I Know I’m Crazy to Even Say It, But … The Cubs’ Playoff Odds Are Way Up
I’m a sick, sick man. Let it be said that I acknowledged it up front.
When I was watching the Cubs game last night, I had one eye on the scores coming in from across the league. And when I saw the Pirates (finally) lose a freakin’ game, well, I liked it.
The chances that the Pirates are the team standing in the Cubs’ way — or that one random loss to the Dodgers in late-April is going to be a difference-maker — are incredibly low. In fact, even with their incredibly (historically!) poor start, the Cardinals are probably still the favorites in the division. And the Brewers have been equally impressive, even as they’ve weathered multiple injuries to key players (Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Garrett Mitchell).
But yesterday, the Cubs beat the Padres, the Giants beat the Cardinals, the Tigers beat the Brewers, and the Dodgers beat the Pirates (each of those losses decided by just one run!). And now, the Cubs are just a game behind the Brewers and two games behind the Pirates in the NL Central, with a five-game lead over the Reds and Cardinals.
NL Central Standings:
- Pirates: 16-8
- Brewers: 15-9
- Cubs: 13-9
- Reds: 9-15
- Cardinals: 9-15
Thanks to off-days and rain outs, the Cubs have played two fewer games than the Brewers and Pirates. So they are tied in the loss column with Milwaukee with just one more loss than Pittsburgh. In fact, only the Pirates, Braves, Rays, and Orioles have had fewer loses than the Cubs this season.
Combining those solid results with an underlying performance that says the Cubs have arguably been UNLUCKY overall (it’s way too early to be serious about it, but Pythag and BaseRuns both have the Cubs at 15-7 overall), and you get much improved playoff odds!
Before the season started, FanGraphs had the Cubs chances of winning the division down at just 5.1%. And combined with their equally low odds of a Wild Card win (6.1%), their overall chances to make the playoffs was just 11.2%.
But today? Those odds are UP.
The Cubs chances to win the division have more than tripled (16.6%), their chances of a Wild Card have more than doubled (14.0%). And their overall odds of reaching the postseason are now OVER THIRTY PERCENT: 30.6%.
And the nerds over at FiveThirtyEight have an even rosier outlook: 41% chances of reaching the playoffs, 19% chance of winning the division. Those were at 22% and 11%, respectively, before the season started.
Again: it is absurd to be tracking this stuff this closely this early in the season. I am mostly just being a ridiculous person because it’s fun to me.
But at the same time, we’ve already completed 14% of the season. That’s not nothing. Moreover, the first half of the season’s results might be disproportionately important to the Cubs. If the Cubs are going to keep the band together past the deadline — let alone ADD any players or promote any top prospects — it’s necessarily going to be because they are on a trajectory of competitiveness. And to that end? So far, so good.