What Are the Odds of the Pirates Winning the NL Central?

We’re entering the final weekend of MLB’s 2014 season, and there is one division race that appears to be open. Technically, the Detroit Tigers haven’t clinched the AL Central yet, although they’re two games up, and the projections don’t give the Royals much of a chance to win the division.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates are sitting a game back in the NL Central from the St. Louis Cardinals, which makes it seem like the Pirates actually have a chance to take the NL Central. Here are the odds for that to happen, heading into the weekend.

Baseball Prospectus: 11.3%


FanGraphs: 20.2%

Clay Davenport: 21.3%

Baseball Prospectus has been lower on the Pirates’ chances all season, so it’s no surprise that they’re the lowest on the Pirates overtaking the Cardinals this weekend. Meanwhile, Clay Davenport has been the highest on the Pirates throughout the year, and remains the highest in these projections.

None of the projections are strong, and for good reason. The Cardinals go up against the Diamondbacks this weekend, which means they should be projected to take at least two of three games. That means the Pirates would have to sweep the Reds just to tie the Cardinals, and then would have to beat the Cardinals on Monday in the tiebreaker. Most projection systems aren’t going to predict a four game winning streak.

That’s not saying it’s impossible to win the division. The Pirates have made winning look automatic this month, beating teams they should be beating, and going 16-4 in their last 20 games. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were swept by the Reds and lost two of three to the Cubs, showing that they haven’t been a guarantee to dominate losing teams.

Obviously it would be a lot easier for the Pirates if the Cardinals had another disappointing weekend and lost the series to Arizona. However, the Cardinals swept the Diamondbacks earlier this year, while the Pirates are 6-10 this year against the Reds. So perhaps the low odds are very fitting, despite the recent trends from each team.

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.

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Monsoon Harvard

I could see the Pirates sneaking into the division lead on the final day very easily. That’s what I’ll be praying for at least.

John Janesko

I just had to point out that a run would have just been saved had Marte been in center rather than McCutchen. They likely would have held the runner anyway if he was there. I know McCutchen is the star, but eventually you have to recognize that Marte is faster and has a better arm


I hope the odd timing of the firings in Arizona by LaRussa blows up in his face but probably not. If any of the D’backs heroically beats the Cards they probably won’t be back in Arizona next season. You do not cross LaRussa and he obviously is trying to influence the outcome of this last series. Well it ain’t against the rules but it is pretty unsportsmanlike.


Diamondbacks just tied the game against St. Louis – 6 to 6 going into bottom of the eighth – someone didn’t get the memo.


My “plan” is for the Bucs to win the first two in Cincy – and then look at the standings. That takes care of securing the Wild Card Home Game – first priority…


I understand what you are saying, but I am finding the strategy concerning naming the starters to be pretty interesting. It seems to me that both the Pirates and Cards are pretty much committed to using their best starters on normal rest this weekend in order to try to win the division (and in our case, particularly, to keep home field advantage for the potential WC game). However, that has very interesting ramifications for who starts for the Pirates if there is a game on Monday or if the Pirates play on Wednesday. On the other hand, both the Cards and the Giants have an advantage over us because they both play way after us on Saturday and play three hours after us on Sunday so they can make decisions concerning their starters depending on the outcome of our games. The Giants have even more of an advantage because they have no one chasing them and they have a pretty good chance of knowing before their Sunday game that they are going on the road for the WC game regardless of what they do. That means if they want to save Bumgarner for the WC game it will probably be relatively easy for them to do that.

Forbes 66

Like your plan in theory. Unfortunately, I know damn well I’ll be scoreboard watching as long as there’s a chance we can pull off a miracle finish and steal the Central.


It’s my “plan” – I will probably not stick with it 😉

I do not plan on staying up and watching the Cards and D’Backs though like I did with the Giants…
The Pirates control only what they can do in Cincy…


Just curious, are you watching the Cards – D’backs (like I am)? Or did you stick to your plan?


Actually did. Turned the TV off right after the last out – usually stay through at least Hurdle’s bit.

Need a comeback today – if not I have really mixed feeling about the chances of a tiebreaker in St; Louis.


Cards just lost – I bet you will be watching their game Sunday afternoon if the Pirates are so fortunate as to beat Cueto!? It would be crazy if the Pirates have to play Monday – do they pitch Locke in St. Louis hoping he’s still on his alternating good/bad schedule, or do they start Volquez on three days’ rest followed, potentially, by Liriano going Wednesday on three days’ rest?? Or do they pitch Worley or Volquez in the WC game??


Apparently, CH is also considering holding Cole out of Sunday’s game to pitch in the WC. Seems to me ya want to try to be in a situation where the Pirates only have to win one game, out of two, to get into the playoffs – in other words, try to get into a St Louis playoff game and either win that game and get in, or have another chance on Wednesday to win and get in. Having said that, obviously it is not extremely likely that both (1) the Pirates beat Cueto and (2) the Cards lose in AR tomorrow.

Andy Prough

Cards are looking tired. Have to see how they respond to the day off.


After the crap Arizona pulled in beaning McCutchen, I will not root for them under any circumstances. If they win, I hope it’s because the Cards completely implode rather than anything Arizona did to earn it.

Guy Nito

I’d feel more comortable if Bucs didn’t have to face Cueto to close out. He’s looking for win #20 and I’m sure that’s a meaningful milestone to him and his teammates even if stat geeks will roll their eyes. Think Pirate home win with Freddy Sanchez sealing batting title to close out 2006. Assuming Sun is the biggest challenge, it could require a DBag series win that I don’t think they have in them.

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