Why the Dodgers’ World Series Odds Are So High by Craig Edwards September 18, 2018 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.