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Pirates Playoff Odds Over 90 Percent with MLB’s Best Record


Andrew McCutchen Pirates
Can Andrew McCutchen get his performance back up to near-MVP levels in the second half? (Photo credit: David Hague)

The Pittsburgh Pirates not only have the best record in Major League Baseball, but also the best chance to make the MLB Playoffs.

Every week we look at the projected standings from Baseball Prospectus, Clay Davenport and FanGraphs, three of the most reliable postseason projections. At the halfway point of the season the Pirates have a 91% chance to reach the playoffs, according to BP and Davenport.

Before we delve into the numbers, here are the National League Standings at the start of play July 1.

  1. Pittsburgh: 51-30
  2. St. Louis: 49-32 (2.0 games back, 1st Wild Card)
  3. Atlanta: 48-34 (3.5 GB, NL East Leader)
  4. Cincinnati: 46-36 (5.5 GB, 2nd Wild Card)
  5. Arizona: 42-39 (9.0 GB, NL West Leader)
  6. Washington: 41-40 (10.0 GB)
  7. Colorado: 41-42 (11.0 GB)
  8. San Diego: 40-42 (11.5 GB)
  9. San Francisco: 39-42 (12.0 GB)
  10. Philadelphia: 39-44 (13.0 GB)
  11. Los Angeles: 38-43 (13.0 GB)

Okay, numbers time! Just for a little background: all three sites use their own projection systems and depth charts to simulate or project the rest of the season. The projections are based on what a player has done in past years and the first half of 2013.

Also remember that the Pirates’ odds were about 50 percent just three weeks ago, so these projections can and will fluctuate as we play more baseball.

There’s also this:

Baseball Prospectus: 92.6 wins, 69.4 losses, 94.3% chance to make playoffs

The Pirates have a better chance to earn a playoff spot than any other team in baseball, according to the PECOTA-based projections from BP. They have about a 45% chance to win the NL Central and about 49% chance to make the one-game Wild Card Playoff.

Gerrit Cole Pirates
BP projects Gerrit Cole to be a 3.37 ERA pitcher the rest of the season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

In fact, Baseball Prospectus says is 70% chance the NL Wild Card Playoff will be some combination of the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds. There is about an 85% chance TBS will travel to Pittsburgh, St. Louis or Cincinnati as host of the Coin Flip Game. As you can tell, the rest of the league after Atlanta has been mediocre in the first half.

Clay Davenport: 91.8 wins, 70.2 losses, 88.2% chance to make playoffs

BP’s co-founder has the Pirates going 41-40 in the second half of the season, just a tad over .500 baseball. And you know what? It would be enough to finish with the best record in baseball under Davenport’s simulation. That’s how good a first half the Pirates had.

The Bucs have a 43% chance to win the Central under Davenport’s simulation and a 45% chance to make the Wild Card Game. The system really likes preseason darlings Washington (projected 44-37 the rest of the season) and San Francisco (projected 46-35).

FanGraphs: 91 wins, 71 losses, Projected to earn 1st NL Wild Card

The site uses ZiPS projections and depth charts, simply adding them to the total rather than using a simulation (I think), which does not allow us to get odds for the Pirates.

Here we see the Cardinals projected to finish 45-36 and grab the Central division and leave the Pirates (40-41 in second half) to host the Wild Card Game against the Reds. Right now, most Bucco fans would probably be happy with that result. But as long as the Pirates lead the division, I wonder how many would see anything less than a Central title as a disappointment. Fan expectations tend to compound like that.

Who’s Will Be the Second-Half Stars?

BP and FanGraphs publish their individual projections too (bearing in mind BP has not updated the position players in a while), allowing us to average out the two and predict who will be the biggest contributors to the Pirates’ second half:

  1. Andrew McCutchen: 2.6 WAR
  2. Russell Martin: 1.2 WAR
  3. Starling Marte: 1.2 WAR
  4. Francisco Liriano: 1.2 WAR
  5. Pedro Alvarez: 1.2 WAR
  6. Neil Walker: 1.2 WAR
  7. Gerrit Cole: 0.9

Look at all those 1.2 WAR players!

Who are the Contenders?

As every week, we average out the odds from BP and Davenport to figure out the Pirates’ biggest competition to reach the postseason. As you’ll see, the Bucs are projected to finish tied for the NL’s best record.

  1. Atlanta Braves (92-70, 92% odds to reach playoffs)
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates (92-70, 91% odds)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals (92-70, 89% odds)
  4. Cincinnati Reds (89-73, 77% odds)
  5. San Francisco Giants (83-79, 37% odds)
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks (83-79, 34% odds)
  7. Washington Nationals (84-78, 30% odds)
  8. Los Angeles Dodgers (81-81, 23% odds)
  9. Colorado Rockies (79-83, 13% odds)

The future is scary. Bring a friend and a calculator.

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