Cranking Out the Post-Trade Deadline ZiPS

Even in a wackily truncated season like this one, the trade deadline serves as an important landmark in the playoff hunt. While players will still be released and signed, lose their jobs and get injured, the dramatic changes in team quality are largely over. For a projectionist such as myself, it also comes as a relief as I no longer have to worry about spending time crunching the numbers only to have a 14-player, three-way trade go down just after I file an article. The players teams have on their rosters now are more or less the ones they have at their disposal over the rest of the season.

Before we get to the division-by-division standings updates, let’s take a quick look at how the last few days altered teams’ playoff odds. I projected the rest of the season for each team based on both their roster prior to the deadline’s moves and their roster as it stands post-deadline. I then compared the results to see which club saw the biggest rest-of-season gains and losses.

Trade Deadline Changes in ZiPS Team Probabilities
Team Division Before Division After Diff Playoffs Before Playoffs After Diff World Series Before World Series After Diff
Toronto Blue Jays 0.6% 1.4% 0.8% 56.8% 69.6% 12.9% 1.6% 2.3% 0.7%
Miami Marlins 2.5% 2.8% 0.4% 34.2% 37.9% 3.7% 1.0% 1.1% 0.1%
San Diego Padres 7.5% 10.1% 2.5% 96.7% 98.0% 1.4% 6.4% 7.0% 0.6%
Cincinnati Reds 3.4% 3.5% 0.1% 35.0% 36.2% 1.2% 1.0% 1.0% 0.0%
Philadelphia Phillies 18.4% 19.2% 0.8% 79.6% 80.6% 1.0% 3.5% 3.5% 0.1%
Colorado Rockies 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 21.6% 22.4% 0.8% 0.6% 0.6% 0.0%
New York Mets 2.1% 2.1% 0.0% 33.3% 33.7% 0.5% 1.0% 1.0% 0.0%
Chicago Cubs 67.8% 68.6% 0.8% 96.1% 96.2% 0.2% 6.0% 6.0% 0.0%
St. Louis Cardinals 21.6% 21.2% -0.4% 75.0% 75.1% 0.1% 3.2% 3.1% -0.1%
Houston Astros 25.4% 25.4% 0.0% 96.8% 96.9% 0.1% 4.6% 4.6% 0.0%
Oakland A’s 74.5% 74.5% 0.0% 99.7% 99.7% 0.0% 7.8% 7.8% 0.0%
Los Angeles Dodgers 92.4% 89.8% -2.5% 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 15.5% 15.2% -0.3%
Tampa Bay Rays 65.3% 64.7% -0.5% 99.9% 99.9% 0.0% 10.5% 10.5% 0.0%
Atlanta Braves 76.5% 75.3% -1.2% 98.2% 98.1% 0.0% 7.3% 7.2% -0.1%
Chicago White Sox 33.5% 35.5% 2.0% 97.0% 96.9% -0.1% 5.7% 5.8% 0.1%
Pittsburgh Pirates 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.4% 0.3% -0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
New York Yankees 34.1% 33.8% -0.3% 99.4% 99.3% -0.1% 8.0% 8.0% 0.0%
Cleveland Indians 46.0% 42.8% -3.2% 98.4% 97.7% -0.7% 6.6% 6.3% -0.4%
Los Angeles Angels 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 5.6% 4.7% -0.8% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%
Washington Nationals 0.6% 0.5% -0.1% 16.0% 15.1% -0.9% 0.4% 0.4% 0.0%
San Francisco Giants 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 46.1% 45.0% -1.1% 1.5% 1.4% -0.1%
Detroit Tigers 0.2% 0.3% 0.1% 19.9% 18.7% -1.2% 0.4% 0.4% 0.0%
Minnesota Twins 20.3% 21.4% 1.1% 94.4% 93.2% -1.2% 4.7% 4.6% -0.1%
Seattle Mariners 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 5.1% 3.8% -1.3% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%
Boston Red Sox 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 4.2% 2.9% -1.3% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%
Baltimore Orioles 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 7.4% 5.5% -1.8% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%
Kansas City Royals 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 8.1% 6.2% -1.8% 0.2% 0.1% 0.0%
Milwaukee Brewers 7.2% 6.6% -0.6% 51.1% 49.2% -1.9% 1.6% 1.5% -0.1%
Texas Rangers 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 7.5% 4.9% -2.6% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%
Arizona Diamondbacks 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 17.0% 12.0% -5.0% 0.5% 0.3% -0.2%

The San Diego Padres were an excellent club prior to the deadline. They were already nearly assured of a playoff spot — under the 16-team playoff format, it’s very hard to move the postseason needle much when you’re already a top team and there simply weren’t that many playoff-missing scenarios for deadline additions to wipe from the timeline — but faced a difficult path to catching the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a strong case for being the best team in baseball. The divisional bump is real for San Diego — their divisional chances got a bigger jolt than any other team — but even though their roster improved more than any other club’s, they don’t get the largest playoff or postseason gain in the projections. The reality is that winning a division in 2020 versus finishing second doesn’t really matter all that much, which is why you saw a lot of the coasting teams either only add a few role players or completely stand pat.

Instead, when it comes to playoff probabilities, the Blue Jays and the Marlins are the two teams that helped themselves the most. The Blue Jays have more upside now than they did a week ago, even if none of the moves they made are earth-shattering by themselves. Catching the Rays and Yankees is still a long shot, though it’s not impossible. The Jays have strengthened themselves relative to their biggest eighth-seed competition — oddly enough, the Detroit Tigers — and most of the long-shot American League Wild Card contenders got worse.

Acquiring Starling Marte is a bigger deal for the Marlins in a season like this simply because in most years, when teams make deadline additions, so does their competition. The Padres being better doesn’t really affect the Marlins that much and they receive a further boost by virtue of most of the rest of the National League having been fairly quiet in terms of additions.

Elsewhere, many of the game’s best teams took a passive approach to deadline. The notable exception was the Cleveland Indians, who by trading Clevinger, lost more projected divisional ground and World Series championship probability than any other team in baseball. Unsurprisingly, the explicitly retooling Diamondbacks suffered the biggest playoff loss; though they stand just 3 1/2 games behind the final NL playoff spot, the roster is much weaker after the trades. They could still theoretically fall into the eighth spot because weird things happen in baseball — such as last year’s Brewers playing better after the Christian Yelich injury — but more likely than not, Arizona’s long slump and injuries have doomed their season.

Now, to those updated standings!

ZiPS Projected Standings, 9/2/20
Team W L GB W% Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Tampa Bay Rays 39 21 .650 64.7% 32.3% 2.9% 99.9% 10.5%
New York Yankees 37 23 2 .617 33.8% 57.7% 7.7% 99.3% 8.0%
Toronto Blue Jays 31 29 8 .517 1.4% 9.8% 58.4% 69.6% 2.3%
Baltimore Orioles 24 36 15 .400 0.0% 0.1% 5.4% 5.5% 0.1%
Boston Red Sox 23 37 16 .383 0.0% 0.1% 2.8% 2.9% 0.1%
Team W L GB W% Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Cleveland Indians 35 25 .583 42.8% 32.3% 22.5% 97.7% 6.3%
Chicago White Sox 35 25 .583 35.5% 34.5% 26.9% 96.9% 5.8%
Minnesota Twins 34 26 1 .567 21.4% 31.2% 40.6% 93.2% 4.6%
Detroit Tigers 27 33 8 .450 0.3% 1.7% 16.7% 18.7% 0.4%
Kansas City Royals 25 35 10 .417 0.0% 0.3% 5.9% 6.2% 0.1%
Team W L GB W% Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Oakland A’s 37 23 .617 74.5% 25.1% 0.2% 99.7% 7.8%
Houston Astros 34 26 3 .567 25.4% 70.6% 0.8% 96.9% 4.6%
Texas Rangers 24 36 13 .400 0.0% 1.5% 3.4% 4.9% 0.1%
Los Angeles Angels 24 36 13 .400 0.0% 1.5% 3.2% 4.7% 0.1%
Seattle Mariners 24 36 13 .400 0.0% 1.2% 2.5% 3.8% 0.1%
Team W L GB W% Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Atlanta Braves 36 24 .600 75.3% 19.2% 3.6% 98.1% 7.2%
Philadelphia Phillies 31 29 5 .517 19.2% 47.8% 13.6% 80.6% 3.5%
Miami Marlins 27 33 9 .450 2.8% 15.4% 19.7% 37.9% 1.1%
New York Mets 27 33 9 .450 2.1% 12.8% 18.9% 33.7% 1.0%
Washington Nationals 25 35 11 .417 0.5% 4.8% 9.8% 15.1% 0.4%
Team W L GB W% Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Chicago Cubs 34 26 .567 68.6% 22.3% 5.3% 96.2% 6.0%
St. Louis Cardinals 31 29 3 .517 21.2% 39.9% 14.0% 75.1% 3.1%
Milwaukee Brewers 29 31 5 .483 6.6% 22.4% 20.2% 49.2% 1.5%
Cincinnati Reds 29 31 5 .483 3.5% 15.2% 17.5% 36.2% 1.0%
Pittsburgh Pirates 21 39 13 .350 0.0% 0.2% 0.2% 0.3% 0.0%
Team W L GB W% Division Second Wild Card Playoffs WS Win
Los Angeles Dodgers 41 19 .683 89.8% 10.1% 0.1% 100.0% 15.2%
San Diego Padres 35 25 6 .583 10.1% 81.0% 7.0% 98.0% 7.0%
San Francisco Giants 29 31 12 .483 0.1% 6.2% 38.8% 45.0% 1.4%
Colorado Rockies 27 33 14 .450 0.0% 2.0% 20.4% 22.4% 0.6%
Arizona Diamondbacks 25 35 16 .417 0.0% 0.8% 11.2% 12.0% 0.3%

Most of the action is in the NL, with seven teams in the AL already projected with at least a 90% chance of making the playoffs; there’s only about a one-in-six chance that any of the top seven teams in the AL miss the playoffs this year. The Blue Jays didn’t pick up any superstars, but they certainly recognized an extremely high-leverage situation when they saw one, so credit goes to them for that.

In the NL, only four teams have crossed that 90% threshold, which makes for a much more enjoyable slate of pennant races! Six teams project to have between a 25% and 75% chance of making the playoffs, while in the AL, only the Jays are in that range.

Of course, there are some things that ZiPS cannot know. For example, how many games will the St. Louis Cardinals actually end up playing? Will any other contenders suffer a COVID-19 outbreak? I honestly don’t know and if I don’t, the computer certainly doesn’t, either. So sit back, grab some tacos and a beer, and enjoy the penultimate act of the oddest season you’ll ever see.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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Kevbot034
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Kevbot034

ZiPS still doesn’t hate the Mets as much as the Mets seem to hate the Mets. They keep losing games and the run differential is gonna be in the red to stay now, given all the rotation injuries. I could foresee Philly running away with the 2nd spot, but I think the Marlins might…be legit? I mean, for an 8th seed, at least. Their best reinforcements might be some of the kids getting more at bats anyway.

Kevbot034
Member
Kevbot034

But I always end up a Marlins apologist for no reason, so I’m pointlessly musing here.

sadtrombone
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Member
sadtrombone

I would say that the Marlins might get into the expanded playoff field, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are “legit”. This is a team that may never (not this year, and not in the next couple years after) score enough runs to break out of .500, although they could do a great job of preventing them.

Kevbot034
Member
Kevbot034

Maybe, I do like Jazz Chisholm, Lewin Diaz and Isan Diaz though, and think all 3 might just continue improving with more at bats. I also hope they continue giving Jesus Sanchez and Monte Harrison some chances here and there.

matt
Member
matt

All those guys save maybe Lewin Diaz have major offensive questions

matt
Member
matt

Mets have been the unluckiest team with cluster luck and marlins have been the luckiest. It’s possible the marlins are far enough ahead to hold on, but i do think the evidence we have besides W/L suggests the mets are better than the marlins