Quantifying Hope: Cubs Playoff Odds Have Flatlined

Cubs: Considered Unbeatable By Spring, isn’t that the old adage?

While they’re not quite perfect, the Cubs have done nothing this season — outside of a brief hiccup during that road swing a couple weeks back, that is — to indicate that they’re anything other than the best team in baseball. As such, they really weren’t able to improve on playoff odds that already stood at a near-ironclad 99.8% last week. Tracking the dominance has almost gotten passé.

To wit, the 10-game lead the Cubs hold over the second-place Pirates and Cardinals is equal to the margin between those teams and the last-place Reds. And FanGraphs has given the Reds and Brewers zero shot at the postseason, yet the latter squad is only four games out of second in the division. How’s this for crazy: Prior to Thursday’s loss, the Brewers (2.1%) actually had higher odds at the Wild Card game than the Cubs (2.0%).

In the time that I’ve been following the projections this season, FanGraphs (98.8%) and Baseball Prospectus (98.7%) are as close as they’ve ever been on playoff odds figures for the North Siders, with the former giving them a slightly better shot at the World Series as well. While BP has the Cubs at 18.6%, their more optimistic counterparts believe there is a 20.2% chance the Cubs will take the title. The numbers for the next few teams in line differ a bit more though.

BP is bullish on the Tribe, giving Cleveland a 14.0% shot at the World Series, with Boston (9.2%), Washington (9.0%), and the Dodgers (8.8%) rounding out the top five. FanGraphs believes the Red Sox (12.6%) have the best non-Cubs odds, with the Nats (9.3%), Indians (8.5%), and Dodgers (7.5%) following up.

The numbers are already looking really good for the Cubs, but they’ve got an opportunity over the coming weeks to really bury the competition. Series against the Braves and Reds bookend sets against the Nats, Pirates, Cards, and Marlins, and doing well through that middle group would pretty much allow the Cubs to run away and hide in the Central. Nothing is a foregone conclusion, though, and that stretch will definitely be a test.

With that in mind, I’d like to have a little fun with numbers. The Cubs currently sit at a .707 winning percentage, and even if they win only half of their remaining games they will end up 93-69. Nice. If they bat .600 the rest of the way, they’ll be 103-59. A winning clip of .650 gets them to 109-53 and maintaining their current pace puts the Cubs at 114-48. Seems like pie in the sky, huh?

Well, maybe not when you consider that they just added more Cogs to the machine yesterday. Oh boy, that was bad and I should log off now. The moral of the story is that the Cubs are really good and that they have an opportunity to tighten their grip on the Central in a big way.

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