Before this weekend series against the Cardinals began (going downhill), I mentioned that while it sometimes feels like the Brewers are the Cubs’ biggest threat in the NL Central, the playoff odds/projections actually favor the Cardinals.
Now that the Cardinals swept the Cubs, there’s not much confusion. In fact, we’re entering territory not seen in over two years … the Cubs are not the favorites to win their division right now by all the projection systems. Gulp.
- St. Louis Cardinals: 40.8%
- Chicago Cubs: 33.5%
- Milwaukee Brewers: 18.5%
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 7.2%
- Cincinnati Reds: 0.0%
Both the Cardinals and Cubs are projected by BP to win roughly 87 games this season, but it’s the Cardinals, according to BP, not the Cubs who are expected to come out on top. So obviously, when you throw in their chances of entering October via one of the Wild Card slots, the Cardinals remain on top:
And don’t get BP or me wrong – it’s not just that the Cardinals swept the Cubs in three straight games this May – that’s just the latest problem. Instead, it’s the relative starts of both teams, their schedules the rest of the way, and everything else that goes into multi-layered projections.
Of course, Baseball Prospectus doesn’t have a monopoly on playoff odds and the best way to get a better sense of the big picture is to take in the results of every system. So while it’s *decidedly* not rainbows and sunshine anywhere, BP is the low mark. For example …
- Chicago Cubs: 54.3%
- St. Louis Cardinals: 39.6%
- Milwaukee Brewers: 3.8%
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 2.3%
- Cincinnati Reds: 0.0%
FanGraphs is MUCH more optimistic about the Cubs’ chances than Baseball Prospectus, and, frankly, this is the one I (desperately want to) believe. But if this is making you feel better … eeek. I’m not sure I share the sentiment. At the beginning of the season, FanGraphs had the Cubs odds to win the division up at 81.4%. Obviously it’s not *entirely* fair to check in on this stuff immediately after being swept by the next best contenders, but still. It happened.
For what it’s worth, FiveThirtyEight splits the difference between the optimism (FanGraphs) and pessimism (Baseball Prospectus), putting the Cubs just barely above the Cardinals in the central.
- Chicago Cubs: 40%
- St. Louis Cardinals: 39%
- Milwaukee Brewers: 12%
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 8%
- Cincinnati Reds: <1%
But again, this doesn’t do much to inspire confidence. In fact, with one below, one above and one right down the middle, it’s pretty hard to say the Cubs are the favorites at all anymore. This could all change quickly, of course (it literally did over the past month, so why not?), but that won’t help me sleep tonight. A win over the Marlins might help a tiny bit, at least.
The Cubs lost this weekend and they lost bad. And all that losing came after some more losing, which came after a handful of wins they could’ve lost on a coin flip. The Cubs just aren’t playing well right now and the playoffs odds have adjusted.
So … happy Monday?