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Shine on You Crazy Diamond - Looking at the Wild Card Hunt, Part 1 (National League)

I have no idea what possessed me to pick the title. I don't even like that particular Pink Floyd song very much.

One good thing about prognosticating the National League? There's a fairly good chance that the three current division winners are going to be there when the wheel stops spinning.

The Cardinals are a virtual, 98.4% lock to take the NL Central. The Braves check in at 80.7% for the NL East. And the Padres have a 78.5% chance to win the West, as things stand right now.

Simple, probabilistic math tells you that that specific scenario has about a 62% chance of playing out that way.

So for this article, we're going to assume that those three teams finish at the top of the divisions. The real benefit of the wild card, for all of its flaws, is that there are still a pretty sizeable handful of teams with a pretty legitimate shot at it.

So how does the wild card stand right now?

                W       L       GB  
Houston         63      52      -- 
Philadelphia    61      55      2.5
Washington      60      55      3
Florida         59      56      4
NY Mets         58      57      5
Chi Cubs        56      60      7.5
Milwaukee       56      60      7.5
Arizona         56      61      8
The NL Wild Card will probably require between 88-92 wins, based on a ballpark estimate in my head. What will the teams need to play to reach the 90 win threshold, which would be good enough to consider having a successful season? (These totals are all as of 3:25, Saturday, August 13).
                W       L       WP
Arizona         34      11      .756
Chi Cubs        34      12      .739
Milwaukee       34      12      .739
NY Mets         32      15      .681
Florida         31      16      .660
Philadelphia    29      17      .630
Washington      30      17      .638
Houston         27      20      .574
At this point, you pretty much have to eliminate Arizona from the equation. The Cubs and Brewers probably need to be crossed out, too, playing .739 ball down the stretch is extraordinarily difficult.

My criteria, going into this little evaluation, was that no team that needed to play .700 or better ball to reach the elusive 90-win threshold would be considered.

What about strength of schedule, among the five contenders? We'll use a metric I'm relatively familiar with for this one: the weighted-average rank in the BTB Power 30 of each team's opponents.

Houston - 17.7
NY Mets - 16.1
Philadelphia - 15.2
Florida - 13.9
Washington - 13.0

The higher the number, the easier the schedule is. The easiest schedule, according to this imperfect methodology, is that of the Astros.

So there are 5 teams in the NL who can keep thinking that they could be in the wild card race: Houston's the odds-on favorite. Philly's got a chance. Washington's fading, but they're still in the mix. Florida's on the fringe. And New York is in a sandtrap at this point trying to save par and could only survive the hole with a bogey. It's going to be tough for them, although their schedule is a bit easier than that of the other NL East teams.

There are many other factors involved, but if I were a betting man, I'd be taking the Astros to hold off the NL East's teams, with the Phillies sliding in at #2.