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NL Central race snapshot: How are the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates positioned heading into this week's series?

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How are the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs positioned after the games of Sunday, September 27, and entering play on Monday, September 28?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

All three National League Central postseason teams played on Sunday, September 27, 2015.

For those who missed it over the weekend, the Cubs have been mathematically eliminated from the NL Central title contention. It's now a two-team race. The division champ will be either the Cardinals or Pirates. The loser gets to face Arrieta in the play-in game.

This week's series in Pittsburgh could end the Central race. Or it could make it uncomfortably close. If the Cardinals take two of three in Pittsburgh, they win the division. Pittsburgh could pull within two games or tie the race if they win two of three or sweep the series. This is going to be an intense, postseason-like series at PNC.

The following charts and graphics reflect the state of the NL Central race after the end of play on Sunday, September 27, and entering play on Monday, September 28.
Rest-of-Season Records

How can the Pirates or Cubs catch the Cardinals and tie St. Louis for first place after Game 162? I resurrected the chart showing the scenarios in which this is possible. Red is the Cardinals. Yellow is the Pirates. Blue is the Cubs. As you can see, no scenario exists in which the Cubs can tie the Cardinals.

W

L

W%

Final W

Final L

Final W%

W

L

W%

Final W

Final L

Final W%

W

L

W%

Final W

Final L

Final W%

6

0

1.000

104

58

.642













5

1

.833

103

59

.636













4

2

.667

102

60

.630













3

3

.500

101

61

.623

6

0

1.000

101

61

.623







2

4

.333

100

62

.617

5

1

.833

100

62

.617







1

5

.167

99

63

.611

4

2

.667

99

63

.611







0

6

.000

98

64

.605

3

3

.500

98

64

.605













2

4

.333

97

65

.599

7

0

1.000

97

65

.599







1

5

.167

96

66

.593

6

1

.857

96

66

.593







0

6

.000

95

67

.586

5

2

.714

95

67

.586













4

3

.571

94

68

.580













3

4

.429

93

69

.574













2

5

.286

92

70

.568













1

6

.143

91

71

.562













0

7

.000

90

72

.556

Playoff Odds

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."

Magic Numbers

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)

As you can see, the NL Central champion—whether it's the Cardinals or Pirates—will have the league's best record and home-field advantage until they are eliminated or win the pennant. The Cardinals have already ensured finishing the year with a better record than the Mets or Dodgers. The Pirates have done the same with the Dodgers and are a victory or Mets loss from the doing the same with respect to New York. To catch and surpass St. Louis, Pittsburgh will necessarily finish with a better record than the Mets.

Correction: The original post incorrectly stated that Pittsburgh could pull within a game if they won two of three games this series. A 2-1 Pirates series win would pull them to within two games. It has been corrected.