Playoff Odds: Pirates Stay Alive With Big Week Against the Cardinals and Brewers

Last week I wrote about how the Pittsburgh Pirates needed a big week against the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals in order to remain in the playoff hunt. The Pirates responded well, taking 4 of 6 against those teams, and winning both series. That pulled them closer to the playoffs, but according to the latest projections, there is still work to be done.

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

Baseball Prospectus: 84.0 wins, 34.3% chance to make playoffs

The Baseball Prospectus odds went up about 13 percentage points, and saw the Pirates adding an extra win. They have the Pirates as the seventh best contender in the NL, making BP the only projection system to rank the Pirates below the Braves.

FanGraphs: 84.5 wins, 41.0% chance to make playoffs

FanGraphs saw a big increase, going up almost 20 percentage points, and seeing a one win increase. They had the Pirates ahead of the Braves, but almost 20 percentage points behind the Giants.

Clay Davenport: 84.4 wins, 41.6% chance to make playoffs

Clay Davenport was at 41.6%, maintaining their run of being higher on the Pirates than the other systems. Like FanGraphs, they had the Pirates ahead of the Braves, but well behind the 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

1

Dodgers

99.2

92

70

2

Nationals

98.9

92

70

3

Brewers

83.1

88

74

4

Cardinals

75.5

87

75

5

Giants

63.6

86

76

6

Pirates

39.0

84

78

7

Braves

37.3

84

78

The Pirates saw a jump of about 15% on average, and saw their projected win total increase by one win. They’re still on the outside of the playoffs, sitting about two wins behind the Giants.

This last week was huge for the Pirates, as it allowed them to make up some ground on the Brewers and Cardinals. They still need to make up more ground, and that could happen in the next few weeks. They have three games this weekend against the struggling Reds, and then three more games against the Cardinals. Another good stretch, along with another series win against the Cardinals, could put them back in the playoff race.

Beyond that, the Pirates have 13 games against the Cubs, Phillies, and Red Sox, before taking on the Brewers for three games and the Braves for four games. The Cubs, Phillies, and Red Sox have been struggling this year, and that would be a great opportunity for the Pirates to pad the win column. The playoffs aren’t out of the question. The Pirates basically control their own destiny, with games remaining against the Cardinals, Brewers, Braves, and a lot of struggling teams.

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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  • Tony Ventimiglio

    I find these things very funny. Any prediction that can swing so wildly in a 1 week time has to be suspect. I can see it the last 2 weeks of the season but not in August as it has been moving.

    • jalcorn427

      Well, when a team goes 0-7 then follows it up with 5-2 you are going to get variation. Contrary to your statement, playoff odds should swing wildly the later it gets in the season as some team’s odds drop towards 0 and others climb toward 100. Early in the year there is less variation because there are 90-100 games left. Now a small losing or winning streak greatly impacts the odds of getting to 86-87 wins. The Bucs need to go 18-11 to get to 87 and what will almost certainly be a playoff bid. a 3 game winning or losing streak this weekend dramtically changes the odds of getting to 87 (they would then need 15-11 or 18-8 the rest of the way).

      • Tony Ventimiglio

        I guess my point is that a lot of bandwidth is utilized for statistical modeling. I think that everyone gets that when you play well the odds are better that you make the playoffs. Week to week is way to small of a sample size to continue to write long and extensive articles about. There is no great analysis here, just reporting trends. It takes nothing into account but math. Not what players are hurt and likely returning, match ups and a lot more.

        • jalcorn427

          That’s not really true, at least regarding fangraphs playoff odds. They update depth charts and include projections based on current roster/injuries. Its not as simple as saying the Pirates are a .520 team so .520 times 29 equals X wins. I believe BP uses baseruns at some level to project, the modeling involved is actually quite complex. You have a point regarding things like pitching matchups, but at some level you have to exclude variation that is not really predictable.

          • Tony Ventimiglio

            Most importantly, content that is irrelevant should not continue to be produced. They all give odds throughout the season and they change regularly with (I believe) their predictions at the beginning of the season being horribly wrong by the end. (Weren’t we predicted to be way out of the running last year?) Bad content, irrelevant information and a waste of time. I should probably quit engaging in the wasteful use of my time with it.

  • Forbes 66

    As far as I’m concerned, we’re contending until the day we’re eliminated. Percentages are kind of entertaining, but not nearly so much as real games. Should be fun down the stretch. Need to win more of the close ones. Pitching (especially relief) has to step up.

  • leowalter

    I have to admit, I think the team that might cause the Pirates the most problems is the Cubs. They have several of those big swinging prospects up there, and till you get some reports on them, hackers with power can give pitchers a real headache. For example I saw a replay of a HR Alcantera hit the other day that looked like it was shoulder high and a good 4″ out of the zone outside.

    • deacs

      Teams with nothing to lose are scary (the Cubbies for example). And there’s that initial few week period where no one knows how to pitch to the rookies.

      • leowalter

        That’s the way I see it too deacs. Putting some of those prospects on there with Rizzo in the middle of the lineup is a VERY scary proposition I think.

        • deacs

          I live in Philadelphia and am going to the Wednesday game. I get to see Worley which is………..ok I guess. Was really hoping to see Cole since I don’t live in Pittsburgh anymore. But Philly just took 3 from the Nats who are fighting for home field in the NL. The are no locks anymore when it comes to the schedule. That being said I’d rather see 4 games against the Phillies than 4 more in Miller Park. I’m hoping Pedro is the bridge to Bell at first but other than Glasnow there’s not a prospect I wouldn’t trade for Rizzo. He’d be perfect in the 4 spot and at first.

          • leowalter

            Myself, I wouldn’t give up a Glasnow or Polanco in any deal for Rizzo,but every one else would be fair game.
            I like Rizzo a lot myself, but in one of the few instances I really criticize the FO for, I just can’t see how they missed Matt Adams completely.

        • jalcorn427

          Fortunately most of their prospects strike out more than Pedro ever did as a prospect. Baez is over 43% right now.

          Anyway, I was screaming for the Bucs to get Rizzo when SD made him available. Now it is obviously far too late.

          • leowalter

            From what I understand,Soler is not particularly a whiff guy,nor is Alcantera too awfully bad. Baez is even worse than Joey Gallo, but if you read and listen to all the MLB commentators, they act like none of this is a problem….unless you are Pedro Alvarez. A friend of mine in Ok. City who is a huge fan of the Rangers keeps pointing out Gallo’s HR and RBI numbers. I told him the best comparison to make for him is Brad Eldred. Huge power, even bigger swing and miss tendancies.

          • leowalter

            Forgot to mention jalcorn, I don’t think any other organization had any chance of trading for Rizzo. Epstein and he are connected at the hip.

  • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

    Before the Cardinals series I broke it down like this: (So far so good BTW)

    The Bucs need to play .656 ball in order to win 88 games (21-11), the past floor for a wild card berth. Personally I believe their playoff chances ended with the two games they blew in Washington. Instead of being back at 8 games over they were down at 4. But oh well.

    If they are to make a run for the playoffs they need to string together a few streaks and not just win series, because winning 2 of 3 only nets you one game.

    So where in the upcoming schedule can they rip off a four five or six game win streak or two?

    Home: Cards 3, Reds 3 Well, if they lose three to the Cards, then turn out the lights, it’s over. Reds are reeling right now, are probably mailing it in from here on out. 5-1 is a definite possibility, especially with Liriano, Cole and Locke going against the Redbirds

    Away Cards 3, Cubs 3, Philies 4 I hope to not get swept by the Cards. Those four in Philly could be the season. Three out of four would be lovely, especially with two (or more) wins in Chicago.

    Home: Cubs 3, Red Sox 3, Brewers 3 We usually beat the Cubs at home. Red Sox are playing out the string and can’t use the DH, and I see 2 of 3 from the Brewers. 7-2, not out of the realm of probability.

    Away: Braves 4, Reds 3; Anyone else have total cold sweat, nightmares about four in Atlanta? I sure do! And we beat the Reds at the end of the season last year!

    Thoughts????

    • kozy21

      Thoughts??? Yeah, they just took 2 of 3 from the Cards at home. Liriano, Cole, and Locke already went against them. Did miss that series?

      • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

        Please see my note where I acknowledged that with “So far so good” :-)

    • gregenstein

      They’re finally pitching half way decent this past week. If they keep taking 2/3 in their games, it’ll work out. Would really help if the Giants or Cards had a nice 7 game losing skid like the Bucs did.

    • FrankRestly

      I think that the 88 game mark may go by the wayside – but not this year.

      During the single wild card years the second wild card (had it existed) would have been:

      2002 – Boston – 93 Wins, Los Angelas – 92 Wins
      2003 – Seattle – 93 Wins, Houston – 87 Wins

      2004 – Oakland – 91 Wins, San Francisco – 91 Wins
      2005 – Chicago – 93 Wins, Philadelphia – 88 Wins
      2006 – Los Angelas – 89 Wins, Philadelphia – 85 Wins
      2007 – Detroit / Seattle – 88 Wins, NY Mets – 88 Wins
      2008 – Minnestoa – 88 Wins, NY Mets – 89 Wins
      2009 – Texas – 87 Wins, San Francisco – 88 Wins
      2010 – Chicago – 88 Wins, San Diego – 90 Wins
      2011 – Boston – 90 Wins, Atlanta – 89 Wins
      In 2012, the St. Louis Cardinals were the second NL wild card having won 88 games. Since the introduction of the wild card system (2002), a team with 87 or fewer wins would be the second wild card 3 out of 20 times (15%).
      It would be a pretty amazing feat for someone to finish with fewer than 85 wins and still make the playoffs. In 2006, only the NY Mets in the NL finished with more than 90 wins. During the same season (2006) the NL finished with a record of 98 Wins, 154 Losses in interleague play, which explains the low NL win totals.
      This year the NL currently (2014) has a record of 126 Wins, 147 Losses in interleague play.
      .

  • smurph

    People think the Pirates get a break when they play the Cubbies, Red Sox, and Phaillies. Well, no. Cubs are 7-3 in their last 10, including a sweep of the O’s. Boston just took 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays. Phillies have won 4 straight – one against Cards and 3 against Nationals, whom many think are the best team in the NL. Plus you have the disadvantage of having no control over what the other contenders do. At least when playing one of them head-to-head, you know you will gain a game if you beat them.

    • deacs

      If Phaillies was intentional as if to say “Fail-ies”, I’m using it here in Philadelphia and claiming I came up with it. If it wasn’t intentional I’m claiming ownership of it now.
      Still can’t believe they didn’t make any 7/31 or 8/31 waiver deals thus far. Everyone here is focused on the Eagles so they don’t seem to care that basically 20 guys on the 25 man roster are all coming back next year and will be a year older. I fully expect AJ to exercise his 2015 option out here.

      • smurph

        Come on deacs. Faillies has been around a long time. You can’t claim it.

        • deacs

          This must be a Western PA thing. I swear I’ve not heard it here in Philly.

  • Andrew

    I see we have the obligatory comment, that projections are useless, complete with the follow up, not understanding the inputs of the projections.

    • pilbobuggins

      Sometimes andrew I think your brilliant, sometimes I think you have a screw loose. The fun part is trying to figure out which one it is. Thanks(no kidding, just thanks.)

  • pilbobuggins

    “Never tell me the odds”Han Solo. If it’s good enough for star wars it’s good enough for the bucs. Now let’s go win the division and shut these prognosticators up. ( at least for a day or two)