Hey, did you know that the Cubs were in first place in the NL Central and that they’ve made up seven games on the Brewers in just 13 second-half games? You did? Good, then you’re probably not surprised to see that Joe Maddon’s team has increased their playoff odds by a fair bit over the last two-and-a-half weeks.
On July 10, the first day of the All-Star Break, the Cubs’ playoff odds stood at season-low 62.8 percent. Funny what an 11-2 run will do for your outlook.
“We expect to remain in first place throughout the remainder of the way,” Jake Arrieta said after his Wednesday start on the South Side. “We know it’s gonna be a tough task, but that’s kinda what you deal with at the highest level of sports.”
The projections systems agree, with FanGraphs giving the Cubs a 92.8 percent chance to make the playoffs with approximately a 90-72 record. That would see them eight games ahead of the Cardinals and 10 ahead of the Brewers and Cardinals.
This weekend’s series will go a long way toward determining the division, as the Cubs have an opportunity to put some real distance between themselves and their opponents from the other side of the Cheddar Curtain. And with the Cardinals facing the Diamondbacks, there’s serious potential to put the Redbirds further in the rearview as well.
The Pirates might actually be the most dangerous team as far as the Cubs are concerned, given their hot play and the possibility that they could be buyers at the deadline. Not to mention the Bucs’ next 16 games are against the Padres, Reds, Tigers, and Blue Jays, teams that are a combined 48 games under .500.
The Cubs, on the other hand, host the D-backs and Nats after getting back from Milwaukee, then head out on a West Cost swing to play Arizona again. The Giants offer a reprieve, though, and a homestand against the Reds and Jays precedes a swing to Cincy and Philly. If the Cubs can maintain their solid play through the first half of August, those playoff odds are going to continue trending up.