saying there's a chanceLast week, we discussed Baseball Prospectus’s first iteration of its PECOTA projections for the Chicago Cubs, which offered a relatively bleak picture of the Cubs, individually, but a not-so-terrible 77-win projection for the team as a whole.

That number, which is much higher than I would bet on, assumes health and a team that stays together for the full 2013 season. If the Cubs are on a mid-70s win pace come mid-July, you’ve got to believe they’ll consider selling off some short-term pieces once again, which could put downward pressure on that pace – yielding a final total considerably lower than 77.

But, while we reside in the happy world of health and an unbroken-up 2013 Chicago Cubs team, why not take the next step? If the Cubs are projected to win 77 wins, what are their playoff odds? A 77-win projection, with luck becomes 82 or 85 wins. With a lack of luck, it becomes 72 or 68 wins. The point is, the Cubs have *some* chance of making the playoffs in 2013, however remote.

If you believe BP’s initial playoff odds report, the chance isn’t that remote after all.

Read it and weep: 12.5%.

That’s the chance, based on player projections, team schedules, and all kinds of other crazy inputs, that the 2013 Chicago Cubs will make the playoffs. It is just a statistical model, subject to the vagaries of “reality” – they actually have to play the season. But the model is likely as sophisticated as they come right now.

The Cubs are undoubtedly helped considerably by the addition of a second Wild Card (their chance of taking the division is just 4.6%). Still, I’ll take it. Just a sliver of hope – not so much that I do anything rash like believe the Cubs will be competitive this year. But enough to reinforce my thoughts when I look at the roster: it’s possible that everything breaks just right, and the Cubs are a surprise team in 2013.

The Cubs’ 12.5% mark is better than only the Orioles, Royals, Twins, Astros, Marlins, Padres, and Rockies, and is still lower than any other team in the Central (the Pirates are next at 17.0%), so let’s not get too hopeful.

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  • Jeff Buth

    Great line from your boy Jason Parks in his latest BP column on Dylan Bundy:

    “After signing, Bundy did things to Low-A hitters that would make the hardest of prisoners weep like school children.”

    Let’s hope Baez and Vogelbach have that same effect on pitchers this season.

  • cubchymyst

    The Royals have a worst shot of making the playoffs than the Cubs according to BP. That really has to sting for a Royals fan. You traded away a top prospect in Meyers for a few years of Shields and the percentages say it will not pay off in the least.

    • WGNFAN

      They can always trade him, like the cubs are trying to do with Garza. They will not get the same value, but just a few years of Shields is not the only thing that could happen.
      Hi is like Jack on the cubs (not taking into account the trade), no chance to win but a nice expensive pitcher on both teams.

  • MightyBear

    I believe.

    • Stevie B

      Mighty…LOVE THIS ^

  • Cheryl

    Cubs Den mentioned V has lost more weight and that has swing is something else. Now if he continues maybe he’ll be looked at more than a DH.

    • Mick

      He once broke a baseball bat over his head, then used the oozing blood to glue it back together and hit a homerun with it.

      • Fishin Phil

        He learned that trick from Dick Tidrow.

        • Joker

          Tidrow doesn’t have time to be bothered with comparisons with Low A ball hitters. He is more concerned with exterting his manliness and destroying lives.

          • MightyBear

            Don’t under estimate the power of the ‘stache.

          • Hansman1982

            Dick TidrowSmash stashe is omnipresent.

            I like that my phone auto corrected tidrows to TidrowSmash so I’m keeping it.

            • DarthHater


  • Internet Random

    Perspective: If the playoff teams were picked at random, they’d have a 33.333% chance of making the playoffs.

    • Tom A.

      I think they would have a 1 out 5 chance to win division or 20% plus a 2 out 12 chance for a wild card position 16.7% chance, which totals to 36.7% chance (if as you say random).

      • Internet Random

        Look up “random”.

        • Tom A.

          Read the post. I am mostly agreeing with you, but fine-tuning your comment saying it is 36.7% and not 33.3%.

          • Internet Random

            Well and good. Still not random.

      • Luke

        33% is correct.

        First, the team will win the division (20%) or it won’t (80%). So we start with a playoff chance of 20%.

        If it doesn’t win the division (80%), then has a 16.7% of being a Wild Card. However, we can’t add that 16.7% to the 20%. That’s a 16.7% of the 80%, not the 100% (remember, we’re already accounting for 20% from the division winner). 16.7% of 80% is about 13.36%.

        That’s the number you want to add to the 20%.

        • OCCubFab

          Sorry, Luke. I posted the comment below before I saw your comment.

        • Tom A.

          But, they are not mutually exclusive events. Definition of mutually exclusive — A statistical term used to describe a situation where the occurrence of one event is not influenced or caused by another event. In this case, there is an influence.

          As you say,”First, the team will win the division (20%) or it won’t (80%). So we start with a playoff chance of 20%.” The sampling frame/population for that computation is the NL Central division. So far we agree and let’s call that component # 1.

          We also both agree that there is another component (let’s call it component #2) to the probability. However, only if component # 1 is not true, does the second part of the calulation become applicable (thus the influence) and additionally its sampling frame/population would be different — shifting to all NL teams not winning a division. So they have a 2 out 12 chance or 16.667% for component #2.

          I don’t think you multiply probabilities in this situation and instead because not mutually exclusive and given the different sampling frames/populations you need in this case to add them. 20% plus 16.667%.

          Enjoyed the mental challenge — thanks !

          • TWC

            Isn’t this all overthinking IR’s original comment?

            “If the playoff teams were picked at random, they’d have a 33.333% chance of making the playoffs.”

            I mean, why are we considering division winners or wild cards at all?

            There are 30 teams. There are 10 playoff spots. If making the playoffs was a random event, each team has a 1 out of 3 chance of being selected. That’s 33.3%.

            • Tom A.

              Sorry was just having fun.

              • TWC

                Sorry? Yo, man, I’m treading water here. My Occam’s Razor approach to this is just the first thing that popped into my mind, but no one else seemed to think so.

            • Internet Random


          • Patrick W.

            Devil’s Advocate: How could every team have a 36.67% chance of making the playoffs if only 33.33% of teams make the playoffs?

          • DocPeterWimsey

            That definition is wrong: that’s the definition of independent events. Mutually exclusive events are almost opposite that: if X is true, then Y must be false. In a stats book, it would be written something like: P[Y | X=0] = Z, P[Y | X=1]= 0. In other words, the probability that you are a WC team is 0 if you are a division winner: you can be one or the other, but not both.

      • OCCubFab

        You cannot ADD the percentages. The correct way, assuming the two probabilities are independent but mutually exclusive, is
        P = 1 – (1 – PA) * (1 – PB)
        P = 1 – (1 – 0.2) * (1 – 0.167) = .333

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Well, the simpler way to think of it in this scenario is that 4 of the 15 teams make the playoffs; if all teams were completely equal, then P[playoffs] = 4/15 = 0.267.

  • Patrick G

    What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me ending up together

    • Seth

      I desperately want to make love to a schoolboy.

      • TheMick6x


  • Craig

    I think the Cubs will surprise a lot of people and be an energetic, fun and competitive team. They have built some depth in their outfield. If Brett Jackson can figure it out this year that will help a lot too. They have a solid infield. Even if Stewart doesn’t improve, I believe one of the other options will step up (Valbuena, Vitters or Lake). Plus a much improved pitching staff with lots of depth as well. Plus, I really like Castillo as well as our catcher. Great job FO at putting solid team together at a decent payroll. Call me an optimist, but we may even be buyers at the trade deadline this year. I for one am excited at what I see.

    • Craig

      Looking back to last year, we stunk the first 2+ months because five key players were horrible during that time: Marmol, K. Wood, Stewart, Byrd and Soto. Plus Rizzo wasn’t here yet. Then we played well in the middle of the season. Then the last 2+ months our top three starting pitchers were gone (trade, injury) with a bunch of horrible pitchers getting starts. Our only good pitcher left, Smardja, was then shut down. I think it is little wonder why things went so bad. This year with some of our youngsters having more experience plus a healthy team could mean playoffs!

      • Cubbie Blues

        Quit being so niggardly and pass that stuff to the next guy.

  • mudge

    guessing 74, & accounting for sell-off, because unlike 2012 they can move 2-3 pitchers and still have a respectable staff.

  • Forlines

    I’m not going to get ahead of myself here, but I don’t put it past this years team to get 77 wins. I’m not all in for the playoffs yet, but I am almost certain that they will be much improved to last year.

    btw, the D&D nod makes me love this site even more.


  • sven-erik312

    Who knows? There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic. If they get some breaks and get in as a Wild Card, anything can happen. Or nothing will happen again. EIther way, I’m like Lasorda when he said that the greatest day on earth was when the season started and the saddest day was when it ended. Nothing makes me feel better than knowing that Spring Training has started. Time to enjoy!

  • sven-erik312

    Oh and dare I say it: I have a good felling about Ian Stewart!

    • Brett

      You dared.


      You can, its like beating a dead unicorn. all the hope cannot make him a better player.

    • MightyBear

      Sssh. Don’t let DB Kyle hear you say that. He’ll go off.

  • João Lucas

    The Cubs’ chances are (much) higher than the Orioles’, too.

    By the way, all those numbers in the AL East chart look bizarre.

    • MightyBear

      I agree. They got the Jays finishing 4th. I think they win that division.

      • João Lucas

        Me too.

  • Cubbie Tim

    Does anyone know what the % of the Cubs making the playoffs prior to the 03 season? Have a great day & a Baba Booey to u all!!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      A lot of people gave them a good shot: after all, the Cubs had done very well in 2001. The question was whether Wood would be healthy again: I remember that Baseball Reference noted that their sims (which included probabilities of breakdown) had the Cubs frequently winning in those runs where Woody stayed healthy. There was a bit of variance, however: the Cubs had a young pitching staff, and the variance in how much young pitchers improve (which was in their sims) is pretty high, and that heavily weights how a season goes.

  • beerhelps

    60% of the time, it works everytime.

  • brjones

    What I find most interesting is that the odds are decent even with extremely conservative projections for Samardzija and Rizzo. Because of the weight given to years prior to 2012, Samardzija’s projection (4.56 ERA; 0.8 WARP) is much worse than what most people are expecting out of him. Rizzo’s .255/.322/.465 line is also considerably weaker than what other projection systems are saying (his projections have the same pre-2012 weighting issues as Samardzija, plus he’s young enough that there aren’t many good comps for him).

    It’s possible that PECOTA is actually understating the Cubs’ playoff odds because it’s so pessimistic about two of the Cubs’ top four players.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      True: but, remember, there are 29 other fanbases that will find these sorts of “mistakes” in PECOTA’s system.

  • OCCubFab

    Does anyone know what the comparable projections were last year for the White Sox and Orioles?

  • Where’s Gene Hiser?

    Even more hopeful, the Cub playoff chances assumes that the Cubs and the other teams in the division stay healthy and produce to their potential. But suppose the other teams have injuries and or long slumps by key players and the Cubs don’t? Chances of the Cubs sneaking in to the play offs increase.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Actually, in this system, the Cubs’ playoff chances reflect (in part) the probability of injuries derailing other teams. Also, the lower-bounds on teams’ chances (including the Cubs) reflects chance “slumps”: when you simulate 100 seasons, Joey Votto (or any other player) does better than expected in half and worse than expected in half, and he does “significantly” worse than expected in 2 or 3 of 100. Because people don’t get probability, they would probably call a 25% year for Votto a “slump” and imagine all sorts of differences in his approach. (Here’s a hint: if it’s not injuries, then it’s his grounders and flares not getting through.) It will be the runs that these sorts of things cause the Reds to fail to reach the playoffs Cubs sneak into the playoffs.

  • Die hard

    Campana and DeJesus for Vernon Wells if Angels pick up 3/4 of Wells contract

    • MichiganGoat

      Oh my face meet palm

      • Hansman1982

        Oh mylanta