The St. Louis Cardinals are in first place. It’s where they belong, because as I detailed in this article, they are by far the best team in the NL Central. The Cards have a one game lead on The Pirates and two games over the Reds. So, using the schedule ahead for all three teams, I wanted to give a projection of where the teams my end up.
As I pointed out in that same article, The Pirates are a mediocre team getting lucky. At the time, their run differential was +42, which puts them in line with most third place teams. Since then, they have lost control of first place and are now tied for second with The Reds. Their run diff has also slipped even further to +39.
The Reds run diff is climbing (along with their record) to +103. The Cardinals run diff remains at a league best +147.
Now let’s look at the strength of the schedule for the rest of the season for each team.
The Cardinals have 3 games this week against The Brewers who have a winning pct of .437 and a run differential of -62. Then 3 games against The Marlins who have an awful winning pct of .376 and a run diff of -114. 4 games against The Rockies who have a winning pct of .458 and a run diff of -21. 3 more against The Brewers. 3 games against The Nationals who have a winning pct of .514 and a run diff of -12. And close out the season with 3 games against The Cubs who have a winning pct of .423 and a run diff of -54.
The Cardinals play one team, The Nationals, with a plus winning pct and zero teams with a plus run differential.
The Pirates have 3 games against The Rangers who have a winning pct of .570 and a win diff of +76. 4 games against The Cubs who have a winning pct of .423 and a run diff -54. 4 games against The Padres who have a winning pct of .458 and a run diff of -93. 3 games against The Reds who have a winning pct of .569 and a run diff of +103. 3 more against The Cubs. And end the season with 3 against The Reds again.
The Pirates have 3 series against teams with plus winning pct and plus run differentials.
The Reds play 3 games against The Cubs. 3 against The Brewers who have a winning pct of .437 and a run differential of -62. 3 against The Astros who have a winning pct of .329 (wow) and a run diff of -202 (wow again). 3 games against The Pirates who have a winning pct of .570 and a run diff +39. 3 games against The Mets who have a winning pct of .454 and a run diff of -44. And end the season with 3 more against The Pirates.
The Reds have just 2 series against teams with plus winning pct and plus run differentials.
So applying the winning pcts of these opponents that each of these three teams face, the average opponent winning pct for each individual game is as follows:
The Cardinals – .441.
The Pirates – .497
The Reds – .463
So The Cardinals have the lightest schedule per game (since their average opponents winning pct is lowest). But along with almost every team they play having under .500 winning pcts, that average is further brought down by the The Marlins’ especially low winning pct. So along with each team being weaker, they also get to face an especially terrible team. Though the same applies to The Reds who have The Astros to beat up. The Pirates, along with having the toughest schedule, don’t have any terrible teams to beat up on to get a break.
Now let’s look at the average run differential of each of the three team’s opponents going forward. Each of the three teams’ opponents’ average run differential of what they’ve done so far this year per game is as follows:
The Cardinals: -52
The Pirates: +10
The Reds: -47.
Again The Cardinals have the easiest schedule moving forward, followed slightly by The Reds (using run diff) and not so slight using winning pct. The Pirates again have the toughest.
So now we have each team’s opponents going forward in context.
But for a moment, remove those teams and just focus on The Cards, The Pirates and The Reds as teams moving forward. The Cardinals have 19 more games. The Pirates have 20. The Reds have 18. On average, The Cards have scored 4.81 runs this year and allowed 3.78. On average, The Pirates score 3.91 runs a game and give up 3.63. On average, The Reds score 4.35 runs a game and give up 3.63.
So moving forwards, The Cardinals look to score 91.39 runs and allow 71.82. The Pirates look to score 78.2 runs and allow 72.6. And the Reds look to score 78.3 runs and allow 65.34.
So applying Bill James’ Pythagorean expectation theory (which I know gets criticized for being flawed, but it’s still the best of what we have. Or my favorite at least).
The Cards expected record the rest of the year independent of strength/weakness of opponents is 12-7. The Pirates is 11-9. The Reds is 10-8.
Applying that to the current record, the projected final record of the season will be
St Louis Cardinals – 95-67
Cincinnati Reds - 92-70
Pittsburgh Pirates – 92 -70
So that’s where the math ends. Now I’m going to reapply the strength of the schedule back in and logically predict (completely my opinion based on the numbers) of what I feel the final record in the standings will be. The earlier conclusions lead me to believe that both The Cardinals and Reds will win 1 more additional game while The Pirates’ tough schedule will lead them to lose 2 more than predicted.
So my final prediction is as follows
St Louis Cardinals – 96-66
Cincinnati Reds – 93-69
Pittsburgh Pirates – 90-72
So there you go. All 3 teams will make the playoffs. But it will be nice if The Cards can avoid the annoying wild card game this year.
For those biting their nails and stressing over how tight of a race it is in the NL Central this year, I hope this article brings a little relief. A very formula-based article that may not represent the heart and desire of a pennant race, so let me wrap it up and summarize it in one very enthusiastic, pennant race fever sentence,
It looks very good for the Cardinals.