams .500 or better. The Brewers have 36. The Cards only have 24, by far the easiest schedule of the three.

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