The Rays, the Jays, and Another Look at the Odds

It’s been about a month since the last time I did this, so it seems like it’s time for an update. Again, eventually, you’ll be able to click on a team on the Playoff Odds page and see what the odds were on any given day. That’s still not a tool we have at our disposal, though, so your continued loss is my continued gain, as in the meantime I still get to author these posts.

The image should be fairly self-explanatory. The odds are based on player projections, schedules, and author-maintained team-by-team depth charts.

oddschange6414

At the start of the season, we gave the Blue Jays about a 27% chance of making the playoffs. At this writing, they stand at 77%, fourth-highest in baseball. At the other extreme is a rival of the Jays, the Rays. Before the year, we had their odds right around 51%. Currently they come in just above 6%, which in a sense are pretty good odds for a team tied for baseball’s worst record. The Rays are tied with the Cubs in record, and the Cubs’ odds are between 0-1%. Good news, Tampa Bay!

Now, that’s interesting. It’s also interesting to compare this chart to the chart from a month ago. At that point, the Jays’ odds had barely changed. The Rays were down about 18 percentage points. Since then, the Rays have tanked further while the Jays have caught fire. Since May 5 — when the post was published — the Jays have gone 21-7, better than anybody else. The Rays have gone 8-19, worse than anybody else. Helping the Jays has been the re-emergence of Edwin Encarnacion; hurting the Rays has been almost literally everything, including the underperformance and subsequent injury of Wil Myers. It just came across the wire that Jeremy Hellickson is getting closer, but at this point it seems like too little, too late. Two months in and the Rays are too far gone, and it looks like David Price will be available starting any day now. The good news for Tampa is there are plenty of teams who could use him. The estimated number of those teams is 30.

As of last month, five teams had seen playoff-odds changes of at least 20 percentage points. Now we’re at eight, with the Rangers understandably showing up next to the Rays in the image above. As of May 5, the Rangers’ odds had actually gone up since the end of March. But they’ve since cratered, the team having gone 12-15 and with all the players getting hurt. Now, 12-15 isn’t a terrible stretch of baseball, but consider that, over the same window, the A’s went 17-10. The Angels went 15-12. The Mariners went 17-13. Even the Astros went 15-13. The Rangers have lost ground to the whole division, and they’ve suffered more injuries, which is why now they’re barely clinging on. Alexi Ogando is the latest victim, hitting the disabled list with elbow discomfort. That happened a few minutes ago. The upside for the Rangers is that he’s been bad, which is some really dark upside.

The Brewers have slightly strengthened their position. While they’ve gone a decent 14-13 since May 5, the Cardinals have also gone just 14-13, so while the projections continue to like the Cardinals more, there’s now a month less remaining of the regular season. The Pirates have partially recovered; a month ago, they were down about 27 percentage points. They’ve cut that basically in half, after going 16-11 and getting closer to the debut of Gregory Polanco. In short: the Pirates are in a worse position than they were in March, but they’re in a better position than they were a month ago. The projections like them better than the Brewers, but they dug a deep hole in April.

The Mariners have been one of baseball’s hottest teams, but you don’t even seem them in the chart, because they’re essentially where they started. In March, their odds were in the low-30s, and currently, they’re again in the low-30s. But they were in the 20s in early May, so while it’s been a struggle to gain ground on Oakland and Los Angeles, the Rangers have been hurt and the Mariners presently occupy one of the two wild-card slots. Seven teams below the Mariners are within 2.5 games of the Mariners. Nobody’s safe.

Except for maybe the A’s and Giants. Right now they’re the two teams with playoff odds above 90%. They did a lot to help themselves before a month ago, but they’ve also both gone 17-10 *since* a month ago, the Giants running the best record in the National League. While the projections continue to prefer the Dodgers to the Giants, the Dodgers are also seven games worse than the Giants, and they’re projected to finish four games back. The Tigers are in the next-best spot, but a mediocre month has kept them in place, losing a little ground to the Indians.

Right now, 21 teams have at least a 1-in-10 shot at the playoffs. Of those, 16 different teams have at least a 1-in-5 shot at the playoffs, and ten teams are at least 1-in-2. To look at things differently, 13 teams have at least a 1-in-10 shot at the division. Of those, nine teams are at least 1-in-5, and five teams are at least 1-in-2. The NL Central has the least-secure division leader, even though the NL East is tightest.

Now, a table. Before the year, we had, for each team, an expected winning percentage. Now we have a new expected rest-of-season winning percentage, based on updated depth charts and projections (and schedules). This has nothing to do with wins and losses already in the books. Which teams have changed the most in terms of projections?

Team Win% Change Per 162
Astros 0.032 5.1
Braves 0.025 4.0
Athletics 0.020 3.2
Blue Jays 0.012 1.9
Angels 0.011 1.8
Tigers 0.011 1.8
Twins 0.010 1.7
Orioles 0.010 1.7
Brewers 0.007 1.2
Indians 0.006 1.0
Marlins 0.006 0.9
Giants 0.003 0.5
Cubs 0.002 0.3
Pirates 0.002 0.3
Padres 0.000 0.0
Nationals 0.000 -0.1
Reds -0.001 -0.1
Royals -0.004 -0.7
Red Sox -0.005 -0.8
Phillies -0.006 -0.9
Mets -0.006 -0.9
Rockies -0.007 -1.1
Cardinals -0.008 -1.2
Rays -0.008 -1.3
Mariners -0.010 -1.6
Diamondbacks -0.010 -1.6
Dodgers -0.012 -2.0
White Sox -0.015 -2.5
Yankees -0.019 -3.0
Rangers -0.044 -7.2

Leading the way are those Houston Astros. They’re projected now as something like a 72-win team, where before they were projected as a 67-win team. Now, George Springer is a starter. Now, Jon Singleton is a starter. Now, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have improved. Behind the Astros you get the Braves, A’s, and Jays. On the other end, the Rangers project much much worse, almost entirely due to an impossible number of roster injuries. Their initial projection was inflated a little by over-optimism regarding Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross, but the bulk of this is because of all the DL stints. The drop in the Rangers’ projection is more than double the drop of any other team’s projection. The Yankees project worse, probably because they miss CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda.

Everything here hinges on mathematical projections, so there’s a certain accuracy ceiling. If you like a team more or less than the projections, then that affects almost every single number. But you can consider this a starting point. It’s a good starting point, for Jays fans.

We hoped you liked reading The Rays, the Jays, and Another Look at the Odds by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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