Stats Geek: NL Central Is Tighter than Tupperware

By Brian O'Neill 3 years ago

Only three and a half games separate the top four teams in the National League Central Division. Only four games separate the top eight teams in the NL.

We haven‘‍t seen a race like this since — wait, what? — since 2007?

Yeah. When I saw that the best record in the league at the All-Star break was the Dodgers’‍ .557 and the worst was the Diamondbacks‘‍ .417, I started looking for another year with such parity. That didn’‍t take long.

Just seven years ago, the Diamondbacks won only 90 games but had the best record in the NL with a percentage of .556. The Pirates won the fewest, 68, for a percentage of .420. Half the teams in the 16-team league were still in the race in the final week of the season.

If it‘‍s that kind of year again, there’‍s a Pirate who‘‍s been there and done that: Manager Clint Hurdle. He managed the Rockies in 2007 to one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus. Colorado won 12 of its last 13 games to tie the Padres, then capped that run by beating San Diego 9-8 with three runs in the bottom of the 13th inning of a one-game playoff for the wild card.

Thus the Rockies also won 90, though it took an extra game to do that. (They then swept the Phillies in the Division Series and the Diamondbacks in the League Championship Series, only to be swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.)

Anyway, in that year, it took only 89 wins to get a wild card spot. Assuming the current rules, with two wild card teams, the mark to get that second one would have ranged from 85 to 91 wins in the past 10 seasons. But it was below 90 wins in seven of the 10, with 88 being the number four times.

The Pirates still have a shot to win the division, but if it takes only 89 wins to make a wild card spot, the Pirates need to go 40-27 in the final 67 games. If it takes 88, they need to go 39-28.

Both are doable. We know this because the Pirates been 39-28 in the last 67 games, the best record in the NL. That’‍s a game better than the Reds and two games better than the Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Brewers tumbled back to the rest by going 33-34.

It‘‍s shaping up to be a fun baseball summer in Pittsburgh — and at least seven other NL cities.