Buying or Selling Every MLB Postseason Contender's World Series Odds
The 2022 MLB postseason is so close we can almost taste it, and we are preparing for these final three-plus weeks of the regular season with one more buying/selling exercise on World Series odds.
Just to reiterate, we are buying or selling each team's World Series odds. Selling the New York Mets at +550 (bet $100 to win $550) while tentatively buying the Minnesota Twins at +20000 doesn't mean we would pick the Twins to beat the Mets. Rather, it just means the latter's betting value is more tantalizing.
Projected seeding/path plays a key role in the buy/sell decisions.
The No. 5 seed in the National League likely needs to go through Atlanta, Los Angeles and the New York Mets just to reach the World Series, while the No. 6 seed in the American League has a more favorable road of facing the AL Central champion, the cold New York Yankees and, well, a very good Houston Astros team in the ALCS. And because the primary candidates for those respective seeds have similar World Series odds, the AL ones are buys and the NL ones are sells.
Teams are listed in ascending order of World Series odds. Odds, records and statistics current through the start of play on Sunday, Sept. 11, unless otherwise noted. Odds courtesy of DraftKings.
Buy or Sell: Sell, Sell, Sell
Even at a "Bet $5 to win $1000" multiplier of a line, this is a hard pass for me, because Baltimore's odds of even making the playoffs are slim to none.
The O's do still have six head-to-head games remaining against one of the teams they are trying to catch for the AL's No. 6 seed (Toronto), but they're already 5.0 games back and also have seven games left against the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. It's just not happening.
If they did manage to sneak into the field, though...
Nope, still wouldn't bet on them.
All due respect to what has been a way better season in Baltimore than anyone expected, but a starting rotation led by Jordan Lyles, Tyler Wells, Dean Kremer and Austin Voth isn't winning four consecutive series against superior competition. Maybe they squeak by the AL Central champ in the wild-card round, but they aren't taking three out of five from the Yankees, nor four of seven from the Astros.
Holler back when it's time to start talking way-too-early 2023 World Series odds, though. There's plenty of pop in that young lineup, and John Means (Tommy John surgery in mid-May) could be back on the mound for Opening Day. If the O's make just one big or two semi-big splashes in the "free-agent starting pitchers" pool, I'm going to be perilously high on this team next spring.
Buy or Sell: Buy in Moderation
Listen, don't put a mortgage payment on the Twins winning the 2022 World Series. It's extremely unlikely to happen, as is reflected in the line.
But it's disrespectful that Minnesota is this far behind both Cleveland (+5500) and Chicago (+7000) when the AL Central is still somewhat of a crapshoot, right?
Part of the problem is that the Twins are a walking hospital bed. Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Tyler Mahle and several other key players are currently on the injured list, making it tougher to believe they can win the division.
But if they can pull it off (against what is a pretty favorable remaining schedule) and Buxton and Co. are healthy in October, you're going to wish you had a 200-1 ticket on this team winning it all.
The starting rotation is plenty competent. The bullpen has been better since the trade deadline with Jorge López and Michael Fulmer now in the mix. And Minnesota's lineup (assuming a healthy Buxton and Polanco) is better than most outside of the Twin Cities probably realize.
They can win a best-of-three series at home against a Toronto or Seattle. They can take three out of five from a Yankees team that has been stumbling to the finish line for two months now. And from there, anything's possible.
Buy or Sell: Sell, but ask me again in 10 days
Milwaukee is only 2.0 games back for the NL's final wild-card spot, but it is about to embark upon a potential death sentence of an eight-game stretch: two at St. Louis; three vs. Yankees; three vs. Mets.
If the Brewers still have a realistic playoff pulse on the morning of Sept. 22 and they still have World Series odds of +7500, I will be flip-flopping to a "Buy." Eleven of their final 13 games are against the Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks, with a two-game set at home against the St. Louis Cardinals as the outlier in a season-ending cakewalk. They could go 10-3 or better down the stretch.
By that point, they might be too far gone for it to matter.
But if they sneak in, the Brewers have the type of team that could get hot and go on a tear in October.
Milwaukee does not hit for average worth a darn, but only Atlanta and the New York Yankees have hit more home runs this season than Milwaukee's 193. And that power comes from all over the lineup with nine players boasting at least 11 home runs, so it can strike at any time.
As far as the pitching goes, the Brew Crew has a strong first three in Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and (if he's healthy) Freddy Peralta, as well as one of the best relievers in the majors in Devin Williams. The rest of the staff is pretty hit or miss, but if you've got three solid starters, a lights-out closer and a lineup that can get into a homer-happy groove, you can go places even with unimpressive middle relief.
Chicago White Sox
Buy or Sell: Neither, but leaning Buy
This is the last of the "if they can even play their way into the postseason field" teams, so let's address that hurdle first.
The Chicago White Sox are 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Guardians in the AL Central with four critical head-to-head games remaining. They'll also close out the regular season with six games against the Minnesota Twins and three against the San Diego Padres. They do have six left against the Detroit Tigers and two at home against the Colorado Rockies, but there are a lot of matchups still to come against teams trying to either get into or stay in the playoff picture.
As far as overall difficulty of remaining schedule is concerned, though, Chicago, Cleveland and Minnesota are pretty much on equal footing. It should boil down to who fares best in the head-to-head games. But it's really starting to feel like Chicago is destined to narrowly miss out on winning this division, as it has been between 1.0-6.5 games back at the end of every single day dating back to April 21.
However, if the White Sox can get that No. 3 seed, it's worth noting the pitching duo of Dylan Cease and Lance Lynn has been as good as any in the majors since the All-Star break, and with Johnny Cueto playing one heck of a third fiddle. And speaking of second-half stars, Eloy Jiménez is triple-slashing .363/.433/.592 with 10 home runs since the Midsummer Classic. The way he's seeing the ball lately, he could have a postseason run on par with what Randy Arozarena did for Tampa Bay in 2020.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Let's be honest: The best way to approach the Chicago/Cleveland/Minnesota situation is probably to turn it into an "AL Central champion to win the World Series" prop bet.
If you place 48.4 percent of your bet on Cleveland at +5500, 38.2 percent on Chicago at +7000 and 13.4 percent on Minnesota at +20000, you're essentially getting +2600 odds on whomever wins the AL Central. And that's not bad when you consider Seattle and Tampa Bay in that same vicinity and the AL Central champion is likely going to be hosting one of those teams for the best-of-three wild-card round.
But if you'd rather just place a full bet on one of the three teams, surely Cleveland is the way to go.
Not only are the Guardians the most likely to win the division, but they have one of the best defenses (certainly in the outfield) in the majors, one of the best closers in baseball (Emmanuel Clase), a great starting pitching one-two punch in Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie, as well as a batting core of José Ramírez, Andrés Giménez, Josh Naylor and Oscar González that is capable of doing legitimate damage.
Of the teams still in the hunt for the postseason, Cleveland has been the lowest-scoring over the course of the entire season—in large part because they've prioritized defense over offense in regard to Myles Straw in center and Austin Hedges behind the plate. But they're just barely behind both Tampa Bay and Seattle in total runs scored and not that far behind the likes of Chicago, Minnesota, Houston, San Diego and Milwaukee. It's certainly not a disqualifying data point for what is a potentially dangerous team.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Say goodbye to your "might not actually make the playoffs" bonus multiplier.
That isn't to say the Philadelphia Phillies are a lock for October, but with a 3.5-game cushion over Milwaukee for the final wild-card spot and an insurmountable gap to catch the Atlanta/New York runner-up for the No. 4 seed, it does seem to just be a question of the order in which Philadelphia and San Diego secure the NL's No. 5 and No. 6 seeds.
Compared to the World Series odds that teams like Cleveland and Milwaukee are getting, Philadelphia's line reflects that reality.
And at +3000 with the possibility of needing to go through Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York just to reach the World Series, the Phillies just aren't a tempting pick.
With Bryce Harper back and with the expectation being that Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin and Seranthony Domínguez will be back soon, at least they're in good shape as far as health is concerned. And with Edmundo Sosa and Nick Maton each boasting an OPS north of 1.000 while on this roster, they have some red-hot, intriguing utility/pinch-hitting options.
But while Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York have the luxury of almost too much good pitching, Philadelphia's pitching situation is just OK on the whole. Neither Wheeler nor Aaron Nola has been on his "A" game since the All-Star break, but at least they've been better than Kyle Gibson and Noah Syndergaard. And though the relief pitching has been better over the past month or so than it was early in the year, you'd be hard-pressed to find any Phillies fan who trusts anyone other than Domínguez out of the bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays
Buy or Sell: Buy, Buy, Buy
It's worth noting that Tampa Bay isn't a lock for the postseason just yet. The Rays have a super challenging remaining schedule which could leave the door open for Baltimore or even the AL Central runner-up to sneak into the field.
For starters, 14 of their final 24 games are on the road, where they have a 31-35 record on the season. It'd be one thing if those were road games against Oakland, Detroit and Kansas City, but it's five at Toronto this week and then three each at Cleveland, Houston and Boston to close out the regular season.
Even in the 10-game homestand in between, they have three against Houston and four more against Toronto. (The other three against Texas should at least be a bit of a respite.)
Assuming Tampa Bay ultimately secures one of the wild-card spots, though, +2800 odds on this finally somewhat healthy team is beyond enticing.
Oh, there's still plenty of talent on the IL. Ace pitcher Shane McClanahan should be back this week, and there's been talk of Tyler Glasnow maybe coming back in a relief capacity soon, but Kevin Kiermaier, Mike Zunino, Shane Baz and others are likely out for the year.
But to see Wander Franco, Manuel Margot, Harold Ramírez and Brandon Lowe all out there together for a change has been an exciting development. Pair that full-capacity lineup with a great bullpen and a starting rotation where three pitchers have a sub-2.60 ERA and you've got a real contender.
Since August 12, Tampa Bay has gone 20-6 and sure looks like the best team in the AL.
San Diego Padres
Buy or Sell: Sell
See: Philadelphia Phillies.
The Padres are in great position for either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the National League. While that's a whole lot better than being firmly on the outside looking in, the path to what would be their first World Series title in franchise history is a brutal one.
And they aren't exactly surging to the finish line.
The other five projected playoff teams in the NL are each at least seven games over .500 since August 3. But San Diego has gone 16-17 in its last 33 games, and with a minus-one run differential to boot.
Simply put, the team that we all hailed as the biggest winner of the trade deadline has not gotten much of anything from its new acquisitions.
Heading into play on Saturday, Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury were a combined 68-of-322 (.211 AVG) with 11 home runs since joining the Padres, not to mention Josh Hader's 13.50 ERA through his first 11 appearances in San Diego.
Throw in Joe Musgrove, Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea all struggling through their trips to the mound over the past month and I'm not even sure I would take San Diego at +7500 right now, let alone +2500.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Can we just pause for a moment to appreciate the fact that the Seattle Mariners—who haven't made the playoffs since 2001 and who are currently in line for the AL's No. 6 seed—have the eighth-best odds of winning it all?
And that as far as FanGraphs and Baseball Reference are concerned, this is one of the most undervalued lines on the board?
On Sunday morning, FanGraphs was giving Seattle a 4.1 percent chance of winning the World Series. Baseball Reference was slightly more optimistic at 4.6 percent. Let's split the difference and call it 4.35 percent, which is better than the 3.85 percent implied odds you're getting on a +2500 line.
It's not quite as much of an advantage as you're getting with Atlanta (actual: +750, "should" be: +655) or Tampa Bay (actual: +2800, "should" be: +2050) right now, but Seattle at +2500 when the projections say +2200 makes this a Buy.
And, you know, there's plenty of reason to like Seattle beyond what the nerdy algorithms say.
The M's have 12 pitchers who have logged at least 43 innings this season, and all 12 have a sub-4.00 ERA. (That doesn't include Matthew Boyd, who has gone four hitless/scoreless innings since arriving in Seattle at the trade deadline and who could be a real X-factor out of the bullpen.) That means no weak links to avoid while banking on Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert to do the heavy lifting.
And though their hitters have the second-worst batting average in the majors since the All-Star break, there's no shortage of pop in these bats with Julio Rodríguez, Eugenio Suárez and Cal Raleigh leading the way, plus Mitch Haniger looking good since his return from more than three months on the IL.
St. Louis Cardinals
Buy or Sell: Buy
On the surface, this is a fair, "just stay away" line for one of the hottest teams in the majors.
Dating back to July 31, St. Louis has gone 29-10, including a three-game sweep of the Yankees. During that time, they went from 4.0 games back in the NL Central to 8.0 games ahead of the Brewers.
For the most part, the Cardinals have fattened up their record against non-playoff teams.
They did sweep the Padres in St. Louis at the end of May, but against the NL's other four projected playoff teams, the Cards are a combined 10-15 with a negative-30 run differential. And just to be clear, that's not a "got destroyed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and held up well against Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia" situation. Against each of those four teams, St. Louis has a losing record and a negative run differential.
Here's the thing, though: Aside from taking two out of three at home against Atlanta in mid-August, all of those games came before the trade deadline, when the Cardinals rotation was "Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright and pray for rain, right?"
Sure, they've benefited from a favorable schedule over the past six weeks, but they've also benefited from acquiring Jordan Montgomery (1.45 ERA) and José Quintana (3.15 ERA) and getting Jack Flaherty back from the IL. At this point, they have a legitimate five-man arsenal to go along with their lights-out closer (Ryan Helsley has a 1.12 ERA) and the current top two candidates for NL MVP (Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado).
I'm not saying St. Louis should have odds on par with the Dodgers, Mets and Braves as the NL favorites, but there's no way the Cardinals should be this far behind that trio.
Toronto Blue Jays
Buy or Sell: Sell
Since opening the year as one of the top candidates to win the AL, Toronto's line has never quite adjusted to reflect this team's actual level of production.
That isn't to say the Blue Jays are incapable of winning the World Series. They have seven legitimate home run threats, a strong top three of the rotation (Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and Ross Stripling) and a mighty fine back of the bullpen anchored by Jordan Romano and Anthony Bass.
But there's no good reason for this team to be at +1300 when St. Louis, Seattle and Tampa Bay are all hovering in the +2200 to +2800 range.
Even if you wanted to say Toronto has 50-50 odds of winning each of its four series—a generous proposition, considering it's unlikely they'll have home-field advantage in any of their series—that would still only be +1500.
Putting a team at +1300 implies slightly better than coin-flip odds the whole way through, and that is hard to justify when we may well be headed for an ALDS in which—after using Manoah and Gausman to survive the wild-card round in Tampa Bay or Seattle—Toronto has to hope for the best in a best-of-five series that starts out in Houston with Stripling vs. Justin Verlander and José Berríos vs. Framber Valdez.
Granted, there is still the possibility that Toronto runs rampant through its 12 remaining games against the Rays (nine) and the Yankees (three) and surges into an AL East crown. If that happens and they don't have to play in the wild-card round, get home-field advantage in the ALDS and don't need to worry about Houston until the ALCS, +1300 becomes a way better investment.
If you're banking on that, though, might as well just bet on Toronto at +900 to win the AL East and go find a more reasonable World Series bet.
Buy or Sell: Buy
This is the best bang for your buck on the board, and it's because the NL East is still completely up in the air with Atlanta entering play on Sunday just half a game behind New York.
If Atlanta ends up losing the NL East and gets slotted as the No. 4 seed, this line will probably inflate to +1000 or higher. As the No. 4, it would need to host a best-of-three series against either the Padres or Phillies before engaging in a best-of-five series against the Dodgers—in which Los Angeles is well-rested and has home-field advantage.
That's a tough ask, and a massive difference from the alternative of winning the NL East, getting a bye through the wild-card round and getting home-field advantage against either the Cardinals or the NL's No. 6 seed in the NLDS.
If Atlanta goes that route, its World Series odds should shrink to +500 or shorter.
To put it lightly, the New York-Atlanta showdown in the ATL over the final weekend of the regular season looms large.
But even with that No. 4 seed route on the table, Atlanta is clearly a Buy.
Starting pitchers Max Fried and Spencer Strider have been spectacular, especially since the All-Star break. Kyle Wright is also rock-solid. Charlie Morton has rallied quite well since a rough start to the year, boasting a 3.03 ERA and 11.2 K/9 over his last 15 starts. And best of luck trying to score against this bullpen, where the addition of Raisel Iglesias (0.57 ERA with Atlanta) at the trade deadline has further bolstered an already great unit.
And with Ozzie Albies likely to return soon from a three-month stint on the IL, one of the best top-to-bottom lineups figures to get even better as we enter the home stretch. Left field remains a permanent question mark for Atlanta, but they've been working on getting both Vaughn Grissom and William Contreras some outfield work so that all the top bats can remain in the lineup upon Albies' return.
New York Yankees
Buy or Sell: Sell
I mean, you've seen the Yankees play recently, right?
The Aaron Judge home run watch has been an inescapable phenomenon. But while he has been chasing slugging history, New York has gone 23-33 over its last 56 games dating back to July 8.
During that same time, 10 of the other 11 projected postseason teams have won at least 32 games, with 28-27 San Diego as the lone exception to that rule.
Worse yet, of those 56 games, New York has played 27 against teams currently in position to make the playoffs, going 8-19 in those contests.
Aside from winning both legs of a two-game home series against the Mets in late August, the Yankees have not won a series against a postseason team since taking two out of three from Cleveland over Fourth of July weekend.
New York is still in great shape for a first-round bye and has the second-best run differential in the majors, but that 61-23 start to the year with a plus-187 run differential sure feels like ancient history.
Put the Yankees at +1000 and maybe we'll talk. But it's hard to imagine anyone is actually betting on this team at +550 given its performance over the past two-plus months.
New York Mets
Buy or Sell: Sell
If you're betting on either New York team at +550, backing the Mets makes more sense than backing the Yankees. At least NY's NL squad has looked the part of a contender since the All-Star break.
But with the NL East still up for grabs, one of the Mets' best hitters (Starling Marte) recently hitting the IL with a fractured finger and one of their best pitchers (Max Scherzer) back on the IL with a left side injury for a second time, a +550 line is tough to stomach.
As previously mentioned with Atlanta, the difference between getting the No. 2 seed for winning the NL East and settling for the No. 4 seed as the NL East runner-up is enormous. And it's perhaps an even bigger deal for New York than it is for Atlanta, because having Jacob deGrom and Scherzer (if healthy) for Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS against St. Louis is exponentially preferable to using those two aces in the wild-card round before figuring things out on the fly against the Dodgers.
Moreover, if the Mets get the No. 2 seed, they only need to deal with one of Atlanta and Los Angeles—or possibly zero if the No. 5 seed pulls off back-to-back upsets.
Really, I just wish I could bet on "NL No. 2 seed" at something like +430. That would be more enticing than betting on New York at +550.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Houston is pretty well locked into the AL's No. 1 seed, already 5.5 games ahead of the Yankees with seven games against Detroit and Oakland this week to create even more of a cushion.
And with New York playing as poorly as it has lately, the Astros are the clear favorite to represent the AL in the World Series.
It's not exactly even odds, but +175 on Houston to win the pennant is another favorable line to consider. It should arguably be closer to +150, with Houston's World Series odds then in the +350 to +375 range.
If you're afraid to back the Astros until seeing how Justin Verlander looks when he returns from more than two weeks on the IL with a calf injury, that's understandable. Houston does have an impressive rotation even with JV out, but that's a huge variable when trying to decide whether +425 (implied 19.0 percent chance of winning it all) is a good investment.
It sounds like Verlander should be back soon, though, at which point it's hard to find any faults in this roster.
Trey Mancini (.200 batting average in Houston) hasn't made the impact the Astros were hoping for, which does leave a bit of a question mark in left field. But left-handed reliever Will Smith (2.63 ERA) has been a huge addition, as was having Lance McCullers Jr. make his season debut in mid-August, making five starts with a 2.20 ERA since then.
Houston was already doggone good in the first half of the season, but it legitimately might be the betting favorite by the time the postseason begins—considering the Dodgers' projected path to the World Series (red-hot Mets and Braves) is much tougher than Houston's (Rays/Mariners and ice-cold Yankees).
Los Angeles Dodgers
Buy or Sell: Buy
The dream of a record-setting 117-win season is effectively dead after a recent string of five losses in nine games. The Dodgers would need to go 22-2 the rest of the way to pull it off, and that just isn't realistic, even for what has been the best team in the majors.
But this is still the team to beat for the World Series, and there's a surprising amount of value to be found in this favorite's odds.
Baseball Reference gives the Dodgers a 26.2 percent chance of winning the World Series, while FiveThirtyEight is all the way up at 34 percent. FanGraphs (17 percent) isn't nearly that in love with Los Angeles, but average those three projections together and you've got a consensus of 25.7 percent.
Well, at +370, the Dodgers' implied chance of winning the World Series is just 21.3 percent. For 25.7 percent, they should be at +290.
And doesn't 25.7 percent even feel too low here?
Giving the Dodgers 50-50 odds would be a bit much, considering anything can happen in a five-game or seven-game series. However, the Dodgers are closing in on the best run differential in over eight decades. They are currently at plus-301 with only the 1998 Yankees (plus-309) standing between Los Angeles and the biggest differential since the 1939 Yankees finished plus-411.
Big whoop, right? Who cares about regular season run differential?
Glad you asked. The last five teams to post a run differential north of 307 (All Yankees teams in 1927, 1936, 1937, 1939 and 1998) each won the World Series. Granted, the '98 team was the only one that needed to win multiple postseason series, but those five iterations of the Yankees went a combined 27-5 in the playoffs, carrying that regular-season dominance through to when it mattered most.
Other teams could win it all, but this runaway freight train should get the job done. Might want to jump on +370 before it shrinks even further.
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