The Best Time to Check the Cubs Playoff Odds Is Right After Sweeping the Padres, So …

Before the start of the 2021 season, FanGraphs had the Chicago Cubs chances of making the playoffs at just 22.9%, with less than a 20% chance of winning their division for the second straight year. That felt a little low, simply because the NL Central doesn’t/didn’t have a powerhouse team, but it wasn’t entirely unfair given how many questions this team faced at the time. And given the apparent strength in the NL West, a Wild Card slot also felt (and frankly, still does feel) very unlikely.

On May 2nd, when the Cubs fell to a season-low four games below .500, FanGraphs had their odds of making the playoffs at a paltry 9.8% (6.0% to win the NL Central), behind the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds in that order. But then something funny happened. The Cubs won five games in a row, including three straight against the Dodgers, en route to a 19-8 month of May. And here, on June 3rd, a day after sweeping the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field, the first place Chicago Cubs odds of reaching the playoffs are looking a HECK of a lot better.

No, they’re still not technically the top-dog in the NL Central, but they’ve 6x their odds of winning the division since early May and they’re nearing a coin flip for sneaking into the postseason one way or another. And that’s using the preseason FanGraphs projection model.

If, instead, we toggle the model to forecast playoff odds on “season-to-date” stats, which help take into account, for example, things like Kris Bryant returning to form (and then some), the bullpen’s utter dominance, and some other key breakout/bounce-back performances … well, things are that much better:

That would be a 55.5% chance of winning the NL Central for the fourth time since 2016 and a 64.4% chance of making it into the postseason. It also puts the Cubs back at a 90+ win pace overall (right now they’re technically on a 94-win pace, but the schedule isn’t evenly distributed, so that’s not a fair expectation). Either way, it doesn’t seem like it’ll require much more than 87-90 wins to take the NL Central this year, so the Cubs are right on track to defend their crown.

And it’s not just FanGraphs.

FiveThirtyEight has the Chicago Cubs winning 88 games this season, most in the NL Central, with a 56% chance of making the playoffs (41% chance of winning the NL Central).

And don’t forget about PECOTA!

This projection model has the Cubs nipping at the heels of the Brewers, separating the rivals by one game at the end of the season. That brings the Cubs overall playoff odds up to 62.0% with their chances of defending their NL Central crown up to 37.7%.

I also enjoy this visual of the relative expected outcomes in the NL Central:

Yes, I realize that I picked the most opportune time to check in on the playoff odds – indeed, it wasn’t an accident!

The Cubs just finished sweeping the Padres and have games against the Giants (4), Padres (3), Cardinals (3), Mets (4), Dodgers (4), and Brewers (3) left this month, alone. So just like things changed dramatically from May 2 to June 2nd, this picture could look entirely different on July 2nd.

But this is where we are today, and the Cubs have earned it. They’ve played some weak teams, sure, but they’re also 11-1 against the Mets, Dodgers, Padres, and Cardinals. And more than that, they’ve been playing extremely short-handed for a while, but are finally starting to heal up. With a dominant bullpen and some key returning players, I don’t see why we need to be anything other than happy with the Cubs position here at the start of June. They’ve turned this season around and the projections are more optimistic about their 2021 potential than they’ve ever been.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

more cubs news

Fun with Pete Crow-Armstrong’s Big Day

Yesterday marked not just a great day for the Chicago Cubs overall, but a particularly good day for rookie center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong. It's no secret that the year has been a significantly challenging adjustment at the plate for the...

That Was a Good Day, Gotta Keep Exploding, Defensive Gems, Bigge Optioned, and Other Cubs Bullets

Day Two of the MLB Draft kicks off at 1pm CT today, with rounds 3 through 10 (the rest of the bonus pool rounds). If you missed last night's picks, the Cubs took Cam Smith in the first round, and...

Christopher Morel Hurt Jim Edmonds’ Tender Feelings

I like to consider myself a sensitive soul, eager to find understanding and compassion where the feelings of others are concerned. Sometimes, it's easy. Sometimes, it's difficult. But, usually, I at least like to try to know where someone is...

Wake Up and Watch the Cubs Homer All Over the Cardinals to Close Out the First Half

The Cubs closed out the nominal first half with a big win over the Cardinals in St. Louis. Big both in importance - could help turn the tide on a selling July - and in the nature of the win,...

The Chicago Cubs Draft Cole Mathis in the Second Round

When I saw that the Chicago Cubs had drafted College of Charleston first/third baseman Cole Mathis in the second round tonight (54th overall), I knew immediately he must've played in the Cape Cod summer league and hit really well with...

The 2024 MLB Draft: Rounds One and Two (UPDATE: Cam Smith, Cole Mathis)

The 2024 MLB Draft kicks off tonight at 6pm CT with Rounds One and Two, as well as the compensatory and competitive balance picks. Rounds 3 through 10 of the draft come tomorrow, and rounds 11 through 20 on Tuesday....

Chicago Cubs Select Third Baseman Cam Smith in the First Round

In the first round of the 2024 MLB Draft, with the 14th overall pick, the Chicago Cubs tonight selected Florida State third baseman Cam Smith. They did not overthink things. They simply took a very, very good bat who was...

Enhanced Box Score: Cubs 8, Cardinals 3 – July 14, 2024

As bad as yesterday was, the Cubs certainly bounced all the way back today to blow out the Cardinals on the strength of SIX HOME RUNS. It was also a stellar defensive game for the Cubs, with gems all over...

Everybody Dinging the Dongs Today! Happ and Morel Go Back-to-Back

The Cubs ALREADY had four homers in the game today when Ian Happ came to the plate in the 8th. Maybe he felt left out. Because he sent one. Then, Christopher Morel, having already homered once on the day, decided...

It’s a Cubs Homer Party: Pete (x2), Nido, and Morel!

I wasn't in a position to write up these homers early, and every minute I waited it seemed like another guy sent one deep. Or in one of their cases, sent another one deep. The Chicago Cubs hit four homers...

Latest News

Fun with Pete Crow-Armstrong’s Big Day

Yesterday marked not just a great day for the Chicago Cubs overall, but a particularly good day for rookie center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong. It's no secret that the year has been a significantly challenging adjustment at the plate for the...

Amon-Ra St. Brown Fantasy Team Names: 17 Creative & Funny Fantasy Football Team Names

Fantasy football season is upon us, and one of the most enjoyable aspects is crafting a clever, humorous, and memorable team name. Amon-Ra St. Brown fantasy team names figure to be massively popular this season after he crushed in 2023....

2024 AL Cy Young Odds Update and Betting Advice: Garrett Crochet a Value Bet with Tarik Skubal the Favorite

With the MLB All-Star break arriving, it's a great time to assess the futures market in the baseball world. The American League has several pitchers who are having outstanding seasons and therefore the Cy Young race will be must-watch in...

Matas Buzelis’ Epic Stare Down, Julian Phillips Struggles, Game 2 Highlights, and Other Bulls Bullets

I've seen enough – Matas Buzelis (aka Matas Bull-zelis) is here to save the Chicago Bulls. The next dynasty begins now. Reserve Grant Park for June ASAP. Summer League is Summer League. I recognize that the Bulls' No. 11 overall...

A Big Week For Football, Briggs, Buffone, GMFB, Addison, and Other Bears Bullets

Happy belated birthday to my friend Jim, whose grilled sirloin steak recipe is going to be my inspiration for dinner tonight. Cheers, pal. There are just 55 days until the Chicago Bears return to action in the regular season. I...

2024 World Series Odds Update and Betting Advice: Red Sox Emerge As Value Bet with Dodgers Still a Heavy Favorite

The All-Star break has arrived! With baseball's best all together in the Lone Star State for this week's festivities, it's a great time to take a look at baseball's big picture. For dedicated fans, the Fall Classic is more than...

Let’s Discuss Two New Sets of Blackhawks Prospect Rankings

Since it's the middle of July and Major League Baseball's draft is going on, the fun this week is all around prospects. And the wonderful news for us as Blackhawks fans is we've got two new sets of rankings to...

What is the Difference Between Bonus Bets and a Deposit Bonus?

When diving into the world of online sports betting, you're likely to encounter a plethora of enticing offers, including bonus bets and deposit bonuses. While both can significantly boost your bankroll, they function differently. Understanding the distinctions between these two...

Christopher Morel Hurt Jim Edmonds’ Tender Feelings

I like to consider myself a sensitive soul, eager to find understanding and compassion where the feelings of others are concerned. Sometimes, it's easy. Sometimes, it's difficult. But, usually, I at least like to try to know where someone is...

2024 MLB Home Run Derby: Odds, Favorites, and More for Tonight

The 2024 MLB Home Run Derby explodes tonight at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas! Eight sluggers are ready to unleash a barrage of bombs, and the crowd is hungry for a legendary display of power hitting. Buckle up for...

more cubs news