Quantifying Hope: Cubs Still Have NL Central’s Best Playoff Odds, Just Barely

Even if I didn’t follow the Cubs as a function of my fandom, I’d be able to tell how the team was doing by the traffic numbers on this here web log. A blah loss like Thursday’s just sends things tumbling away like a Kyle Hendricks changeup, especially when it follows an exciting win like they had Wednesday night.

One thing that hasn’t fallen off, however, is the Cubs’ shot at the playoffs. They opened the season at around 64%, best in the NL Central, and topped out at 65.2% a few days into the season, then dipped as low as 38.5% on April 14. That put them just behind the Brewers (39%) at the third-lowest odds in the division.

After stringing some wins together, however, the Cubs are back up to 58.1% according to the most recent FanGraphs numbers. That puts them ever so slightly ahead of the Cardinals, with both teams in a dead heat at projected records of 86.1-75.9. It’s clear the nerds don’t understand that you can’t win a tenth of a game, but whatever.


It’s good to see that CHC up at the top.

Ah, but here’s the thing: The Cubs’ advantage comes from being more likely to win a Wild Card spot. They are at 39.1% to win the division and 19% for a consolation prize, but the Cardinals are at 39.4% and 18.6%, respectively. The actual numbers are less than negligible at this point, so all that really matters is that the Cards figure to hang around.

The Brewers, on the other hand, have been on a downward trend that’s seen them drop to less than 24% playoff odds. With a projected .500 finish that surely factors in Christian Yelich cooling off and having to play a lot of road games, they could end up several games out of first.

It goes without saying that these projections can swing wildly as the result of a streak one way or the other. A major injury or signing an elite closer could also shift the balance of power, though no one seems willing to do anything about that latter opportunity.

The point, if there really is one, is that the Cubs simply need to take care of business and keep climbing out of that early hole they dug. They’ve pretty much already done that, so now it’s about cooking that meatloaf every series.

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