Quantifying Hope: Cubs Nose Ahead of Cards as Sweep Boosts Them to 84% Playoff Odds

We’re down to the final month of the season, and things are really starting to get hairy for the Cubs. That’s because the Cardinals, whose playoff odds got as low as 17.7% back on July 2, have roared back from the dead. Hell, they were only at 28.7% on August 8 before boarding a rocket ship.

The Cubs had held the Central division’s highest playoff odds ever since getting to 68.3% on May 2, but they were eclipsed a little less than three months later. As of August 24, the Cubs were at 68.9% — not quite nice — while the Cards lingered on the periphery at 63.9% and climbing. A day later, the Redbirds had vaulted to 73.6% (almost 10 points in one day!) as the Cubs fell to 66.1% with their third straight loss to the Nationals.

But a sweep of the Mets, combined with a loss and an off-day for the Cardinals, served to push the Cubs back on top by a slim margin. Chicago actually dropped as low as 65.2% at one point, but now sit at 84% heading into Friday’s action. Nearly 19 points in three days! Meanwhile, the Cards dipped to 83% and aren’t feeling quite as saucy as they were a few days ago.

If there’s a positive note here, it’s that the Brewers have been on a steady downward march ever since peaking at 64.5% on June 12. So their very best odds of the season were still not as high as the Cubs’ low-water mark of the last several months. Milwaukee is currently at 11% as they visit Chicago for a three-game set that could be important to the division’s final disposition.

The Reds and Pirates have a combined 0.3% between them, the entirety of which belongs to Cincy. Remember when the Pirates went on that little run and were getting all braggadocios about being in first place for a little while early in the season? That was cute.

But cute is something the Cubs cannot afford to be from this point forward, and that starts this weekend. The Brewers will send a trio of junkballers to the mound, none of whom should be any match for the Cubs’ bats. We’ve said that far too many times this season alone, particularly when they’ve faced Gio González.

While the odds themselves don’t matter, their reflection of reality gains a little additional clarity with each game. And it would appear the Cubs’ lackluster performance over the last 100 games has finally caught up with them in both the standings and in the odds. Barring anything really wild, the division will come down to the last two weeks of the season, when the Cubs and Cardinals have seven games against one another.

Good times.

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