Division Race Probabilities

The Story

Let's say we have two baseball teams in a division, we're about halfway through the season, and we want to see how likely each team is to win the division at the end of the season. This is good to know not only for fans, but for front offices as they decide whether it's worth it to be a buyer at the trade deadline (i.e. try to make trades to make their team better for this year at the cost of future years), or whether they're so unlikely to make the playoffs that it would be better to be a seller and trade players that are good now for prospects that will hopefully be good in the future.

↪ Click Simulate Division below to calculate the probabilities.

Great! So, being 2 games back, the Blue Jays have around a 38% chance of winning the division.

But, now let's add a few more teams to the division.

↪ Click Simulate Division below to calculate the probabilities.

Even though the Blue Jays are still the same number of games back, and the new teams are further behind, this still reduces them to around a 21% chance to win the division!

This comes up a lot with wild card races, where the top 3 teams that aren't division leaders also qualify for the playoffs. Sometimes fans will think "hey, my team is only two games back of a wild card spot, that's hardly anything!", like the Pirates in this example:

↪ Click Simulate Division below to calculate the probabilities.

And an over 50% chance is indeed pretty good! But let's look at the full standings (this is roughly based on the NL wild card standings as of July 1, 2024):

↪ Click Simulate Division below to calculate the probabilities.

The actual chance is less than half of that!