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Playoff odds have already shifted dramatically

Red Sox, D-backs improve their standing, while Nats fall back in NL East
MLB.com @castrovince

The season might be young, but that doesn't mean the stuff we've seen to date doesn't have mathematical meaning.

A combination of some division favorites moving slow out the chute and some hot starts from upstarts has affected the standings. But how much does that combo affected the expected outcomes?

The season might be young, but that doesn't mean the stuff we've seen to date doesn't have mathematical meaning.

A combination of some division favorites moving slow out the chute and some hot starts from upstarts has affected the standings. But how much does that combo affected the expected outcomes?

FanGraphs' playoff odds can help us here. Let's take a look at the biggest changes to division-winning odds so far. The needle hasn't moved much in the American League Central and AL West, where the Indians and Astros, respectively, are still heavy favorites. But the percentages have shifted a bit elsewhere, so we'll focus on those four divisions below, all of which have seen at least one team see its odds of winning the division swing at least 10 percentage points.

As is always the case with projections, these mean absolutely nothing. But the changes do give us a little window into the calculated value of what we've watched. We've ordered them based on how much the projection has changed, starting with the largest swing.

Video: Take a look back at the historic start for Red Sox

AL EAST
Yankees: -30.5 (53.8 to 23.3)
Red Sox: +34.2 (39.0 to 73.2)

This is the starkest shift in baseball so far. The AL East was predicted to be the most legit division race in baseball, but the Red Sox are more legit than most imagined. Even after dropping two of three in Oakland over the weekend, they've got the best run differential in the game at plus-64, and they took two of three from the Yanks in the first installment of The Rivalry this year. Boston and New York next meet April 30-May 3 in the Bronx.

Though their division odds have taken a hit, the Yankees are still given an 87.4-percent chance of reaching the postseason one way or another, a drop of only 2.3 percent from the start of the year.

Video: TOR@NYY: Didi, Torres, Andujar, Severino lead Yankees

The Blue Jays, by the way, are in the strange spot of having improved their odds of winning a Wild Card (up 5.9 percent to 43.0) with their solid 13-8 start while their odds of winning the division have decreased (down 2.9 percent to 3.5). They dropped three of four to the Yanks over the weekend and get their first look at the Red Sox in a three-game series that starts Tuesday in Toronto.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Nationals: -17.0 (77.8 to 60.8)
Mets: +12.1 (18.2 - 30.3)

Another big shift here in what looked to be a slam-dunk division. The Mets have taken four of the first six head-to-heads, which gives them some early confidence. But as if injuries aren't always enough of an X-factor with the Mets, the bullpen has become a big one, too. The relief corps posted a 1.51 ERA in the season's first 14 games, but it has since imploded to post a 10.18 ERA over the past seven. Certainly something to monitor as we examine the Mets' staying power atop what is becoming a more dynamic division by the day.

Video: NYM@ATL: deGrom K's 10, hurls seven scoreless innings

If the Nats play to their talent level, they'll obtain another October entry (FanGraphs has their odds at 77.9 percent). But the Phillies are one of the hottest teams in baseball with wins in 14 of their past 17, improving their playoff percentage 10.4 points (to 14.0) and their division odds three points (to 6.0). The Braves have also looked frisky in the early going, raising their playoff odds 5.3 points (to 8.5). The Mets' strong start to the Mickey Callaway era has given them a better-than-50-50 chance of advancing (55.2).

NL CENTRAL
Cubs: -15.9 (81.4 to 65.5)
Cardinals: +12.9 (15.0 to 27.9)

The arrival of Yu Darvish was supposed to seal the Cubs' third consecutive Central title, but so far their starters not named Jon Lester have a 5.84 ERA. Between that and a boom or bust offense, it's been a start somewhat reminiscent of the so-called "hangover" year of 2017. While the Brewers (5.1 percent chance of winning the Central) and Pirates (1.4 percent) have both seen slight increases in their odds, the Cardinals are the ones soaking up the majority of the Cubs' lost percentage points. In winning eight of their past nine (the lone loss in that span came against Lester), they've gotten a 2.23 ERA from their starters and exactly six runs per game from their offense. That'll play.

Video: STL@CHC: Lester fans seven, allows no earned runs

If nothing else, the Cards have banked 13 early wins in what could be a crowded NL Wild Card race. Their odds of making the playoffs have gone up 6.8 percentage points, to 68.5. The Cubs still have an 88.8 percent chance of reaching October, and the 14-9 Brewers are at 23.9 percent.

NL WEST
Dodgers: -8.6 (85.2 to 76.6)
D-backs: +12.0 (5.2 to 17.2)

As you can see, the projections are starting to take the D-backs more seriously. They've taken five of six from the Dodgers so far (the two clubs meet again April 30-May 3 at Chase Field) and just became the first team to win seven consecutive series to start a season since the 2005 White Sox (we seem to remember that turning out pretty well on the South Side). The D-backs are facing another injury challenge with Taijuan Walker's Tommy John surgery, but their lineup is getting healthier (Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr. are on the mend) and they've done well to maintain the momentum from last year's Wild Card win.

Video: D-backs right-hander Walker to undergo Tommy John

The D-backs are the only West team to improve their playoff odds in the early going (their chances of advancing have risen 20.3 points to 44.2). Though the Rockies are a respectable 12-11, they've dropped 6.2 percentage points in their odds of reaching the playoffs (12.5 percent). The Dodgers are still heavy favorites to get in, at 88.3 percent.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.