So, Where Did the Cubs Wind Up Landing in the MLB Lottery Odds?

All right. This is the hangover part of the 15 enjoyable beers yesterday.

Yesterday’s win, on its own, bumped the Cubs down two spots in the Reverse Standings. I cringe typing it, because I LOVED the win. And also because I am not an idiot, and I know that yesterday’s win isn’t actually any different from any of the wins in the recent winning streak or some stray April win. The final record is the final record, and all the games count.

But, again, it is simply true to say that *if* the Cubs had lost yesterday, they would currently stand with the 10th worst record in baseball – thanks to the Diamondbacks’ win and a would-have-been tiebreaker over the Angels.

Instead, the Chicago Cubs finished the season with the 12th worst record in baseball (19th best!). We have talked about all the good reasons to keep winning through the end of the season – the development of useful players and the added oomph it could give the offseason push among the big ones – but it’s not like you would PREFER to have worse draft lottery odds. So that is, yes, a negative to all the Cubs winning in the second half.

OK, but how much did yesterday ACTUALLY hurt the Cubs?

Well, let’s start with where they are now. In the 12 spot, the Cubs have just a 1.10% chance of landing the top overall pick in the lottery (thanks to Tankathon for the odds chart). Because the first six picks are assigned by lottery, the Cubs also have a small chance at landing one of picks two through six (the total chance at landing in the top six is just about 10%). From there, the Cubs cannot land anywhere else before their own slot at pick 12, where they’ll have a 64.0% chance of picking. Falling to 13 is a 23.7% chance, and falling to 14 is 2.3%. They can fall to 15 or even 16, but those chances are miniscule. So if that happens, you’ll know the baseball gods hate the Cubs.

In other words, it is extremely likely that the Cubs will be picking 12th or 13th in the first round of the 2023 MLB Draft (and if they pop into the top six, that’d be awesome!). In rounds 2 and beyond, they’ll pick 12th, regardless of what happens in the lottery.

How does all that look if they’d instead finished in the 10 spot? Well, the chances at number one aren’t that different (1.80%). The chances of popping into the lottery, though, are a decent bit higher at about 16%. One quirk, though, is that in the 10 spot, you have a much smaller chance of actually sticking in your own slot (just 44.0%). Falling to 11 is 33.0%, and falling to 12 is 6.3%. From there, the 10 can fall as far as 15th, but it’s pretty unlikely to fall past 12.

So, as you can see, it’s definitely worse for the Cubs that they’re in the 12 slot as compared to the 10, but the difference is a little fuzzier than just a straight up two-spot drop (that’s the whole point of the lottery – you want teams not to care all THAT much whether they land in the 3 spot or the 7 spot or whatever, because nothing is guaranteed). That said, the average pick spot for the 10 is 9.5, and the average pick spot for the 12 is 11.5.

Ultimately, and this is something we talked about throughout the year, the lottery odds are structured such that you really would want to be in the bottom three records (same odds for the top pick), or the bottom eight records (functionally guaranteed to pick in the top ten). The Cubs were never going to be close to that bottom three, because the worst teams in the league this year were truly godawful. And as for the eight slot, that goes to the Rockies, who lost six more games than the Cubs. So, shrug. The Cubs weren’t all that close to them, either.

Frankly, I’d rather have the Positive Vibes of those six additional wins, because I tend to think the incremental value there (better development, better offseason push, players “feel” closer and it impacts their offseason work, etc.) is slightly higher than the incremental value of the eight spot versus the twelve spot. I know not everyone will agree, and if the Cubs do end up falling to pick 13 or 14, and if some stud goes off the board next summer just before their pick, you will remind me of this. Fair enough. I just hope, in the meantime, the Cubs had a huge offseason, and many of the positive player developments we’ve seen in the second half are carrying forward into a competitive first half in 2023.

Oh, and maybe the Cubs will jump up into the lottery picks! They do have a one in ten chance of that, and boy would that be fun. The MLB Draft Lottery will take place in early December at the Winter Meetings. GO PINGPONG BALLS!!!

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Matt Lucas

Writer by day and an aspiring Artist by night. Creative thinking is what I'm all about. Lottos are one of my passions and I'm happy to be contributing to Lottery Papa News

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