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140 games in: The Arizona Diamondbacks’ playoff odds

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Take a wild stab in the dark how it’s gone.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-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

I’m sure we don’t really need to re-hash the coroner’s report on this one. The D-backs finished off the Giants, then steamrollered their way through the Dodgers, Rockies and, just for good measure, the Dodgers once again. They set a new franchise record, with an ongoing streak of 13 (so far!) consecutive wins. Basically, this has all but ended the contest for the first wild-card in the National League.

               Game #130    Game #140
Wild-card #1   ARI -        ARI -
Wild-card #2   COL -1.5     COL -7.5
NL Cent. #1    CHC -2       CHC -5.5
NL WC #3       MIL -5       STL -9.5
NL WC #4       MIA -6       MIL -10

The question now is, whether it will be the Rockies, Cardinals or Brewers that we face at Chase Field on October 4. Right now, it still seems more likely to be Colorado, who have a two-game cushion, but that could easily evaporate over the course of their four-game series against the Dodgers, which starts tonight. The Marlins, about whom we were briefly concerned, have lost a Los Angeles-like nine of their past ten, to return to irrelevance. Which will make it harder for Giancarlo Stanton to challenge Paul Goldschmidt for MVP. So I’m fine with this.

The projection systems

We are now virtually in the “sure thing” territory, and with the D-backs magic number for clinching a post-season spot sitting in the mid-teens, it’s quite likely you are reading the penultimate edition of this feature. By the time we reach 150 games, we should be all but absolutely guaranteed our spot, and depending on how results go elsewhere, might even be there. It’s interesting to note that the Dodgers’ odds have fractionally backtracked in some locations. This will happen when a seemingly impregnable 21-game lead is cut by half, in just a 12-day span.

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
 13-9 (pace)      23-0          162-0
 12-10            22-1          155-7
 11-11 (.500)     21-2          148-14
 10-12            20-3          141-21
  9-13            19-4          134-28
  8-14            18-5          127-35

Last time, I wrote, “Staying away from being swept by good teams, and proceeding as we have against the crappy ones, is virtually all the D-backs need to do to secure their spot.” You’ll not be surprised that going 10-0 since last time has had a positive impact. If we simply play at our current pace, the Cardinals would need to win their final 23 games - giving them a 27-game winning streak - to match us. That would be the longest winning streak in the recorded history of baseball. Or we could simply coast in, winning half our remaining games [and the Rockies series is the only series left against a team above .500] and the Cardinals would still have to go 21-2.

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 .571 W% to get into the 80-60 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

We’re in the top tier now: just a handful of teams have failed to make it over the past two decades. None of those five were under the current two wild-card system. If that had been in play, four of them would have gone directly in as the second wild-card, and the fifth (the 2002 Mariners) would have reached a play-in game for that spot (against the Red Sox, both teams finishing with 93 wins). The best record after 140 games that didn’t see the post-season belongs to the 2011 Red Sox, who were 84-56. But they went 6-16 down the stretch, dropping out of second-place in the East, and the wild-card spot, on the final night in the insane finish to that season.