Exactly one week ago, I took a look at the Cardinals playoff odds. At the time, Fangraphs said the Redbirds had about an 80% shot at making the playoffs.
In the interim, the Cardinals dropped a series finale to the Atlanta Baseball Club, swept the Giants (which was good), and have now lost back-to-back games to the Brewers (which is bad). Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies - the team the Cardinals are essentially jockeying with for the final playoff spot - have won something like 27-straight games by a margin of 831 million to one.
As of last night, Fangraphs now gives the Rockies the edge to make the playoffs over the Cardinals. They have the Cardinals at 38% with the Rockies at 67%.
Perhaps more disheartening, the Fangraphs projection now trails the Cardinals odds from a simple coin-flip method, which gives them a 45% shot at the playoffs.
As loyal readers will remember from last week, the Fangraphs projection model takes into account schedule, individual player projections, expected depth charts, karma - things like that. The coin flip is just what it sounds like - flip a coin for the results of every remaining game (and then do it 999 more times).
So what’s making Fangraphs less bullish on the Cardinals than a good old quarter from the U.S. Mint? You’d have to ask the Fangraphs Robot that, but I’d wager it mostly has to do with schedule. The Cardinals remaining games are with the Brewers and Cubs, who not only are both playoff bound (almost assuredly), but are still jockeying with each other for the division. Meanwhile, the Rockies are playing the Phillies and then the Nationals, who have both started wearing shorts on the field during games and skip batting practice to get in a few extra rounds of Fortnight.
I’m focusing on Fangraphs odds, but it’s worth noting that Baseball Prospectus’ odds are essentially identical. The only outlier is Cardinals Twitter, which currently has the Redbirds playoff odds at 0.0%, with an Existential Dread Index of 100.
Anyway, that’s the bad news from the cold, calculating sports algorithms. On the soft side, I feel like the narrowing division race between the Brewers and Cubs is also making the Cardinals climb a bit steeper. It’s not like I ever expected sociopath-in-fun-uncle’s-clothes Joe Madden not to push hard to eliminate St. Louis in the final three games. But had the Cubs already clinched the division, there was probably a better chance that they might rest a few guys, skip a pitcher in the rotation, or at least just be hung-over. That will not be the case now.
So again, that’s all the bad news. And for the first time in a while, there’s more bad news than good news. But this race is far from over.
(Cue stirring montage music)
The Rockies half-game lead in the standings is, quite literally, the slimmest of all margins. They’ve been hot over the last week, and granted, with less than a week to play, staying hot could be all it takes to win. But they are not a better team than the Cardinals.
The Rockies just nudged their run differential out of the negative range in the last day or two. But even so, using run differential in the pythagorean model, the Rockies are an 80-77 team at this point, the Cardinals, 87-71.
This team still has a reasonable shot at the playoffs, and beyond that, we’re getting playoff-caliber drama over the final week(s) of the regular season. I follow this club for entertainment, and they are providing that.
Now let’s just win more games than the Rockies.