With under six weeks left in the regular season, World Series Futures odds are catching this handicapper's attention. Scoreboard watching is becoming prevalent for players and fans alike.
For the better part of four weeks, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs have held down the two positions for the National League wild card race and both have given little quarter to the competition and definitely been Play On material for MLB picks. Does anyone else really have a chance to hunt these two clubs down or they more interested in taking the presumed easier route and attempt to win the division?
Understanding the Numbers Dynamic
Here are the current record of the Pirates and Cubs as of the morning of Aug. 24th.
*Pittsburgh Pirates: 74-58
*Chicago Cubs: 71-51
Here are the records of their closest pursuers.
*San Francisco Giants: 66-58
*Washington Nationals: 62-61
*Arizona Diamondbacks: 62-61
Let's break this down from a purely numbers perspective. With the Giants seven games behind, if the Cubs were to play .500 baseball the rest of the way and finish 91-71, that would mean San Francisco just to catch them would have to close the season on a tear, playing at nearly a .660 percent rate at 25-13. One potential edge the Giants have is they have three home games with Chicago Aug. 25-27 and a sweep really narrows the gap and motivation will not be an issue, having been swept in a four-game series at Wrigley Field earlier this month.
For the Nationals and Diamondbacks, the hill is that much higher to climb, each having to finish 29-10 if Joe Maddon's team finishes 20-20. Obviously the MLB betting odds would be reduced if the Cubs closed 15-25, which is not out of the question being a young team in the field and having to be at the Giants, at the L.A. Dodgers and playing six each with Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
Arizona can help make their case with a three-game series in Chicago Labor Day weekend and Washington has 23 games left and the Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia and could get on a real hot streak.
Yet as a MLB handicapper, you have to deal in logic and each of the three chasers has a better chance to win their division than go the wild card route.
What about Pittsburgh and Chicago Looking Ahead?
Rest assured, neither of these teams is thinking wild card at this juncture, it is full bore to catch St. Louis with the Pirates three-games back in the loss column and the Cubs six out.
Since St. Louis has been the best team in baseball virtually all season (currently priced at +525 odds to win the World Series from Bet365) and with their pitching, hard to imagine much of a fall off. Yet for the sake of argument , let's say the Cardinals close a mediocre for them 22-17, that is still 100 wins and given Chicago's aforementioned schedule, they would have to go 30-10 to pass them up.
Pittsburgh's has a far better chance and given they have the third-best record in the majors, at this point they have the solemn belief they can win four of six versus St. Louis and has to pick up two other games elsewhere. Problem for the Bucs, beginning next month, 19 of their final 31 games are on the road, where they cannot use their potent field advantage which has helped them build this record. Sportsbooks like Heritagesports.eu would agree, the Pirates would have to be special to catch the Cards.
Thus it comes down to Pittsburgh and Chicago and chances are the Cubbies will have no fear having won seven of 12 this season, but during those six pressure-packed confrontations, will the Cubs wilt a little?
Sure looks like Chicago in the Steel City at this time for the NL Wild Card clash.