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60 games in: The Arizona Diamondbacks’ playoff odds

The road-trip was...okay. Could have gone worse. But did it hurt or help Arizona’s post-season hopes?

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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

Three-game streaks would be the theme since last time. The D-backs started off by losing three in a row, then rebounded by taking three in Pittsburgh and Miami, only to drop the final three against the Marlins. But the stretch ended on a sound note with a 10-2 whipping of the Padres last night. That helped improve the team’s run differential to just below even over these ten games, at 41-44, while their record was 4-6. However, this didn’t lose them any significant ground in the National League West, because not one of the five teams managed to post a winning spell. Indeed, across the entire NL, the Nationals were the only team above .500 to do so, going 8-2.

The projection systems

This moderately below .500 week is reflected in a moderate drop across the board for the projection systems. Although, the amount in question is small, between 1.2% (BP) and 6% (FiveThirtyEight), largely coming off our division odds, as we lost ground on the West-leading Rockies. Three out of the four systems currently project the D-backs to finish at 87-75 (Fangraphs has us a game lower, at 86-76), which would be achieved if the team goes 52-50 the rest of the way. Even given the tougher schedule in August, that seems eminently achievable, especially if we can stuff our face with wins over the rest of this month.

All four have the D-backs ranked fifth in the National League by playoff odds, and across the board, their current percentage is at least 25% better than their nearest rival below them. The Nationals, with the 12.5 game advantage in the East, have all but been anointed as champions. The Cubs have regained the lead in the Central, and nobody, least of all the projection systems, would be surprised if they stay there the rest of the way. But the West... While we can all but cross off the Padres and Giants, not much has been settled after these first 60 games. Here’s the Fangraphs odds chart, showing the season so far.

Previous 60-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 36-24 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 ever, nothing is absolutely certain. We’ve seem teams with 41-19 records miss out on the post-season (the 2003 Mariners, though they would have been the second wild-card team under the current system). And teams with 25-35 records surge their way into the playoffs (the 2005 Astros). But nobody below that, so I am officially pronouncing time of death on the season of the San Francisco Giants, who are 24-36. They will be sadly missed by their family and friends - just not by virtually anybody outside the Bay Area. The Padres and Phillies too, have their playoff hopes DOA. But for that pair, you have to ask - were they ever alive to begin with?

The D-backs sit in the 67.6% band, with 23 of 34 the previous teams to go 35-25 having played on into October. That is down on the previous time we checked, though the figure there was likely a statistical anomaly on the high side - a bit like the weird 4-41 record for teams with .500 records. Adding the latest figure to the four projections above and taking an average comes out to 64.4% for Arizona. That’s down from 71.7% last week, so we’ll see if Zack Greinke can get things going in the right direction tonight, against those walking dead Padres.