2016 MLB Probabilities of Making the Playoffs (August 21st Edition)

Another week closer to playoffs baseball and we witnessed a few surges in the standings; both good and bad. After picking up a series win on the road in San Francisco, the Baltimore Orioles came back home to find themselves in a rocky 1-4 run against the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros; all teams circling around the top of the wild card standings. Coming off the All-Star break, the Orioles have been slowly releasing its grip on the A.L. East and are finding themselves slipping out of the wild card contention. With key series losses against not-so-contending teams such as the Colorado Rockies and the Oakland A’s; the Orioles have a lot to do to right the ship with several games remaining against Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York, and a four game set against the Washington Nationals. Needless to say, the Orioles have one of the toughest roads to the playoffs.

In the same boat, the San Francisco Giants; despite leading the N.L. West at the moment, have a similarly hard path to the playoffs. After a recent 6-7 run through the N.L. East, the Giants dropped a home series to the visiting Orioles and then were swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The six combined series found the Giants with a 7-12 record over their last 19 games; a reason why the Dodgers have closed within a half-game of first place. With the Dodgers hot on their heels, the Giants need to get back to their winning ways; a challenging task with 9 match-ups against the Dodgers coming over the next 6 weeks. Fortunately, despite playing the Cubs and Cardinals in the closing weeks, the Giants remaining games are primarily against teams they have winning records against.

On the winning side of the spectrum, the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals are making pushes in the wild card with their sights set on winning their divisions. The Red Sox, winners of 8 of their last 10 games have fought back after not winning their previous 4 series. With sweeps of the Indians, Orioles, and Diamondbacks, the Red Sox and making a push for a playoff appearance this season.

Similarly, the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals have won 9 of their last 10 games; 7 straight wins. The Royals have a long way to go; still 8 games out of first and 4.5 out of the wild card, but the Royals have a stockpile of games against the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox; games ripe for ripping off a slew of wins to make a hard push for the playoffs. Recall just two years ago, that’s all the Royals needed to make a world series run. Can the Royals make a third appearance in a row into the playoffs?

Currently, the standings as of the morning of August 21st are as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 11.42.07 AM

MLB Standings as of August 21st, 2016.

Using the continuity corrected Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation procedure, we again project the final standings along with the probabilities of winning the teams’ respective divisions (PWD), the probabilities of earning one of the two respective wild card spots (PWC), and the overall probability of making the playoffs.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 1.18.23 PM

Projections for the 2016 MLB Final Standings given all completed games on the morning of August 21, 2016.

Given the updated 92 results from this previous week, we see the variation in the final standings is still fairly large. This is expected as some teams are making the final pushes shortly after the trade deadline. Other teams are slowly making adjustments to finish out the year with no serious expectation of making the playoffs.

Speaking of playoffs, the current highest probabilistic projection is as follows:

  • American League Wild Card:   Red Sox vs. Royals
  • American League Division Winners: Rangers vs. (Wild Card); Blue Jays vs. Indians


  • National League Wild Card: Dodgers vs. Cardinals
  • National League Division Winners: Cubs vs. (Wild Card); Giants vs. Nationals

It should be noted that there are still nearly 600 remaining games and that the variation on the probabilities are relatively large; roughly 3-5 percent on the high probability teams. As the season progresses, we will continue to produce updates to the probabilities.

One interesting take-away is this: The American League Wild Card is projected to be a furious race to the finish. Currently, the last wild card spot is projected to be stuck between the Kansas City Royals, the Seattle Mariners, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Houston Astros; each projected to finish within 2 games of the each other (variation is plus-minus 2 wins). This means that it’s any clubs ability to win the wild card spot; let alone each have over a 10% chance of making the playoffs.

Also, it is not note that there are no currently eliminated teams at this moment. Teams with probability zero are not eliminated, but rather have a probability so low, they are considered eliminated barring any major breakdown in the entire league.

Note: Games behind is a tricky measure. For instance, suppose there are four teams in a division: A,B,C,D with current games behind –, –, –, 2.0; respectively. Suppose A plays D and B plays C for three games each to finish the season. Here, D is not considered eliminated; but they are. This is due to the fact that even if D sweeps A, if either B or C win two games, D cannot finish better than 1 game behind. Therefore, D is eliminated. These simulations root out these type of scenarios.

In a week, we will again update the probabilities and see how the next roughly 100 games change the landscape.


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