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Pirates Playoff Odds: Hovering Above 50 Percent


Andrew McCutchen pirates
Andrew McCutchen is projected to proved 3.6 wins above replacement for the rest of the season. (Photo by: David Hague)

Let’s escape from the forest and look at the trees. We are still four months away from the MLB Playoffs, but want to make sure to keep one eye on the postseason picture, one eye on the team day-to-day and one eye on that optometrist that really screwed us up.

Every Monday, I will break down the playoff odds and projections from the three sites that do it best: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and ClayDavenport.com. We’ll see how the Pirates’ chances develop on their quest to make the playoffs for the first time in two decades.

Baseball Prospectus: 87.5 wins, 74.5 losses, 61.2% chance to make playoffs

The BP odds use PECOTA projections and the site’s depth charts to simulate the rest of the season. BP projects the Pirates to play about .500 ball the rest of the season, and their adjusted standings reflect that the Bucs have been one of the luckiest teams this season but have underlying statistics that match what their positive run differential.

FanGraphs: 88 wins, 74 losses, Projected to earn second Wild Card

This system does not put a percentage on any team’s odds to reach the postseason. Instead, FanGraphs uses a combination of ZiPS and Steamer projections (plus their own depth charts) to place a season win-loss record on each team.

The depth charts show specific stat projections for each player, and FanGraphs expects the biggest contributors the rest of the season to be Andrew McCutchen (3.6 WAR), Russell Martin (1.9), Neil Walker (1.7), Starling Marte (1.7) and A.J. Burnett (1.7). Then again, they also list Mets catcher Travis D’Arnaud as being on the team instead of Chase d’Arnaud, so let’s move on.

The Pirates are projected to take the second Wild Card spot by quite a bit, their 88-74 record would be four games better than the 84-78 record FanGraphs projects for the San Francisco Giants.

ClayDavenport.com: 87.1 wins, 74.9 losses, 53.1% chance to make playoffs

The co-founder of Baseball Prospectus maintains his own projections and playoff odds. Davenport’s formula gives the Pirates a 15% chance to win the NL Central and a 38% chance they will play in the Wild Card playoff. A version of his odds that uses only real data and not projections give the Pirates a 56% chance to reach the postseason.

The Competition

One other aspect of these playoff odds I find interesting is seeing who are the other contenders in the National League. To determine contender status, the team should have 15% odds or better to make the playoffs in both Prospectus’ and Davenport’s odds.

  1. St. Louis Cardinals – 89% average odds, 94-68 record
  2. Cincinnati Reds – 84% average odds, 91-71 record
  3. Atlanta Braves – 84% average odds, 90-72 record
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates – 57% average odds, 87-75 record
  5. San Francisco Giants – 53% average odds, 86-76 record
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks – 51% average odds, 85-77 record
  7. Washington Nationals – 34% average odds, 83-79 record
  8. Los Angeles Dodgers – 16% average odds, 80-82 record

As we move toward July, this list will allow us to identify sellers on the trade market, and specific player projections from Prospectus and FanGraphs will give an idea of the areas the Pirates (and other teams) can look to improve most on the trade market.

The future is bright. But it’s also scary. Bring a friend and a calculator.

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