Best Chances to Win the World Series?

With the playoffs starting tomorrow, we take a look at the probabilities of each team winning the world series. But first, let’s take a look at the postseason:

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2016 MLB Playoff Brackets (Image Courtesy of mlb.com).

The playoffs begin tomorrow with the Baltimore Orioles (89-73) traveling to the Toronto Blue Jays (89-73) with a one game playoff in the Wild Card “series.” The following day, the San Francisco Giants (87-75) play at the New York Mets (87-75) with their own Wild Card game.

Here are the probabilities of each team winning the Word Series::

10. Washington Nationals (4.0969%)

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The Washington Nationals (95-67) are the number two seed in the National League and tied for the second best record in the majors, but have the lowest probability of winning the World Series. Why?

Washington kicks off their Divisional series against the Dodgers; a team that they went 1-5 against during the 2016 season. With injuries to Stephen Strasburg (out for the NLDS), Daniel Murphy (possible NLDS return), and Wilson Ramos (out for entire post-season), the Nationals must turn to a catching platoon as well as rest on Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez. Matching up against Clayton Kershaw may prove to be difficult; as the Nationals roster has a career .227 batting average against.

With the slim probability of 23.49% for defeating the Dodgers, the Nationals then must take on the winner of the Mets/Giants vs. Chicago Cubs NLDS. The Nationals had a similarly terrible season against the Cubs with a 2-5 record. In order to get out of the National League bracket and into the World Series, the Nationals are going to need to defeat Kershaw twice and then slow down the Cubs’ bats while cracking into the Cubs’ rotation. As a comparison, the Cubs have a .256 team batting average with 199 home runs compared against a 1.11 team WHIP with a 3.15 ERA. The Nationals? Ever so similar .252 team BA with 203 home runs compared to a 1.19 team WHIP and 3.51 ERA. While the Cubs have won out the season series; this series is a little “easier” to win than the NLDS match-up with the Dodgers.

However, as of this evening, the Nationals still have yet to tack down their rotation. Hence, the Nationals are facing one of the most uphill battles in the playoffs (other than the New York Mets).

9. Cleveland Indians (5.0452%)

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The Cleveland Indians (94-67) won the A.L. Central in convincing fashion, but are rewarded with facing a red-hot Boston Red Sox. Cleveland managed a 2-4 record against Boston, however all but one game was played before May 30th. The lone game, an April make-up in August in which the Red Sox stole a 3-2 win in Cleveland. Despite the losing record, the Indians still have a 44.8% chance of winning the series against the Red Sox.

If the Indians manage to get past the Red Sox, their chances improve greatly, except for a chance to play the Rangers. The Rangers own a 5-2 record against the Indians. Texas took three of four games agains the Indians in late August to begin a big swing to take control of the American League.

Cleveland’s chances to win are going to rest on defense and speed. The fastest team in baseball (lead the American League with 134 stolen bases) averages 1-2 stolen bases per game; which may put pressure on opposing pitchers.  That said, the Indians will have a much better chance by facing the Wild Card winner if that team manages to take down the Rangers; one such team is…

8. Baltimore Orioles (5.2139%)

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The Baltimore Orioles (89-73) pounded their way into the playoffs with a league leading 253 home runs and timely pitching. However, the Orioles have two achilles heals in the playoffs: the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers. The Orioles wasted away their top Wild Card spot on the second to last day after having a lead over the Yankees after six innings and found themselves traveling to Toronto in tomorrow’s Wild Card game. With the Blue Jays holding a 10-9 record over the O’s, the Orioles have managed to win the last series against Toronto a week ago by taking two out of three in Toronto. This game will be a toss-up as Marcus Stroman is slated to face off against Chris Tillman. Despite the Blue Jays being at home, the Orioles are sitting with a 51.23% chance of winning with Tillman on the mound.

If the Orioles make it to the NLDS, they will face a well-rested Texas Rangers. The Orioles will have also needed to expend Tillman in an effort to make it to this point. With the Rangers sitting on a 4-3 record against the Orioles for the 2016 season, the Orioles still sit with a 42.07% chance of winning the NLDS. Not bad odds at all, especially when compared to the Nationals and Indians above. But the Orioles are 8-11 against the Red Sox and have been taking the bulk of those losses late in the season, including a devastating series loss two weeks ago to knock the O’s out of the A.L. East race.

7. San Francisco Giants (5.6631%)

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The San Francisco Giants (87-75) are back at it again with yet another even year (World Series Championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014) and once again as a National League Wild Card. The Giants have the best post-season ace in Madison Bumgarner. The Giants swept the already-clinched Los Angeles Dodgers and are on a roll heading into the playoffs. The Giants have had a losing record against every other playoff team except for the Dodgers. That doesn’t bode well for the Giants, but they still have a solid hitting team and the best pitcher in post-season baseball; which can be enough to win the World Series. But why is the probability still so low? A potentially great wild-card matchup between Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) versus Noah Snydergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA). The game will take place in New York. Bumgarner is 2-0 against the Mets this season; so expect this to be an intriguing match-up and one of the most exciting playoff games of the year. The probability of the Giants winning the wild card game is 50.01%. That slim.

If the Giants make it into the NLDS, they then have to face off the best team in baseball; the Chicago Cubs. The Giants are 3-4 against both the Cubs and the Nationals; the latter a possible opponent in the NLCS. The Giants’ slim probability of winning the World Series is primarily coming from the Wild Card game with a slew of close 40-some-odd percent match-ups against the Cubs and Nationals. And despite the low probability, this team is my selection for being the underdog team for winning the World Series if a wild card team is to win.

6. Toronto Blue Jays (7.6816%)

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The Toronto Blue Jays (89-73) squeaked into the top wild card spot by winning must-win games over the Boston Red Sox over the final weekend of the regular season. Their reward? A match-up against the Baltimore Orioles. While the Blue Jays hold a 10-9 record over the Orioles this season, they dropped their most recent series in a heated wild card race in Toronto and are going against the Orioles’ ace in a one-game playoff. This is the beginning of the Blue Jays’ run to the World Series. However, if they are able to defeat the Orioles, they have a better chance to knocking off the Rangers and the Red Sox than the Orioles’ do and therefore have a slightly better chance at making the world series. It all comes down to the Wild-Card game.

The Blue Jays have a 4-3 record against the Rangers and a 10-9 record over the Red Sox. That said, the Blue Jays’ 11-16 September record is nothing to hold breaths for. We’ve seen otherwise from the Kansas City Royals two years ago, and if there’s a team than can replicate that run, it’s the Blue Jays.

5. New York Mets (7.6954%)

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The New York Mets (87-75) are much like the Toronto Blue Jays in these playoffs with only having a slightly high probability of winning the world series over their wild-card counterpart as they are the home team for the wild card game and their 5-2 season record versus the Chicago Cubs. The Mets’ ace, Snydergaard, will be taking on Bumgarner in a hopefully epic dual; so the Mets will be shorthanded on their rotation against the Cubs in the NLDS.

The Mets, however, lost three of their starters this season; two in the month of September (deGrom and Matz) with season-ending elbow surgeries. So the seven-percent expectation is a reach; if only historical. While the Mets have a great chance to win the wild-card game, making it past the NLDS will be a challenge.

4. Chicago Cubs (12.6912%)

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The Chicago Cubs (103-58) have the best record in baseball with one of the best pitchers in the league with Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA). However, Arrieta’s season has been a helter-skelter (but still great) season. With a winless July followed by a perfect August and a hot-cold September, we won’t be sure whether a 7 earned-run Arrieta shows up from September 28th or a 5-hit shut-out pushing-the-Cardinals-to-the-brink-of-elimination Arrieta from September 23rd shows up.

There is no difference between the Cubs and the Nationals in the post-season. The Cubs hit .256 with 199 home runs on the season while tossing 1.11 WHIP and 3.15 ERA baseball. What makes the Cubs’ World Series probability so low is the lower probability of beating the Mets compared to other teams. Combined with the Mets’ 5-2 record over the Cubs along with the injuries to the Met’s rotation and scrambled Cubs rotation, the Mets have a 53.19% chance of beating the Cubs. The numbers seem too optimistic, but that’s why the Cubs’ probability is lower than the remaining three teams on this list. Most likely, the Cubs will win the NLDS and square off with the Dodgers in the NLCS.

3. Texas Rangers (14.6219%)

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The Texas Rangers (95-67) won the American League but do not have the best chances of making it to the World Series. Why is this? Because against the American League post-season teams, the Rangers have a 15-12 record; bulk of the wins against the Cleveland Indians with a 5-2 record… a team they may not even meet. This means the Rangers have no great advantage other than home-field. That said, the Rangers have a strong chance of winning the NLDS against the Orioles or Blue Jays. Why is that?

With a Rotation of Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, and Colby Lewis, the Rangers have one of the best overall post-season rotations in the league. The Rangers’ season will hinge on whether they can weather the Red Sox in the post-season. The Blue Jays and Rangers squared off seven times, all in May. At the time the Rangers were second in the American League (1 game behind Boston at the end of May) while the Blue Jays were middling at 28-26. In the Baltimore Orioles season series, the Orioles took two of three games in Baltimore in August; beating both Darvish and Hamels. The Rangers have a great shot at making the playoffs, but require shutting down the Orioles bats if they face Baltimore and use home-field to beat the hot Red Sox. Who, unfortunately, have them beat out for having a higher probability of winning the World Series…

2. Boston Red Sox (17.4920%)

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The Boston Red Sox (93-69) were the best team in the American League at the end of May with a 32-20 record. However, by the end of July, they found themselves in fifth with a 57-46 record; yielding a losing record over the middle of the season. Given that let-down, the Red Sox stormed back and took control of the A.L East with resurgent hitting from David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia; along with the breakout of third-year player Mookie Betts.

Rick Porcello and David Price have had stellar seasons for the Red Sox and prove to be a formidable pitching duo. Toss in another break-out third year vet in Steven Wright in the rotation (who shut out the Dodgers earlier in September), and the Red Sox have as good as  (if not better) rotation than the Rangers. And this is why the Red Sox are primed to make another World Series run this year.

The NLDS will feature the Cleveland Indians; whom the Red Sox own a 4-2 record against this season. The NLCS will most likely feature the Rangers; a team the Red Sox broke even with a 3-3 season record. The Rangers-Red Sox played their 3-3 series during the Red Sox losing stretch. This does not bode well for the Rangers in a potential ALCS match-up and a great reason why the Red Sox have the best chance of making the World Series. Who are they most likely to face?

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (19.7988%)

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The Los Angeles Dodgers (91-71) are much like the Baltimore Orioles; not expected to do well but managed to defy critics. For majority of the season, the Dodgers were said to be overplaying their abilities with a depleted roster from losses (Grienke to Arizona) or injury. The Dodgers first square off against the Washington Nationals, who are also going through some injuries. Afterwards, the Dodgers face off against the best team in baseball in the Chicago Cubs.

While the Dodgers have the best probability of winning the World Series, the highest probability playoffs do not have the Dodgers winning the World Series. Instead, the Dodgers’ weight for winning the world series comes from the Mets’ having a relatively high probability of beating the Cubs. In case where the Mets lose the wild card game, the Cubs are most likely to win the World Series. Due to this, the Dodgers will have their work cut out for them to get past the Cubs in the NLCS.

 

Highest Probability Results:

With each teams’ chances written out and summarized, here’s the most optimal results (9.7362%) for the MLB playoffs:

 

Wild Card Games:

  • Orioles defeat the Blue Jays; 1-0
  • Giants defeat the Mets; 1-0

Division Series Games:

  • Rangers defeat the Orioles; 3-1
  • Red Sox defeat Indians; 3-1
  • Dodgers defeat Nationals; 3-2
  • Cubs defeat Giants; 3-1

Championship Series Games:

  • Red Sox over Rangers; 4-3
  • Cubs over Dodgers; 4-2

World Series Games:

  • Red Sox over Cubs; 4-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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