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Saturday, December 10, 2022

The Pirates Are No Longer Projected as Playoff Contenders

The first three series of the year went great for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They went 2-1 each time, finishing with a 6-3 record and looking like they could be on their way to contending once again. Then they were swept by the Brewers, and since that 6-3 start, they have gone 4-13. In the process, they’ve fallen from one of the top seven teams in the playoff odds, to a team that is unanimously projected to finish the season with 77-78 wins.

Each week we will break down the playoff odds and projections from the top three projection sites: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and ClayDavenport.com. As the season goes on, this will allow us to track the Pirates’ chances of getting back to the playoffs. It has been two weeks since our last look at the playoff odds, so let’s see where the Pirates stand after this poor stretch.

Baseball Prospectus: 77.1 wins, 84.9 losses, 9.1% chance to make playoffs

The Baseball Prospectus odds were at 18.3% two weeks ago after being swept by the Brewers. Since that point, the Pirates’ chances have dropped to below 10%, and they are projected for only 77 wins. Of the three odds, BP gives the Pirates the lowest chance of making the playoffs.

FanGraphs: 77.8 wins, 84.2 losses, 13.6% chance to make playoffs

FanGraphs has been the highest on the Pirates so far this year, although their chances of making the playoffs are a third of what they were two weeks ago. The Pirates have dropped below our 15% “contender” threshold, and are projected to win 79 games in these projections.

Clay Davenport: 77.2 wins, 83.8 losses, 15.7% chance to make playoffs

The projections from Clay Davenport are the most optimistic for the Pirates at this point. However, that is based solely on the chances of making the playoffs. The record here is the same as the other two, with the Pirates projected for something around a 77-84 record this season.

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. Los Angeles Dodgers – 71.9% average odds, 88-74 record

2. Washington Nationals – 71.7% average odds, 89-73 record

3. Atlanta Braves – 70.8% average odds, 88-74 record

4. St. Louis Cardinals – 67.0% average odds, 88-74 record

5. Milwaukee Brewers – 59.3% average odds, 86-76 record

6. San Francisco Giants – 53.8% average odds, 85-77 record

7. Colorado Rockies – 24.9% average odds, 80-82 record

The Pirates have dropped off the contenders list in the last two weeks. It’s still early in the season, but they need to start making up ground. The current projections have 86 wins being needed to make the playoffs. That means the Pirates need to go 76-60 from here on out, which is a .559 winning percentage. To put that in perspective, only four teams in the NL have a better winning percentage this early in the season. The Pirates can still turn things around and have a shot at the playoffs, but they will need to reverse their current losing.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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One thing to remember, just like batting averages, its early, one or two five game win steaks or a 11 out of 14 will change those percentages pretty quickly. And yes, I belive this team is capable of this.


With the lousy record, it is easy to lose some perspective on how well the Pirates are actually playing. Currently they have a 10-16 record but their run differential is only minus 8. They are not getting blown out repeatedly. In most games they play just poorly enough to lose – or not quite well enough to win. Because almost every game is close, a key hit here or an out there could turn things around pretty quickly.

In contrast, the Brewers are 19-7 with a run differential of plus 24. The record is great, but the run differential does not show a dominating team. They are getting the key hit or out, much like the Pirates did last year. And do you really expect them to continue winning 90% of their road games? Everyone is moaning about the poor Pirate hitting (including me) but the Brewers have only scored 10 runs more than the Pirates. The big difference is in the pitching.

There is a decent chance this will turn into a very interesting, competitive 4 team race. Or, the Pirates could fall apart and not contend at all. It is still too early in the season to guess how this will all play out.

scott stevens

The writing was on the wall during the off season, this team had everything break their way last year. They needed to improve this team and whether it was bad baseball decisions or a cheap owner, it didn’t happen. We struggled to score runs all last season and we did nothing to improve in that area. Grilli broke down last year and we didn’t address the possibility that he might not return to the first half of 2013 results. Way too many issues and too many band aides used to fix those issues. Ike Davis please, and they give up prospects for this. This team had everything pointing in the right direction at the end of last season and management let us down. They were more interested in setting attendance records and saying the wrong things “we don’t pay market value” than actually trying to win a championship. Hey but Nutting is making a boat load of money and the team is playing like a team that has the 3rd lowest payroll in all of baseball. No ones saying to spend ridiculous amounts of money, but smart money spending is what should have occurred.


Well said.


We heard this same comment last year during the early parts of the season.


Wow! As of now they don’t deserve to be in the mix. However they are one spark away from being a contender. Projection wise they are not, but if they can find an offense they can compete. I get tired of hearing the same old cliques! In sports if the players you have don’t produce you find ones that can. If the Pirates want to compete this year they may have to make some sacrifices financially. I don’t mean going out and spending a fortune. They need to potentially eat a salary or two by trading or dropping guys and bring up their minor league players.If they don’t take this course it basically means they are giving up on this season.


They deserve it. And part of me wants to ship Marte back to Indy to fix his swing


On a slightly different note, since we are playing inter league games, doesn’t that mean that the Pirates can call up a DH? And do you think they would call up Polanco for that or even Lambo?


This is what the pucker factor of high expectations look like for a team that can’t relax and just play ball.


1. The big offseason addition was Edinson Volquez.
2. AJ Burnett was sent packing to save a couple million.
3. Everybody should have expected regression from Liriano.
4. Greg Polanco is wasting time at AAA for no reason other than ensuring he does not reach “super two” status. Bucs are not willing to offer a long-term deal (e.g. 8 years $48 million).
5. Jordy Mercer is not an everyday player – he neither hits nor fields well enough to justify being a starting SS. Meanwhile Stephen Drew is unemployed for some reason.

Bryan Graham

Jordy will be hitting .260 – .280 by time the season is over and I don’t see where his defense is anything but solid.

Frank Micko

, but everything else was spot on, KC.

Nathan Swartz

I’m pretty bored and I’ve got questions for folks:
1. Soooo…..how’s the 2015 draft shaping up?
2. What are the ceilings for Sadler or Sampson?
3. When is the earliest ETA for Allie?
4. Who would win in a fist fight between Felix Fermin & Rafael Belliard? Joe Orsulak & Jimmy Anderson?
5. List 3 prospects you’d like snag from other teams & your trade scenarios.


1. Not great for the Bucs who don’t have a high pick.
2. They seem like innings-eaters. Not terrible pitchers, but they are not aces in the making.
3. June of 2016. If he continues to keep his K rate down (well… relative to his normal K rate).
4. Fermin – he looks tougher.
5. Nick Franklin and Chris Taylor from the Mariners. What about a trade of Andrew Lambo, Jordy Mercer and Mark Melancon for Franklin and Taylor? Also, what about trading Pedro Alvarez to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts and Garin Cecchini? They won’t help too much this year, but they look like good, affordable players with every skill except power. Sox need a third baseman. Neil Walker could handful third for us.

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