Why the Dodgers’ World Series Odds Are So High

With last night’s win, the Dodgers moved into first place by half a game over the Rockies. The clubs are equal in the loss column, and with just 11 games left in the regular season for Los Angeles, their playoff position appears precarious. A glance at our Playoff Odds page, however, might leave you with a different impression. According to the Playoff Odds, the Dodgers have a four-in-five chance of winning the NL West, with Colorado taking the division one in five times. Even in those cases where the Dodgers aren’t projected to take the division, they’re forecast to take a Wild Card spot in half the time. Despite teetering just on the edge of contention, the team has an 89% shot at making the postseason. Nor is that even the weird part: the Dodgers also feature a 17.8% probability of winning the World Series, the highest marks possessed by any team that’s not the Houston Astros.

We could glance at the Dodgers’ number, dismiss it as unreasonably high, and move on with our lives. Alternatively, as my colleague Alex Chamberlain has suggested, we could dig a bit deeper to see what’s going on. Let’s do the latter.

The logic implicit in the Playoff Odds isn’t all that difficult to figure out. The Dodgers are a very talented team with great players, so they would typically be expected to win more games than they lose — and also to win more games than the Rockies. Factor in a series against the Padres and a series against the Giants — while the Rockies play the Phillies and the Nationals — and the disparity between the clubs grows. The Dodgers are going to win a lot of simulated seasons under those circumstances.

That’s how the Dodgers get to the playoffs. In roughly 90% of projected cases they’ve gotten there by way of an NL West win. In the Wild Card scenario, they’re still favored to reach the NLDS. To get a sense of what that looks like, consider this:

The green boxes denote scenarios for which figures are available by way of our Playoff Odds page. Hopefully this make sense so far. Basically, because of their enormous edge in talent plus a favorable schedule, the Dodgers a really good shot at making the Division Series.

Now, let’s add in the next round.

According to our Playoff Odds, the Dodgers are expected to the League Championship Series a majority of the time because they have near-70% chance of winning the Division Series if they get there. That 69.7% figure in the chart above might seem high, but let’s consider the Dodgers’ odds of winning a best-of-five series, likely against the Atlanta Braves. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say the Dodgers have a 60% chance of winning each individual game in a series. The table below shows the odds of the different series results based on that information.

Series Outcomes If Chances of a Win Are 60%
Outcome Odds
3-0 21.6%
3-1 25.9%
3-2 20.7%
2-3 13.8%
1-3 11.5%
0-3 6.4%
Win Series 68.3%
Lose Series 31.7%

That’s just a general look, but it comes really close to the percentages in the visual above and on the Playoff Odds page. Let’s move ahead to the NLCS.

Maybe winning  nearly 70% of the time against a team like the Braves makes sense, but a 65% in the LCS seems pretty high given that the Cubs are near-equals on a talent-level basis and likely to have home-field advantage. The Dodgers would get two Clayton Kershaw games, so that might push the average game probability up a bit. Let’s give the Dodgers a 55% chance of winning every game on average. Here are those expected outcomes.

Series Outcomes If Chances of a Win Are 55%
Outcome Odds
4-0 9.2%
4-1 16.5%
4-2 18.5%
4-3 16.7%
3-4 13.6%
2-4 12.4%
1-4 9.0%
0-4 4.1%
Win Series 60.8%
Lose Series 39.2%

Note that the result here is lower than the 65% chance projected by our Playoff Odds — and this was calculated under the assumption that the Dodgers have a generic 55% chance of winning each game against the Cubs. What if those generic odds are even lower? Doesn’t it seem like the Playoff Odds are once again overly optimistic.

Perhaps. But it’s also necessary to consider those scenarios in which the Dodgers reach the NLCS but don’t face the Cubs. Chicago makes the NLCS 54% of the time according to our odds, but the rest of the time, a team like Milwaukee or St. Louis awaits the Dodgers. In those scenarios, LA has a big advantage. If we go back to our scenario in which the Cubs have a 60% chance of winning each game, the outcomes in a seven-game series are as follow.

Series Outcomes if Chances of a Win are 60%
Outcome Odds
4-0 13.0%
4-1 20.7%
4-2 20.7%
4-3 16.6%
3-4 11.1%
2-4 9.2%
1-4 6.1%
0-4 2.6%
Win Series 71.0%
Lose Series 29.0%

In all of the scenarios where the Dodgers play a club besides the Cubs, Los Angeles will have something like a 70% chance of winning the series. Complementing a series against the Cubs with a series against the not-Cubs, for the sake of calculating the projections, is going to get us pretty close to that 65.2% figure from above. For a team like the Brewers or Cardinals to have only a 29% chance of taking the NLCS might seem very low, but it is far from uncommon. For example, Mookie Betts has stepped up to the plate and made a hit at roughly those odds this season. The Dodgers have better odds, but it is far from a guarantee.

As for the World Series, this is what the chart looks like when we add a potential championship.

The Dodgers are a talented team, but they likely won’t be the favorites in the World Series if they qualify. The Astros, Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees are all likely to beat the Dodgers if the two clubs face off — and the odds reflect that outcome. The Dodgers end up with higher World Series odds than the Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees, though, because they would never have to face two of those teams to win a World Series. Any given American League team, however, would have to beat two of those teams just to get the Series.

There is no Braves team or Brewers club in the AL playoffs to potentially boost the odds of getting to the World Series. The Brewers and Braves have good teams; on paper, though, they don’t come close to those AL teams. As a result, the Dodgers have the highest odds of any team to make the World Series. They might not be favored if they get there, but getting there provides enough of a boost to their overall odds that they end up with the second-highest championship odds in baseball.





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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TomahawkChoppermember
4 years ago

How does winning 70% of their games against the Braves make sense? Going by Baseruns, the Dodgers should have won 60% of their games. Baseruns also says that the Braves should have won 57% of their games, 2nd highest in the National League. Maybe the Dodgers win 70% of their games against the Padres or Marlins, but against another playoff team? Seems way too high. It seem that this is ultimately a result of the projections being too low on some of the young Braves’ players.

Graves
4 years ago

The Dodgers are the better team. If they played the Braves over and over a Thousand times, they would probably win about 600 of those games. They don’t need Kershaw to pitch every game, Kershaw is better than Folty. Rich Hill is better than whoever the Braves throw game two and so forth. Add in the fact that the Dodgers have the superior bullpen and a far superior offense. Start praying that the Braves end up with more reg season wins than the Dodgers because without home field adv you aint got a snowball’s chance in Hell.

TomahawkChoppermember
4 years ago
Reply to  Graves

A 30% chance is more than a snowball’s chance in hell! The Braves only had a 3% chance of making the playoffs before the season started.

ShowTime98
4 years ago
Reply to  Graves

With the way the Dodgers play on the road the Braves having home field would be even worse

Dominikk85member
4 years ago
Reply to  Graves

The dodgers are better than the braves but I doubt they are a 600 team against the braves. Their Pythagorean record has them exactly at 600 but that is against the league (I.e a slightly below 500 team on average).

The braves however are a 560 team themselves meaning the individual game expectation for the dodgers would be 540 according to this matrix
https://sabr.org/research/probabilities-victory-head-head-team-matchups

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  Dominikk85

This, I think, is the key question: Do you think the Braves are actually a .560 team? I have to be honest, I don’t think they’re a .500 team.

BUT

the projections do!

This is what everyone is overlooking in the comments: Depth Charts projects the Braves for exactly a zero-run differential over the rest of the season.

(On the other hand, they’re projecting the Dodgers for +11.)

The projections think the Dodgers are a very, very good team, and the Braves are merely average. This is because Steamer is waaaaay skeptical of anything new. Just because the Braves have a better run differential than that up to this point–that doesn’t matter to the projections so much (at least, not unless it changes the projections of individual players).

I suspect most of you are in my boat–we think the Dodgers aren’t exactly a juggernaut, and that the Braves aren’t just a league-average team. But that’s not how the projections see it.

cartermember
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

You lost me at you don’t think the Braves are a .500 team.

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  carter

No, I think there’s more like a .550 team.

baubo
4 years ago

I don’t know how in-depth fangraphs go with their playoff matchups, but perhaps one reason they skew so heavily towards the Dodgers is due to their depth?

We know and have seen how playoff series are run differently from regular season. And the Dodgers certainly have the feel of a team that can perform above their record, even base runs record, in a high leverage playoff setting.

Dominikk85member
4 years ago
Reply to  baubo

But depth is actually more important in the regular season than in the playoffs, isn’t it?

ianmSC
4 years ago
Reply to  Dominikk85

I don’t think that’s necessarily true…anecdotally, Enrique Hernandez hit 3 HR’s in the NLCS Game 5 clincher, Joc Pederson hit 3 HR’s in the World Series.

The Dodgers in the World Series had an injured Corey Seager hit .220/.290/.370, Bellinger hit .143/.172/.393, Turner hit .160/.323/.360 and Puig hit .148/.179/.370. OPS of .661, .565, .683, .549. Those were arguably the best 4 everyday players on the team last year. The platoon guys, Culberson, Pederson, Ethier, Forsythe, Hernandez had the best results. Their depth wasn’t the problem, extremely poor performance from their good players was the problem.

The Astros had Altuve with a .670 OPS, Bregman .739, Correa .817, Springer 1.471, for comparison.

Lanidrac
4 years ago
Reply to  ianmSC

That’s clearly an exception. Don’t just cherry-pick to try and prove a point.

Antonio Bananasmember
4 years ago
Reply to  Dominikk85

are the Dodgers really deeper? ATL really gets under-projected because their best players can’t rent a car.

adohaj
4 years ago

I agree the dodgers have won 55% of their games against ALL teams. How can they be expected to win at a greater rate against better overall competition makes no sense.

Yirmiyahu
4 years ago

Ignore the Braves. And the Brewers, Cardinals, and Rockies too, for that matter. Reasonable people can disagree as to whether any of those teams are actually good, or simply lucky. But the projections also clearly believe the Dodgers are a far superior team to the Cubs.

NLDS Winning %: Dodgers 69%, Cubs 57%
NLCS Winning %: Dodgers 66%, Cubs 48%
WS Winning %: Dodgers 47%, Cubs 36%

Can someone explain this?

FrodoBeck
4 years ago
Reply to  Yirmiyahu

Starting pitching. The Dodgers rotation is significantly better than the Cubs. And although the Cubs have a great lineup, the Dodgers lineup is arguably better.

stever20member
4 years ago
Reply to  FrodoBeck

is it though?
August starting pitching-
Dodgers #7 3.4 fWAR, 2.53 ERA, 3.32 FIP
Cubs #8 3.4 fWAR, 3.40 ERA, 3.39 FIP

September starting pitching-
Cubs #6 2.0 fWAR, 2.58 ERA, 3.43 FIP
Dodgers #13 1.3 fWAR 3.76 ERA, 3.92 FIP

For starting pitchers:
Since August 1- Dodgers 2.99 ERA/Cubs 3.09 ERA
Since August 1- Cubs 3.40 FIP/Dodgers 3.54 FIP

So while the Dodgers starters may be as good as the Cubs, they’re not THAT much better. Not since Hamels came to the Cubs. The Cubs starters have rebounded nicely.

And the Dodgers do have some questions in the rotation-
1- can Kershaw’s back hold up? He’s thrown a lot of innings here- 93.1 innings pitched since July 1- 3rd most in MLB- only deGrom and Wheeler have thrown more.
2- Will Buehler wear out? He’s at 135 innings going into tonight. Last year he threw 98.
3- Will Rich Hill bounce back? 4 of the last 6 starts he’s given up 4 runs, with a 5th one giving up 3 runs. 5.18 ERA in those 6 starts

Ivdownmember
4 years ago
Reply to  stever20

Do you honestly believe the Dodgers rotation has more question marks than the Cubs? I understand the Cubs rotation has been hot, but all season, the Dodgers are clearly better.
Overall pitching:
Dodgers – 19.1 fWAR 3.44 ERA 3.60 FIP
Cubs – 11.8 fWAR 3.61 ERA 4.14 FIP
Starting pitching:
Dodgers – 15.8 fWAR 3.24 ERA 3.44 FIP
Cubs – 7.9 fWAR 3.84 ERA 4.33 FIP

Talking about the last 2 months doesn’t take into account how awful the rotation was for the first 4 months of the season.

Hendricks – 3.58 ERA 3.85 FIP 2.8 fWAR. He’s not markedly better than anyone in the Dodgers rotation outside of Rich Hill.
Lester – 3.43 ERA 4.40 FIP 1.5 fWAR. He’s not striking guys out and he’s allowing a lot of home runs. This isn’t the 2016 model.
Quintana – 3.95 ERA 4.50 FIP 1.2 fWAR. The Dodgers have 7 starting pitchers better than Quintana and Lester this season.
Montgomery – He’s done a good job filling in for Darvish, nothing too good, however.
Hamels – 1.57 ERA 3.11 FIP 1.3 fWAR. He’s found his old Phillies stuff, apparently. As a Dodger fan I believe he’s currently the Cubs best pitcher, and it’s a bit scary.
Chatwood – 5.16 ERA 5.60 FIP -0.4 fWAR. Straight up awful season.

The only truly good pitcher the Cubs have had has been Hamels, with Hendricks and Montgomery being above average bordering on good.

Going by rate stats, the Dodgers rotation is top 5 in the MLB, with the Cubs being near the bottom 10. With the amount of depth the Dodgers have, they could have any 3 of Ryu, Maeda, Wood, Stripling out of the bullpen for the playoffs. Their rotation has questions, but nothing major.

stever20member
4 years ago
Reply to  Ivdown

Wood just got demoted to the bullpen because he’s not been good. Stripling in his last 10 starts(11 outings) has a 4.09 ERA. Those 2 are major questions and may not even make the post season roster quite frankly….

I’d much rather have a guy like Hendricks who since the all star break has been a top 10 pitcher. For whatever reason, Hendricks is a much better 2nd half pitcher- 1st half he’s got a 3.52 ERA/3.96 FIP for his career. 2nd half he’s a 2.69 ERA/3.12 FIP pitcher for his career. Hamels- same thing- 1st half career 3.59 ERA/3.86 FIP 2nd half career 3.14 ERA/3.41 FIP.

I think we know pretty much what we’re going to get from Hamels and Hendricks. Lester and Quintana less so- BUT they do have 1 advantage vs the Dodgers. They’re lefties.

Oh and you know darn well that Chatwood has zero chance of starting in the playoffs. So not sure why in the hell you would bring him up?

And yes, I do think the Dodgers rotation has quite a few questions. Like it or not, Kershaw is no spring chicken any more. He’s thrown a lot of innings the 2nd half. Buehler has thrown 135 innings so far this year- and as we’ve seen at times- fatigue can hit young guys like a ton of bricks. Hill has faded some the last 6 starts- 5 of 6 being poor starts. If any of those go- going back to a Wood or Stripling is hardly a guarantee.

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  stever20

No, the Dodgers’ rotation is that much better. The Dodgers have two starters that are definitely better than anyone in the Cubs’ rotation (Kershaw, Buehler) and the remainder of the Dodgers’ army of starting pitchers (Hill, Ryu, Wood, Stripling, Maeda) is at the minimum comparable to the Cubs’ starting pitchers (I would say they are better, but I’m willing to acknowledge there are some differences of opinion on that). Of course, Maeda, Wood, and Stripling are going to be converting to relief in the playoffs, meaning that the bullpen is going to be dominant too.

The Dodgers have the better track record over the season and the better projection. When you have those two things, you have to resort to some pretty weird sample start-end dates to prove that the two teams’ rotation are equal.

I think the Dodgers have some pretty serious question marks in their lineup, but the rotation is pretty freaking good. They’re at the same level as the Yankees and Red Sox, although a notch below the Astros/Cleveland.

stever20member
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Kershaw could break down at any point now. Sad but true. He’s thrown a lot of innings these last 3 months and his body isn’t what it used to be….. Buehler is at a point innings wise where he could fatigue out at any point.

Wood just got demoted to the pen he was stinking it up so much. Stripling hasn’t been the same since mid season- he’s thrown more innings this year than ever before. Hill has 1 quality start in the last 6 starts.

The one other thing the Cubs rotation has that hurts the Dodgers is lefties. They have 3 of them. LA 2nd half(so with Machado) 107 wRC+ vs lefties (to 118 vs righties).

They’ve been averaging in these close September games vs playoff contenders 5.3 batters per game off the bench- using both catchers most every game- something they can’t do anywhere near as freely in the playoffs.. They only will have 5 on the roster. So they aren’t going to be able to swiss army knife their way thru teams creating great matchups. They’ll have say
Muncy/Bellinger
Dozier/Utley
Machado
Turner
Puig/Pederson/Kemp/Hernandez/Taylor
then both catchers

no Verdugo or Freese- maybe they keep Freese and take out Dozier or Utley…..

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  stever20

I think you’ve gone to a lot of effort to show this, and while your persistence is admirable, saying “let’s subtract the top two pitchers on the Dodgers to show how it’s an even” isn’t terribly convincing. I don’t think the Dodgers should be favored that heavily against the Cubs because the Cubs have a very good offense and likely the best defense in the major leagues, but pretending that the Dodgers’ rotation is falling apart and the Cubs’ recent hot pitching streak is sustainable flies in the face of both performance to date and forward-facing projections.

stever20member
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

how is a guy like Kendricks who for his career is a much better 2nd half pitcher than 1st half- and he’s done exactly that this year- why should we look at the whole season numbers? He’s done this his entire career.

Also, there’s this small fact that the other 3 pitchers are all lefties, and the Dodgers are no where near as good vs lefties as they are righties. And the Dodgers won’t be able to be anywhere near as liberal with the lineup switches in October as they have been in September.

ianmSC
4 years ago
Reply to  stever20

Hamels sure looked good yesterday! Buehler only had 12 K’s in 6 innings and allowed 3 hits and 0 ER.

Yirmiyahu
4 years ago
Reply to  Yirmiyahu

I’m not asking why you think the Dodgers are vastly better than the Cubs; I’m asking why the projections do. The playoff projections are based on the ZiPS/Steamer projections, which have the two teams as equals. They rank 5th and 6th in projected WAR, a rounded 0.1 WAR apart. Yet, somehow, when those same Depth Chart projections are plugged into the playoff simulation machine, the two teams come out vastly differently. Why?

stever20member
4 years ago
Reply to  Yirmiyahu

I can understand the LDS % chance of winning due to the fact that LA is going to get to face a far easier team in Atlanta than St Louis or MIlwaukee. With St Louis/Milwaukee there’s not going to be a huge penalty for them playing in the wild card game in that they don’t have an ace per se.