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110 games in: The Arizona Diamondbacks’ playoff odds

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Despite two particularly savage losses, things are still going in the right direction.

Uglies Go Free - Photocall Photo by Chris Jackson/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

The Diamondbacks had a winning record for the first time in three of these recaps. Arizona went 6-4, including a split in St. Louis and a win in Chicago, as well as partial series against Atlanta and San Francisco. Despite a brutal 16-4 Cubs clubbing, They outscored the opposition 46-38; the pitching really got it done, holding them to zero or one runs in five contests (though we still managed to lose one!). This stands up to the marks of our rivals: the Rockies were 6-3, the Cubs the same as us (6-4) and the Brewers went 5-5. As the remaining percentage of the schedule continues to shrink like the polar ice-caps, keeping up is all we need to do to make the playoffs.

The projection systems

Strong positive trend this time, with increases across the board, ranging between 5.1% to 13%, and everyone bar FiveThirtyEight giving the Diamondbacks ahead of 90%. For a change this time, rather than the usual Fangraphs season chart (which you can still find here), I though I’d look at how all four systems have varied over the 11 of these reports we’ve done so far, which smooths out the variances, since we take a snapshot every ten games. The graph of these is below, along with the average. Note that the first report only had Fangraphs, and we didn’t start using the NumberFire figures until a few reports in.

This shows the bulk of the heavy lifting was done over the first 70 games. Those took our average playoff odds up to 86.4%; they have only increased by a little more than three percent over the forty contests since. This makes some sense: the team were 44-26 in their first 70 games, but are only 19-21 since. However, the Diamondbacks have handily outscored the opposition over the last forty, 192-164, which should have led to a record four games better, at 23-17. It seems that the team has been getting the clutch hits to score runs, they just haven’t been getting the runs in the close games. That’s entirely luck, so I’m still confident this is a better than .500 team.

Us vs. Them

The table below shows, for a range of outcomes over the Diamondbacks’ remaining games, what the first non-wild card team would currently have to do, to match our record. Even that might not necessarily mean a play-off game however: if the Rockies implode, they could be the ones missing out entirely. I’ve also include what our rival’s required pace is equivalent too, over a full season, to give you a better idea of how well they need to play.

 D-backs go     Rivals go    Season pace
 30-22 (pace)     34-16         110-52
 28-24            32-18         104-58
 26-26 (.500)     30-20          97-65
 24-28            28-22          91-71
 22-30            26-24 (pace)   84-78
 20-32            24-26          78-84

The rival in question is currently the Brewers, and the numbers here have definitely spiked since last time. Even if the Diamondbacks only play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Brewers would need play at a 97-win pace to match us. Significantly, Milwaukee haven’t played better than 28-22 over ANY fifty-game period this season. So, even if they match that the rest of the way, Arizona just needs to go better than 24-28 to take a wild-card spot. And we haven’t played worse than 28-24 over ANY 52-game stretch this season. This is why I’m so confident we’ll make it, unless there’s some drastic external change in the situation.

Previous history

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 66-34 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

The D-backs sit in an “uncanny valley” of a record: only 62% of 63-47 teams reached the post-season, but that’s apparently a statistical anomaly. It’s a lower percentage than those with 62 - or even 60 - wins. It’s also worth noting that of the eight teams who missed out, only one has been since the two wild-card system came into play. That was the 2012 Pirates, who imploded spectacularly down the stretch, going just 16-36 the rest of the way. If that happens to the D-backs... Well, we don’t deserve to make the playoffs, I’d say, though as mentioned above, that would be far, far worse than we’ve gone over any period of that length.

Also worth noting: the Brewers aren’t even on the board, being part of “the field”. Though with only nine teams listed, there will be at least one more making the playoffs this year. My money would be on the Royals, currently occupying the second wild-card spot in the American League, despite being only 56-52 - they have a 44.4% playoff chance, according to Fangraphs. But the next 10 games see us play division-leading teams for nine of them, so will be the sternest test we’ve faced over any block. If we can go 5-5, that should do, though more would obviously be better.