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A look at the league’s biggest shifts in playoff odds

We’re only a month in, but many teams have shown us how important these games still are.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are now on the outside of a forgettable April slate of games. They flip the calendar with a record of 15-15, which leaves them in last place in the AL East. Josh covered how, and to what degree the lackluster month affected the Yankees playoff odds, particularly when considering the Rays’ scorching 23-6 first month of the season. But, these two squads in the East are not the only teams who have exceeded or disappointed expectations in the early going. Though we’re only a month in, these games matter just as much as any others, and the significant shifts in FanGraphs’ playoff odds reflect that. Let’s look around the league at some of the biggest changes thus far:

St. Louis Cardinals:

Opening Day: 67.4 percent Current: 29.8 percent

The Cardinals entered the 2023 season as the favorite team to make the postseason out of the NL Central, as well as the majority favorite to take the division crown (50.6 percent). With that however, the Red Birds have gone 10-19, and very quickly find themselves ten games back in the division. The offense has actually been solid, with a collective 108 wRC+ (11th best), but the pitching hasn’t kept up. The St. Louis staff owns an ERA of 4.56 as a whole, and will need to turn things around to make noise in this newly competitive division.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Opening Day: 6.5 percent Current: 32.3 percent

Who might the Cardinals be trailing by 10 percent, you ask? That would be the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. Aside from the Rays, the Buccos are the only other team in the majors to have cracked the 20-win mark, and own the best record in the National League. They have had the fourth-best offense in baseball this year, and the sixth most-valuable pitching staff. 32.3 percent still isn't a huge number, but considering how low they started, its significant for Pittsburgh, and it has really helped shake up the Central. At an earlier time than anticipated, it’s a good time to be a Pirates fan.

Minnesota Twins:

Opening Day: 49.6 percent Current: 80 percent

In the American League’s version of a Central division, things have shaken up possibly even more in the season’s first month. The Twins have had a solid but not-totally-remarkable first month record of 17-12. But, to their benefit, they have been the only team in the division to play above .500 ball. I liked them to win the division at the start of the year, and this notoriously weak divisional group may help pave a relatively sweat-free path for Minnesota.

Chicago White Sox:

Opening Day: 30.5 percent Current: 4.4 percent

The White Sox were certainly no favorites headed into the season, but they were a reasonable rebound pick, and there is some real talent on the roster. In just the first month, however, they have nuked their chances at making a run at the postseason. The Sox only have two regulars with a wRC+ over 100, and feature the third worst pitching staff in baseball by fWAR. This early demise is largely caused by a 2-15 stretch in the middle of April, one that might have put a real damper on any October aspirations.

Baltimore Orioles:

Opening Day: 10.4 percent Current: 35.3 percent

The second-place Orioles have been another surprise around baseball, and they have more than tripled their playoff odds in the process. Franchise cornerstones Cedric Mullins II and Adley Rutschman have carried their weight, and huge starts from Austin Hays and Jorge Mateo have helped propel to O’s to a 19-9 record in the first month. They still have a lot of ground to cover, as the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays all have odds higher than 65 percent, but these games matter. Baltimore has evidently taken a step forward in 2023, and a potential playoff push could be the logical next step.

As always, it should be noted that playoff odds shouldn’t be viewed as scripture, but rather as a useful and fun tool to gauge where the baseball landscape stands. As we watch more and more games slip away from the Yankees, it shows that these games, in reality, mean just as much as the ones in late September. There is a lot of baseball left, and many good and bad runs left to be had for everyone, but we’re a full month into the big league season, and things have already changed significantly.