Here’s Who’s Going to (Maybe) Win the 2021 World Series

We may have been robbed of tiebreaker madness, but this season’s playoffs still promise to deliver great matchups, with division rivalries, electric starters, potent bats, and a bit of devil magic thrown in for good measure. And though the field boasts a number of dominant teams that seem poised for deep runs, a lot can happen in a short series. That makes it difficult to predict how October will unfold, but 28 of our writers from FanGraphs and RotoGraphs answered the call.

Below are our predictions by league and round, as well as each writer’s complete forecast. Happy playoffs!

American League

Wild Card and Division Series

American League Wild Card
Winner Votes
New York Yankees 17
Boston Red Sox 11

Astros vs. White Sox Division Series
Winner Votes
Chicago White Sox 18
Houston Astros 10

Rays vs. Wild Card Winner Division Series
Winner Votes
Tampa Bay Rays 20
Boston Red Sox 4
New York Yankees 4

Championship Series

AL Championship Series Matchups
Matchup Votes
Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays 14
Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays 6
Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox 3
Chicago White Sox vs. New York Yankees 3
Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees 1
Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox 1

AL Championship Series
Winner Votes
Chicago White Sox 13
Tampa Bay Rays 7
Houston Astros 7
New York Yankees 1

National League

Wild Card and Division Series

National League Wild Card
Winner Votes
Los Angeles Dodgers 23
St. Louis Cardinals 5

Brewers vs. Braves Division Series
Winner Votes
Milwaukee Brewers 26
Atlanta Braves 2

Giants vs. Wild Card Winner Division Series
Winner Votes
San Francisco Giants 14
Los Angeles Dodgers 12
St. Louis Cardinals 2

Championship Series

NL Championship Series Matchups
Matchup Votes
Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Francisco Giants 13
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 11
Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals 2
Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants 1

NL Championship Series
Winner Votes
Milwaukee Brewers 10
Los Angeles Dodgers 9
San Francisco Giants 9

World Series

World Series Matchup
Matchup Votes
Chicago White Sox vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 6
Chicago White Sox vs. Milwaukee Brewers 4
Tampa Bay Rays vs. San Francisco Giants 4
Houston Astros vs. Milwaukee Brewers 4
Chicago White Sox vs. San Francisco Giants 3
Houston Astros vs. San Francisco Giants 2
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Milwaukee Brewers 2
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 1
New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 1

World Series Champion
Winner Votes
Los Angeles Dodgers 6
Chicago White Sox 6
Milwaukee Brewers 4
San Francisco Giants 4
Tampa Bay Rays 4
Houston Astros 4

Complete Writer Predictions

FanGraphs 2021 Staff Playoff Predictions
Writer AL WC HOU/CHW DS TBR/WC DS NL WC MIL/ATL DS SF/WC DS ALCS NLCS WS
Alex Chamberlain NYY CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD CHW LAD CHW
Alex Sonty NYY CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD CHW LAD LAD
Ariel Cohen NYY CHW TBR LAD MIL SFG CHW MIL CHW
Ben Clemens BOS HOU TBR LAD MIL SFG HOU LAD LAD
Brendan Gawlowski BOS HOU BOS LAD MIL SFG HOU SFG HOU
Carmen Ciardiello NYY HOU NYY LAD MIL LAD HOU MIL MIL
Chet Gutwein NYY CHW NYY LAD MIL LAD NYY LAD LAD
Dan Szymborski NYY CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD CHW LAD LAD
David Laurila BOS HOU BOS STL MIL STL HOU MIL HOU
Devan Fink NYY CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD CHW LAD LAD
Dylan Higgins BOS CHW TBR STL MIL SFG TBR SFG TBR
Eric Longenhagen NYY CHW TBR STL MIL STL CHW MIL MIL
Jake Mailhot BOS CHW TBR LAD MIL SFG CHW SFG SFG
Jason Martinez NYY CHW NYY STL MIL SFG CHW MIL CHW
Jay Jaffe BOS HOU TBR LAD MIL LAD TBR MIL TBR
Jeff Zimmerman BOS CHW TBR LAD ATL SFG TBR SFG TBR
Jon Becker BOS CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD CHW LAD CHW
Jon Tayler NYY HOU TBR LAD MIL SFG TBR SFG SFG
Kevin Goldstein NYY HOU TBR LAD MIL SFG TBR SFG SFG
Lucas Kelly NYY CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD TBR LAD LAD
Luke Hooper BOS HOU BOS LAD MIL SFG HOU MIL MIL
Meg Rowley NYY CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD CHW MIL MIL
Mike Podhorzer NYY CHW NYY LAD ATL LAD CHW LAD CHW
Nicklaus Gaut BOS CHW TBR LAD MIL LAD TBR MIL TBR
Owen McGrattan NYY HOU TBR LAD MIL SFG HOU SFG HOU
Paul Sporer NYY HOU TBR LAD MIL SFG HOU MIL HOU
Sara Sanchez BOS CHW BOS LAD MIL SFG CHW SFG SFG
Tess Taruskin NYY CHW TBR STL MIL SFG CHW SFG CHW





Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs and the co-host of Effectively Wild. Prior to joining FanGraphs, her work appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside. You can follow her on twitter @megrowler.

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DLHughey
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DLHughey

Amazed at all the white sox love here. They up against a better team, and have demonstrated that they’re not really good against teams over .500 (.480 record). They got to the playoffs by playing by far the fewest games against winning teams (56 games) because they’re in the worst division in baseball.

Meanwhile, Houston has the best record in the league against teams over .500 (.580), have played way more games against winning teams (77), and have a way better run differential. A short series is a coin flip, but I just don’t see how the sox got such an edge.

Chuck Hildebrandt
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Chuck Hildebrandt

Not only that, but as many writers have the White Sox winning the Series as have the Dodgers winning. Really?

Same with Milwaukee: they got as many writer votes as the Giants.

I mean, I like a good underdog story as much as the next guy, but sounds a bit like wishful writing, perhaps?

JohnThacker
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JohnThacker

Even before talking about the World Series, the 25-2 edge in Milwaukee winning the Divisional Series versus the Braves seems incredibly extreme for two teams with similar run differentials that are both making their four straight postseason appearance (with each having two first round exits and one NLCS 7 game loss in that period.)

sogoodlooking
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sogoodlooking

All it takes is a small but obvious, solid edge, such as a better 1-2-3 rotation, to get near unanimity among a group of voters familiar with the subject matter.

JohnThacker
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JohnThacker

Fair enough, but I’m curious to see what the ZIPS predictions will say, since the traditional Fangraphs odds have it as a coin flip (currently 51% Brewers on the traditional odds, 56.8% Braves on the season-to-date stats.)

DLHughey
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DLHughey

Eh, Milwaukee is uniquely positioned for the postseason given their top tier starting pitching in a short series. Then again, I’ve stopped trying to understand the Giants.

kylerkelton
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kylerkelton

Brewers pitching is great but Braves pitching is low key really good too.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas

ATL is also pitching well as of late.

Smiling Politely
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Smiling Politely

While MIL clearly didn’t put forth much effort in the LAD series, I do wonder if the loss of Williams is going to affect them more than it would another team, given how pitching-reliant they are

natedub
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natedub

Brewers bullpen vs. playoff teams is straight up awful, though: 5.69 ERA, 5.24 FIP, and .334 wOBA allowed. That’s the worst bullpen in the playoffs, by quite a bit. And losing Devin Williams probably won’t help that very much.

The Brewers are going to need to minimize that bullpen usage in the playoffs.

Spahn_and_Sain
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Spahn_and_Sain

The expectation seems to be that the Brewers will switch back to a shorter rotation with Lauer or Houser and maybe even Peralta making appearances in relief as needed (but yeah… Williams is a huge wrench in the plans).

hughduffy
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hughduffy

Woodruff vs. ATL career: 3 G, 3 GS, 2.70 ERA, 20.0 IP, 18 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 HR, 3 BB, 19 SO, 1 HBP. 1 Win, 1 Loss.
Burnes vs. ATL career: 4 G, 1 GS, 18.90 ERA, 6.2 IP, 16 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 5 HR, 4 BB, 9 SO, 1 HBP. 1 Win, 0 Losses.
Peralta vs. ATL career: 4 G, 3 GS, 4.41 ERA, 16.1 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 HR, 12 BB, 19 SO. 2 Wins, 1 Loss.

Woodruff and Peralta both pitched well against Atlanta this year, though the bullpen gave up a lot of runs after they were out of the game.
Burnes allowed his highest earned run total of the season in his one appearance against Atlanta this year and went only 4 innings. For whatever reason, Atlanta seems to have his number.
This is a more even series than it looks at first glance.

v2micca
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v2micca

The Shorter the Series, the more volatile the outcome. I can understand that the Brewers should be the favored team. But given how random the outcome of 5 game series can be, I was a little surprised that the voting was as lopsided as it was.

Wu-Bacca
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Wu-Bacca

“Same with Milwaukee: they got as many writer votes as the Giants.”

I think there are a few reasons for this:

(1) The writers think that the Brewers have an easier path to the NLCS than the Giants, who may have to go through the best team on paper, the Dodgers, to get there. In fact, 18 of 28 writers think the winner of the Dodgers/Giants series will beat the Brewers; it’s just that they’re split between which team will win.

(2) The Brewers’ biggest strength – tremendous frontline pitching – is presumably amplified in a short series.

(3) Milwaukee’s 95 wins probably undersells them. At the start of September only 3 games separated them from the Giants and Dodgers, and their Pythag winning percentage was only 1% lower than San Francisco’s . Then, b/c of their huge divisional lead (10 games over the Reds), the Brewers basically treated the entire month like Spring Training (I saw many of their games down the stretch – trust me, they were mostly playing to avoid injuries), whereas the Dodgers and Giants had to go all-in. IOW, I’m not convinced that there’s much to separate the Brewers from the Giants, but the way the last month shook out makes it seem like there is.

maximus74
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maximus74

yeah i don’t get it either, plus they are guaranteed to have TLR over-manage them out of at least one win at some point

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

No, La Russa is more likely to over-manage them to an extra win at some point. He’s a Hall of Fame manager for good reasons, you know.

kswissreject
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kswissreject

Agreed, even as a White Sox fan. Feel like they’ve been sleepwalking through the season the second half. That said, their starting 9 seems to be healthy and clicking, but the injuries to Rodon and Lynn seemingly still out of sorts def makes me think Houston has the edge, let alone vs Rays and Dodgers. Guess we will see if they really can “turn it on” for the postseason.

joe_schlabotnik
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joe_schlabotnik

its just a goofy little exercise and its every easy to like the white sox, and very easy to dislike the astros. definitely wishful thinking.

Jason B
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Jason B

I mean, I guess you COULD just take the team that’s “supposed” to win every series. That would be quite an entertaining read…

hombremomento
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hombremomento

See the good thing about the Playoffs this season is the Astros don’t have to play any teams that had more losses than wins

descender
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descender

And their best pitcher won’t even be on the mound. It is a little curious.

texag
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texag

I guess my question is: how bad is the AL Central really? The White Sox finished two games worse than the Astros overall but there was no 100 loss team in the Central to gain wins on. The Astros might have a better record versus >.500 teams but they only went 14-14 in their non-White Sox games against the ALC.

I’m not gonna sit here and argue the White Sox are favorites but, on paper, this should be a very competitive series. The White Sox have a better lineup and a better bullpen than most of the regular season matchups and the Astros (most likely) don’t get the benefit of getting to tee off on “Dallas Keuchel SP” at any point. I mean, hell, Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez never even played in any of the games this season. Who knows what impact, if any, that has?

DLHughey
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DLHughey

Let’s put it this way. The Astros played 21 more games vs .500+ teams than the white sox. That’s 38% more games than the sox (77/56) because the sox schedule was so weak. And despite that chunk of playing better teams, the astros somehow have an extra 28% in their run differential (+205/+160). This is one of those things where the close Win/Loss records doesn’t do enough justice as to how much better the Astros are. The astros basically played in a different league than the white sox did this year.

The AL central has 1 team over 500 and is consistently one of the weakest divisions in baseball, either by quantity of sub .500 teams or extremely bad teams. The non-sox AL Central might as well belong in the NPB at this point. Meanwhile, the Astros had to play 38 games vs competitive 86 and 90 win teams in the A’s and Mariners. To do that, finish with a better record, and a massively better run differential is a pretty clear indicator of which team faced better competition.

texag
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texag

That’s amazing that the Astros were able to do all that while Correa, Tucker, and Alvarez missed a combined 200+ games this year. Wait? They didn’t? You’re comparing apples and oranges when looking at season results? Well that can’t be right.

DLHughey
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DLHughey

If you think eloy and Robert completely close that 45 run gap, that’s fine. Doesn’t make up for the huge difference in quality of competition.

natedub
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natedub

What’s more, the Astros scored 48% of all their runs this year against .500-or-better teams. They had a +99 run differential in those games.

The White Sox scored just 30% of their runs in those same games, and had a -18 RD.

The White Sox did this while playing the least amount of innings against winning teams and in the only division without a second .500-or-better team. They had, objectively, the easiest schedule in baseball, and still managed to come up with only the second most wins of any division winner.

I can’t see how anyone would even think that the White Sox would take the Astros, or any playoff team, at this point in a series.

vandy125
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vandy125

Going by the whole season is really not going to work for the White Sox. They’ve only had their top 6 hitters in the lineup at the same time in 10 games this year. Eloy, Robert, and Grandal all missed significant time. Anderson missed a good amount of time as well.

To a lesser extent, players like Engel were gone most of the year. Their starting 2B, Madrigal was out for the year. So, that was a hole for 2 months until they traded for Cesar (still kind of a hole though).

On top of that, they pretty much wrapped the division up way early and were just gliding to the title.

So, season long stats are going to be difficult to use to compare them against anyone.

natedub
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natedub

I saw the Tim Anderson comment on The Athletic yesterday, and it didn’t seem to match what I saw, so I looked closer. There were just two times all season where Anderson went more than 10 calendar days without playing: From April 5th-April 14th (10 days, 8 games); and August 29th to September 14th (17 days, 13 games). And according to your argument, they were so far ahead by that last stretch of games missed that they were “coasting”, so Anderson wasn’t needed. The White Sox played 9 games against .500 teams during those stretches (they went 5-4). Tim Anderson’s injuries didn’t affect those numbers.

I think it’s fair to suggest that adding Robert, Jimenez, and Grandal back into the mix changes things, but we also ignore that the Astros were without key players at times, too, including Alex Bregman, who was out from June 17th through August 24th (68 days, 58 games).

So yes, the White Sox got stronger, but so did the Astros, as did other teams.

texag
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texag

Man, you got me. The Astros scored 48% of their runs in 48% of their games while the White Sox scored 30% of their runs in 33% of their games? That’s crazy!

If you can’t acknowledge the fact that the White Sox are in the playoffs for multiple reasons, I don’t understand why anyone should take your opinion seriously.

natedub
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natedub

“If you can’t acknowledge the fact that the White Sox are in the playoffs for multiple reasons, I don’t understand why anyone should take your opinion seriously.”

They played in the only division without two .500-or-better teams and they played the easiest schedule in baseball.

That’s two significant reasons why they are in the playoffs, and I acknowledged both of them. Sorry that your White Sox aren’t a very good team. Hope they can eke out a win against the Astros. I’m not holding my breath.

Smiling Politely
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Smiling Politely

Agreed–HOU seems underrated, but I wonder if the CHW bullpen carries more water with folks than it does with me (and I get it, even if I think Houston’s offense is too good to matter in the series)

onedude
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onedude

I mean, 4 of the White Sox main 6 were hurt for chunks of the season, 2 for a large majority, one of which has been on fire since coming back. It isn’t the same team that created that stat line LOL. Also I think they’ve only played like 7 games total this season with the main 6 in the lineup

richwp01
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richwp01

White Sox have also only played 10 games with their top 6 hitters in the same lineup, and went 8-2 in those games.

marcotomas
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marcotomas

I think it has to do with the White Sox having the superior bullpen, and slight edge in SP. The Houston offense is better, but not by as much as people think because of the fact that the White Sox dealt with significant injuries to their (arguably) best hitters all year (Grandal, Jimenez, Robert, Anderson, etc.). Keep in mind: when these teams last faced each other, the White Sox were fielding minor league call ups, DHs in the outfield, and batting Brian Goodwin in the middle of the order–which was the case for much of the year. This is a close series, no doubt, but at full strength, it’s also easy to see why baseball writers would pick the Sox.