FanGraphs Power Rankings: Playoffs Edition

After a wild Sunday afternoon that held plenty of drama for the final day of the regular season, the postseason field is set. Team Entropy ultimately found no joy, with the remaining playoff spots finally decided without the need for tiebreaker games. With the Wild Card round set to begin on Tuesday, here’s a look at the 10 teams in the playoffs and how they stack up against each other.

A quick refresher: my approach takes the three most important components of a team — their offense (wRC+), and their starting rotation and bullpen (50%/50% FIP- and RA9-) — and combines them to create an overall team quality metric. Since regular season records don’t matter in the playoffs, I’ve ranked the teams simply by their overall team quality, removing the factors for win percentage and expected win percentage.

Tier 1 – The NL Favorites
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality World Series Odds
Dodgers 106-56 113 76 88 183 16.5%
Giants 107-55 114 84 86 183 8.7%

The Dodgers and Giants spent the entire season battling each other for the NL West crown. Los Angeles won 50 games after the All-Star break to post the best record in the second half and only gained a single game on San Francisco. The closest the Dodgers were to overtaking the Giants was entering their series in San Francisco on September 3. Even though the division wasn’t actually decided until the final weekend, that series gave the Giants the edge they needed to secure their first division title since 2012. It’s a shame they’re lined up to face each other in a Division Series instead of the NLCS — should the Dodgers advance out of the Wild Card game, that is.

Injuries to key contributors might be all that holds these two teams back from making a deep postseason run. The Giants lost Brandon Belt to a fractured thumb last week. San Francisco had managed to get by without Belt for long stretches this season — he spent time on the injured list twice — but the loss of his bat is a significant blow to their lineup.

The Dodgers’ injury woes are a bit more concerning. Clayton Kershaw was pulled early from his final regular season start on Friday with elbow discomfort. He seems likely to miss the postseason, and since he’s set to hit free agency this winter, his future with the Dodgers is up in the air. If that wasn’t enough, on Sunday, Max Muncy exited early with an arm injury; he’s unlikely to play in the Wild Card game or the Division Series should they advance.

Tier 2 – The AL Favorites
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality World Series Odds
White Sox 93-69 110 84 90 171 14.6%
Rays 100-62 110 95 86 160 7.1%

The Rays won a franchise record 100 games this year, were the first team in the American League to clinch a postseason spot, and had the top seed locked up with a week left to play. The part of their roster that holds them back from a higher spot in these rankings is their starting rotation. With Tyler Glasnow lost for the season, their rotation lacks a proven, standout ace like they’ve had in years past. But their winning formula doesn’t necessarily require a strong rotation to work. They rely on their bullpen more than any other team in the majors, and their relievers collectively led baseball in WAR and FIP and were third in ERA. That formula worked phenomenally well last year and it will likely prove to be successful again.

The team with the best starting rotation in the American League sits right above them in these rankings. With the emergence of Dylan Cease and revitalization of Carlos Rodón, the White Sox have four elite starters to call on in October. Rodón’s health is the only question mark they’re facing, which is something of a surprise after the host of unfortunate injuries they suffered to key players in their lineup earlier this season. Their offense is healthy and firing on all cylinders and their bullpen is nearly as fearsome as the Rays’.

Tier 3 – The Melee
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality World Series Odds
Yankees 92-70 102 90 88 151 7.6%
Astros 95-67 117 89 101 147 15.3%
Red Sox 92-70 107 95 96 141 8.0%
Braves 88-73 104 93 94 140 9.7%
Brewers 95-67 97 77 99 125 11.3%

The Astros reign of dominance in the AL West continued this season with their fourth division title in the last five seasons. If it seems like they’re the forgotten team in the AL field, it’s likely because their success has become so ingrained as to be almost assumed. Of course they won their division; of course they have the best offense in baseball; of course they have an excellent starting rotation. The only thing that’s out of place this year is their average bullpen, and that’s the one thing that could keep them from advancing deep into the playoffs again.

Despite a solid grade in these rankings, both the Yankees and Red Sox had to claw their way into the playoffs. At least Boston ended the season on a high note, sweeping the Nationals to secure the top Wild Card spot. New York looked like they were going out strong after sweeping the Red Sox in Boston and winning a series against the Blue Jays. But they were outscored 16-6 in their final series against the Rays and only the first walk-off hit of Aaron Judge’s career saved them from a tiebreaker scenario with Toronto. In the past week, the Yankees have lost Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu to injuries, but managed to align their rotation so that Gerrit Cole will get the start in the Wild Card game.

The Brewers seem like they’re criminally underrated by these rankings, but they enter the playoffs with the lowest team wRC+ in the 10-team field. Of course, they also possess the best rotation in baseball, which helps balance that weakness out somewhat. But if they fail to score enough runs, there’s only so much their pitching can do to carry the team. They found that out the hard way against the Cardinals in September, when those two teams played 10 times; Milwaukee scored just 33 runs in those games, losing seven of them. Because they had their division and playoff seeding locked up so early, they could afford to take their foot off the gas towards the end of the season while other teams were still fighting to make it into the party. But they’ll need to prove that they can hit the accelerator right off the bat against the Braves in the Division Series.

The Braves overcame a devastating injury to their best player, Ronald Acuña Jr., to win the NL East for the fourth season in a row. Their rebuild outfield of Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and Adam Duvall combined to form an excellent trio, while Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and Austin Riley each had a phenomenal second half of the season. None of the individual components of their roster stands out in this field, but each of them is solidly above average. If they advance, it will be because the sum of their parts proves to be better than the high and low extremes of the Brewers.

Tier 4 – The Underdog
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality World Series Odds
Cardinals 90-72 103 104 95 115 1.3%

On September 1, the Cardinals were four games over .500 and three games back in the Wild Card race. They went 5-5 during their first 10 games, losing half a game in the standings. Then they won their next 17 and blasted their way into the second NL Wild Card spot. Just the fact that they made it to the postseason at all should be considered a triumph. St. Louis was written off after hanging around .500 for nearly the entire summer, but they put together a September to remember and now find themselves facing the Dodgers in a one-game playoff to advance to the Divisional round. Of course, their regular-season finish doesn’t necessarily guarantee continued success in the playoffs.


Playoff Power Rankings
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality World Series Odds
Dodgers 106-56 113 76 88 183 16.5%
Giants 107-55 114 84 86 183 8.7%
White Sox 93-69 110 84 90 171 14.6%
Rays 100-62 110 95 86 160 7.1%
Yankees 92-70 102 90 88 151 7.6%
Astros 95-67 117 89 101 147 15.3%
Red Sox 92-70 107 95 96 141 8.0%
Braves 88-73 104 93 94 140 9.7%
Brewers 95-67 97 77 99 125 11.3%
Cardinals 90-72 103 104 95 115 1.3%





Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

48 Comments
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Antonio Bananasmember
11 months ago

For the life of me I cannot understand the Dodgers high odds. They are a bad start or an unlucky hitting night from elimination.

Brian Mc
11 months ago

Completely agree. At best, they have a 35% chance to eliminated after 1 game. They also have Kershaw out, and Muncy is miss time. It’s insane that Fangraphs still has them as the favorites.

dukewinslowmember
11 months ago
Reply to  Brian Mc

There’s no cardinals devil magic parameter in the model, that’s for sure

Antonio Bananasmember
11 months ago
Reply to  Brian Mc

LAD has a .565 win % vs teams over .500. STL is playing the best baseball of their season.

They then have to play the Giants

So 16% is a 1/6 chance. Absolutely not. Maybe 16% or even 20% if they make it behind the WC, but at best it makes sense to put them at 60% for WC.

rustydudemember
11 months ago
Reply to  Brian Mc

As they say in the Squid Game… “ELIMINATED!”

offffffspeed
11 months ago

This is power rankings, not postseason predictions. The odds are based on strength of team, not factoring in that they have a one game WC game to get in.

sadtrombonemember
11 months ago

Right now, in the wild-card game Fangraphs is giving the Dodgers a 72% chance of winning. That’s much, much too high in a sport where every team wins at least a third of their games and loses at least a third of their games. When you’re playing a team as good as the Cardinals are (and they are good) your chances of winning a single game against them should probably hit a ceiling at about 60%.

I have had this gripe with Fangraphs’ single-game prediction model for a long, long time. I know that the Dodgers have a very talented team but if a wild-card team has the best chance of winning the world series in the model it means some input into your model is flawed (or the model itself is broken).

jtricheymember
11 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Ben looked at postseason odds last week and found that Fan Graphs is right on in the percentages there. Maybe something similar needs to happen with single game odds? 72% feels high, but maybe it’s not?

Pwn Shop
11 months ago
Reply to  jtrichey

The dodgers are currently -225 in vegas which implies 69% counting the vig, so maybe 67% is the real money prediction.

Pwn Shop
11 months ago
Reply to  Pwn Shop

And FG currently shows them as 64% not 72, did something change or am i missing something?

sadtrombonemember
11 months ago
Reply to  Pwn Shop

Maybe it’s different on two different pages but on the LA Dodgers page on FG it says it’s at 72%.

Left of Centerfield
11 months ago
Reply to  jtrichey

Ben’s article looked at how well the odds work in-season, not during the playoffs. So I’m not sure how relevant it is to this discussion.

jtricheymember
11 months ago

Duh, which is why I said it would be cool to see the same kind of look at single game odds.

sadtrombonemember
11 months ago
Reply to  jtrichey

The thing is, over a longer series forecasts get more accurate. In any one game, it’s harder to predict. I’m not convinced that the single-game odds are working correctly but it’s entirely possible that the same model predicts the playoff odds well.

David Appelmanmember
11 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Our single game odds are completely separate from our playoff model, but they rely on similar things. It will definitely change once the lineup is in. Our playoff odds currently have that game as 65/35.

Left of Centerfield
11 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I tend to agree that 72% sounds high. On the other hand, they went 14-5 (73.7%) against winning teams at home not named the Giants.

(I’m leaving the Giants out of this since I don’t want one team to have an undue influence on the results).

HappyFunBallmember
11 months ago

FG’s odds have the Dodgers as:

63.8% over STL
65.7% over SFG
66.1% over ATL/MIL
60.3% over the AL rep

Multiply that all up and you get 16.7% to repeat the title. Those are all MASSIVE advantages. Most of the other potential matchups are closer to 50/50, unless STL makes a run. The Cards would be significant dogs in every series they make it to.

Lanidrac
11 months ago
Reply to  HappyFunBall

At the very least, there’s no way the Dodgers should have that big of an advantage over the Giants!