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70 games in: The Arizona Diamondbacks’ playoff odds

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Virtually one direction for the D-backs this time, as Arizona went 9-1 since we last checked in.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Another ten games in the book, so time to revisit the standings, the playoff odds of the various projection systems, and what history tells us has happened to previous teams with the Diamondbacks’ current record.

The last 10 games

Hard to complain, with the only blip on the radar being a single 8-6 loss to Milwaukee. Admittedly, that didn’t gain us any ground at all on the Dodgers, who also went 9-1, and the Rockies were 7-3. But all the Diamondbacks can do is keep winning their own games: do that, and the season will take care of itself. Admittedly, this stretch did feature its share of close calls, with five of the nine wins being by just one run. But there were a couple of double-digit margins in there as well, leading to a thumping 66-34 margin on the run differential front.

The projection systems

Unsurprisingly, this 9-1 run has led to the biggest surge in post-season odds for the Diamondbacks of the year so far, with an almost uniform uptick across the four systems. The increase ranged only between 22% and 24%, and everyone now has us at least as an 80% chance of a playoff shot. Most of that comes from an enormous gap that’s opening up between the D-backs, currently tied with the Dodgers for the two wild-card slots, and the next placed team. We are currently nine games ahead of the Cubs, and they are still generally seen by the projections as having a better shot at winning the division than a wild-card spot. No-one else is within 12 games.

As a result, on Fangraphs we are seen as a 75.8% shot to win a wild-card slot. The next highest change, outside the West, belongs to the Mets, all the way down at 8.2%. Of course, it would be preferable to win the division. The Dodgers are still, likely for good reason, seen as the favorites, but the D-backs and Rockies will certainly have the chance to prove their credentials - starting later this week, when Colorado travels to Los Angeles. With us also facing the Rockies, there is the potential for some significant changes in the standings, between now and the next update, after Game #80. Here’s the NL West chart from Fangraphs, since Opening Day.

Previous 70-game records

I’ve analyzed the results since 1998 of all 570 teams to this point, and whether or not they made the post-season. The chart below breaks down the records, and also lists the teams currently occupying each band in the 2017 standings. I used win percentage to decide their block, on an “at least” basis, e.g. you need at least a .600 W% to get into the 42-28 level.

The first 152 games, 1998-2016

Record Playoffs Non-playoff Percentage Teams
Record Playoffs Non-playoff Percentage Teams
89+ 81 2 97.6% Astros, Dodgers, Indians, Nationals
88-64 9 1 90.0%
87-65 11 4 73.3% D-backs, Red Sox
86-66 14 3 70.0%
85-67 9 6 60.0% Cubs
84-68 9 5 64.3% Yankees
83-69 8 10 44.4%
82-70 8 12 40.0% Rockies
81-71 1 18 28.0% Brewers
80-72 7 13 35.0%
79-73 4 19 17.4% Cardinals
< 79 1 315 0.3% THE FIELD

As seems to have become the standard, this looks upon the D-backs with an even more favorable eye. In the time Arizona has been in MLB, not one team has gone 44-26 to start the year, then missed the playoffs. For what it’s worth (not very much in predictive terms, but it’s fun to check!), here are those six teams, and how far they went into the post-season:

The last National League team to miss the playoffs with a record through 70 games as good as or better than ours? The 1994 Braves, who were 46-24. BECAUSE THERE WAS A STRIKE AND NOBODY GOT TO THE POST-SEASON. Not going to happen in 2017. Since then, in the wild-card era, every National League team has made it. True, a few American League teams have missed out, such as the 2003 Mariners (48-42), 2002 Red Sox and 2006 White Sox (both 45-25). But Seattle + Chicago would both have made it under the current, two wild-card system, while Boston would have played off against Seattle for the second spot in their season.

So, even though we have not yet reached the half-way point of the season, it would require a collapse of unprecedented proportions for Arizona not to see some kind of post-#162 action.