In about a week, approximately one-fourth of the MLB season will be in the books. While nothing is ever completely decided in one-fourth of the season, an individual team's season outlook can change quite a bit in this short amount of time. For example, the Brewers had such a terrible start to the season that they fired their manager after just 25 games. While last season's collapse was probably a factor in that decision, the Brewers clearly felt that the first 25 games were meaningful and said something about Roenicke's performance as manager.
To assess a team's overall performance and outlook for the rest of the season, people will usually look at factors like win-loss record and place in the standings. One of my favorite tools to use is Fangraphs' playoff odds page, which gives a team's projected end of season record and chance of making the playoffs using a combination of current in-season data and rest of season projections. It is a great tool to use for looking at where teams stand on a particular day and how much teams have helped or hurt their chances of making the playoffs over a period of time.
Using the playoff odds available at Fangraphs, I created a table which contains both the beginning of the season playoff odds and the most updated playoff odds (going into last night's games) for the five NL Central teams. I also included a third line for each team which contains the change in odds since the beginning of the season.
|Cardinals 4/5||-||-||-||-||88.8||73.2||0.545||52.3 %||22.0 %||74.3 %||64.0 %||31.8 %||15.3 %||7.5 %|
|Cardinals 5/15||24||10||0.706||-||92.1||69.9||0.532||70.1 %||19.2 %||89.3 %||79.6 %||36.0 %||15.3 %||7.3 %|
|Cubs 4/5||-||-||-||-||82.5||79.5||0.513||15.0 %||20.5 %||35.5 %||25.4 %||10.6 %||4.5 %||1.8 %|
|Cubs 5/15||19||15||0.559||5.0||85.5||76.5||0.519||17.5 %||35.8 %||53.3 %||35.8 %||15.4 %||6.8 %||3.1 %|
|Reds 4/5||-||-||-||-||74.0||88.0||0.457||1.5 %||3.4 %||5.0 %||3.1 %||0.9 %||0.3 %||0.1 %|
|Reds 5/15||18||17||0.514||6.5||74.9||87.1||0.448||0.7 %||3.3 %||4.0 %||2.2 %||0.7 %||0.2 %||0.0 %|
|Pirates 4/5||-||-||-||-||85.1||76.9||0.525||26.3 %||25.8%||52.1 %||39.3 %||17.7 %||8.0 %||3.9 %|
|Pirates 5/15||17||18||0.486||7.5||83.5||78.5||0.524||11.6 %||27.4%||39.0 %||25.3 %||11.2 %||5.0 %||2.3 %|
|Brewers 4/5||-||-||-||-||77.8||84.2||0.481||4.8 %||9.0 %||13.8 %||8.9 %||3.4 %||1.1 %||0.5 %|
|Brewers 5/15||12||23||0.343||12.5||71.9||90.1||0.472||0.1 %||1.3 %||1.4 %||0.8 %||0.2 %||0.1 %||0.0 %|
(EXPW = expected wins, EXPL = expected losses, rosW% = rest of season winning percentage, DIV = percent chance of winning the division, WC = percent chance of winning a wildcard spot, POFF = percent chance of making the playoffs, DOFF = percent chance of making the divisional series, NLDS = percent chance of winning the divisional series, NLCS = percent chance of winning the championship series, WS = percent chance of winning the World Series)
A few things stood out to me:
- After the Cardinals' hot start, they now have nearly a 90% chance of making the playoffs. With that being said, their rest of season winning percentage is down 13 points from the beginning of the year (most in the division), most likely due to the loss of Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals are still projected to be the best team in the division going forward, but not by very much over the Cubs.
- The Cubs have also improved their playoff chances, as they are now slightly better than a 50/50 bet to make the playoffs. However, they only have a 17.5% chance of winning the division, which means that their best shot at making the playoffs is through a wildcard spot.
- Although the Reds started the season with the worst playoff odds in the division, they haven't done too badly so far with their 18-17 record. However, their odds are still down slightly due to the good starts by the Cardinals and Cubs. The loss of Homer Bailey likely doesn't help much either.
- The success of the Cardinals and Cubs so far this season has hurt the Pirates more than any other team in the division. While the Pirates haven't been terrible, based on their 17-18 record, they haven't been able to keep up with the Cardinals and Cubs, who represent the biggest threats to the the Pirates' playoff chances. The Pirates were in a similar situation last year, though, and they managed to come back and claim a wildcard spot.
- The Brewers didn't start the season with great playoff odds, but any chance they had of making the playoffs is all but gone now after their rough start. They still have some talent on their team, which is why they project to have a better rest of season winning percentage than the Reds. Even so, they have too much ground to make up to have much of a chance of being a playoff contender.
While these playoff odds will certainly change as the season goes along, they confirm what most of us already believe to be true: the Cardinals are still the odds-on favorite in the NL Central in 2015.