The National League Central division postseason contenders all played on Wednesday, September 23, 2015.
- The first-place St. Louis Cardinals thumped the Cincinnati Reds.
- The second-place Pittsburgh Pirates clinched at least a wild-card berth by demolishing the Colorado Rockies.
- The third-place Chicago Cubs lost at Wrigley Field to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The results of Wednesday's games brought the Cubs two games closer to mathematical elimination from the Central. According to the Fangraphs playoff odds, their chances of winning the division are now 0%. That means that the Cubs did not win the Central in even one of the 10,000 simulations Fangraphs ran after last night's games. They're still alive, but with no more head-to-head games against St. Louis, the seven-game deficit will be almost impossible to overcome.
The Cardinals' cut their magic number by one where the Pirates are concerned. The Cards' win also ensures that they will finish 2015 with a better record than the Mets, who lead the NL East. In the NL, only the Pirates, Dodgers, and Cubs have a shot at finishing 2015 with a better record than St. Louis.
We're down to the tail end of the Central race's homestretch, so we'll be doing snapshots daily until a club clinches the division. So let's have a look at how the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs are positioned after the games of Wednesday, September, and entering play on Thursday, September 24.
The Cubs have today off. The Pirates have their season finale against the Rockies. The Cardinals host the Brewers.
I included the Fangraphs playoff odds, which are rendered like this:
The FanGraphs Playoff Odds are an adaption of the coolstandings.com playoff odds originally created by Greg Agami and Sean Walsh. To generate the playoff odds we simulate each season 10,000 times.
I used the Fangraphs projection mode for the playoff odds, though there are other options. This mode "uses a combination of Steamer and ZiPS projections and the FanGraphs Depth Charts to calculate the winning percentage of each remaning game in the major league season."
I added the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs' so-called magic numbers to the graphic as well. This represents the sum of eam wins and opponent losses necessary for that team to finish ahead of the opponent in the standings. I used the following formula:
Magic Number = 162 + 1 - (Team Win Total) - (Opponent Loss Total)
For fun I included the magic numbers for St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Chicago against all postseason contenders, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, who are currently in first place and likely to win their divisions. It provide more context of the wild-card race. It also illustrates how close the Central champion is to potentially sealing home-advantage in the NLDS and, if they should happen to make it that far, the NLCS.