The Playoff Odds, Now That We’re There

The postseason begins tomorrow, and we have our 10 contenders for the crown: Anaheim, Detroit, Baltimore, Oakland, and Kansas City in the AL, and Los Angeles, St. Louis, Washington, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco in the NL.

Two of these teams will be eliminated by the end of the day on Wednesday. Let’s take a look at the early odds for the Wild Card games, based on our depth charts model and the season-to-date stats model.

The depth chart results are based on the ZIPS/Steamer forecasts, so multiple years of data are being taken into account, rather than just what a team did in 2014. Based on those calculations, the model sees the A’s as 53% favorites to win the AL Wild Card game, even though the game is in Kansas City. While the Royals finished with the better record, the forecasts believe the A’s are the better team, and the gap is large enough to overcome the Royals home field advantage.

The gap gets even bigger in the season to date stats mode. That model gives the A’s a 58% chance to win, as rather than using projected data, it’s based on an algorithm that puts significant weight on a team’s run differential, and the A’s finished with the best run differential in baseball. Of course, run differential can include the effects of timing as well, and the A’s don’t slightly lower by BaseRuns, where they finished with the third best mark in baseball, behind the Angels and Nationals.

The A’s/Royals match-up is interesting for a number of reasons, and the difference in performance for wins versus expected wins is one of the more notable story lines. The A’s underperformed their BaseRuns expected total by seven wins; the Royals overperformed their expectation by eight wins. The Wild Card game matches up the team with the largest positive differential against the team with the second largest negative differential, and all of our playoff models are going to put more emphasis on the underlying performances rather than win-loss totals. Thus, the A’s grade out as slight favorites on Tuesday, even given their recent struggles and the fact that they are on the road.

Over in the NL, the Pirates are 52/48 favorites by both models. Given that they are probably a slightly better team than SF (more wins, better run differential, better BaseRuns expected record) and have home field advantage, this seems like a small margin, but the Bumgarner/Volquez even things up a bit. The Giants have a clear advantage with the first guy on the mound, and the game might very well be decided by how quickly Clint Hurdle gets into his bullpen.

But realistically, both of these games are too close to call. 52/48 or 53/47 isn’t really much of an advantage, and all four teams have a very good shot at advancing to the division series. So let’s look at the overall odds of each team winning the World Series, as of now. First, the depth chart forecasts.

Team WS
Nationals 20%
Tigers 19%
Dodgers 14%
Angels 11%
Cardinals 9%
Athletics 8%
Orioles 8%
Royals 5%
Pirates 4%
Giants 3%

The forecasts give a slight edge to Washington as the favorites, with the Tigers coming in just behind them as the most likely champion out of the AL. The Angels certainly have built a strong case for themselves as well, and the Dodgers are expected to give the Nationals their best run for their money in the NL. Not surprisingly, the wild card teams mostly have the worst odds, except for the A’s, who the forecasts still like a lot despite their second half troubles.

Don’t like forecasts, and prefer to use the season-to-date numbers? Then things change quite a bit.

Team WS
Nationals 18%
Orioles 17%
Angels 16%
Dodgers 14%
Athletics 9%
Tigers 8%
Cardinals 6%
Pirates 5%
Giants 4%
Royals 4%

Washington is still the favorite, but the Orioles jump to the top of the AL heap, and the Tigers fall down below three other AL teams. The Angels and Dodgers both get small boosts, but Baltimore gets by far the largest bump by using 2014 numbers only. If you think teams should be evaluated solely by what they did this year, then this is the playoff odds model for you, though I think we know more about players like Justin Verlander and Steve Pearce than just what their current numbers suggest, and think the depth chart model is probably a better predictor of future performance.

The interesting thing about the 2014 season is that we don’t really have juggernauts. The Nationals are the closest thing we have to a consensus favorite, but in both models, they’re only slight favorites over the #2 team, and it certainly won’t be any huge shock if they don’t win it all. While the Wild Card teams certainly have the hardest roads to a championship parade, each of these 10 teams have a real shot at this thing.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

84 Comments
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GnomeWerth
9 years ago

Queue the Orioles fans crying about lack of respect…

GnomeWerth
9 years ago
Reply to  GnomeWerth

Cue even…

TheSunny1
9 years ago
Reply to  GnomeWerth

Cue the queue

Jason B
9 years ago
Reply to  TheSunny1

Curly queue?

No English
9 years ago
Reply to  TheSunny1

Que?

derp
9 years ago
Reply to  GnomeWerth

Yeah fans that complain are the worst! We should talk about them more….

LaLoosh
9 years ago
Reply to  GnomeWerth

sure, only the Nats deserve respect for their season. gotcha.

Los
9 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

You’re right. This is all BS. I think the only fair way to do this is to give each team in the division series at least a 20% chance on winning the world series and then the wild card teams about 10%.

Casey B
9 years ago
Reply to  GnomeWerth

Even the Astros and the Rangers won a few games against good teams this year. The SSS of the playoffs means these alleged odds are about as predictive as a ouija board.

Jason B
9 years ago
Reply to  Casey B

“Alleged” odds…sick burn bro/ma’am. You sure put these forecasting models in their places.

ps2014
9 years ago
Reply to  GnomeWerth

If you’re gonna insult people, maybe work on the spelling.

TM14
9 years ago
Reply to  ps2014

Queue can work in this context. As in, ‘line them up to complain’, as opposed to ‘hear them complain in 3, 2, 1…’

hookstrapped
9 years ago
Reply to  TM14

What are the odds that that’s what he meant?

Los
9 years ago
Reply to  TM14

I calculated them to be at 14.7154282190816690635110471% but there may be some rounding error in there.

Dungeon Master Dayton Moore
9 years ago
Reply to  TM14

SSS, it’s hard to say