Last year, to help track the Major League Baseball standings in a way that told us more than the actual standings, I wrote a monthly column on Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report. To remind why the Odds Report is so handy:
I always rely on Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report. Updated daily, the BP playoff odds use projections, simulations and games already played to put together the closest picture we have to how a team's season is truly going … and where it's likely to finish. Key to the odds working: They're a dynamic document, constantly shifting and adjusting with the daily information. You can have your standings. The Playoff Odds Report tells me what's really happening.
After this weekend, the MLB season will be three weeks old. That's way too early to tell anything at all, right? Well, tell that to the Blue Jays. We'll be back on the 21st of every month for an update. But here's the first installment of our Playoff Odds Report Tracker.
Teams above .500 that shouldn't get so excited
Baltimore Orioles. Yep, no team has felt the wrath of the PECOTA gods over the past half decade than the Orioles, a team the Baseball Prospectus formula is always skeptical about. Yet, nevertheless, they persist. The O's -- who have the best record in the American League over the past five years -- are in a familiar spot: In first place, with PECOTA screaming they can't stay there. They're at 17.9 percent odds to make the playoffs. (The "playoffs," in this case, means "reaching at least the AL Wild Card Game.") One suspects the Orioles are undaunted.
Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have been one of the more pleasant surprises of the first fortnight of baseball, in first place in the National League Central behind some surprising starting pitching. Not surprising -- and pretty much like everyone in the sport -- PECOTA doesn't buy it: Cincinnati is at 9.9 percent to make the playoffs. That's quite the number, considering they Reds are three games ahead of the Cardinals -- a team that PECOTA is also suspicious of -- but still have worse odds.
Colorado Rockies. My closet sleeper in the NL -- I picked them for the second Wild Card -- has been solid early (and in first place), but the Rockies are still just 29.2 percent to make the playoffs. That's even lower than the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team they're tied with, who are at 32.8 percent.
Teams .500 and under that have better days ahead
Pittsburgh Pirates. The horrific three-day stretch in which the Pirates lost three games by a 2-1 score and lost their best player for 80 games with a PED suspension didn't dissuade PECOTA: The Bucs' playoff odds have actually gone up (1.9 percent up, anyway) in the past week, to 20.5 percent. Pirates fans would take a 1-in-5 chance at this point, wouldn't they? Here's a question: Which team do you believe will be better moving forward, Pittsburgh or St. Louis? PECOTA says the Pirates, who it projects to be comfortably the second-best team in the division. Though to be fair: It also thinks the Cubs are the only NL Central team that will finish over .500.
San Francisco Giants. This start has been a bummer, though the Giants are starting to pull it together a bit in the past week. PECOTA is not the slightest bit worried: It has them at 40 percent to make the playoffs, comfortably in the second Wild Card spot.
Teams Under 10 Percent
If you'll remember from last year, for the first three months of the season, we consider any team with under 10 percent playoff odds "lost." (They'll be considered "out of the picture" after that.) We take our nomenclature seriously here at the Monthly Playoff Odds Report Glance. Anyway, here are the teams with under 10 percent odds.
San Diego Padres: 1.9 percent
Philadelphia Phillies: 3.4 percent
Kansas City Royals: 8.1 percent
Oakland Athletics: 9.4 percent
Chicago White Sox: 9.6 percent
Cincinnati Reds: 9.9 percent (impressive for a first-place team)
Knocking on the door? Atlanta (10.5 percent), Toronto (10.6), L.A. Angels (11) and St. Louis (13).
Obviously, nobody is a lock this early, but here are the five teams with the best odds.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 87.9 percent
Houston Astros: 86.2 percent
Chicago Cubs: 85.4 percent
Cleveland Indians: 81.6 percent
Boston Red Sox: 69.3 percent
As the election taught us, these "locks" always work out.
If the season ended today (Playoff Odds Version)
Wild Card: N.Y. Yankees at Tampa Bay
AL Division Series: Wild Card winner at Houston, Boston at Cleveland
Wild Card: San Francisco at NY Mets
NL Division Series: Wild Card winner at Los Angeles, Washington at Chicago Cubs
If the season ended today (actual standings)
Wild Card: Boston at N.Y. Yankees
ALDS: Wild Card winner at Baltimore, Cleveland at Houston
Wild Card: Chicago Cubs at Arizona
NLDS: Wild Card winner at Washington, Cincinnati at Colorado
We'll be back next month with another installment. We all know nothing, and we all know everything.