World Series 2018 Odds: Breaking Down the Chances of All 8 Remaining Teams
There might be no greater fool's errand than trying to predict the MLB postseason.
But that has never stopped us before.
Rather than a round-by-round breakdown, we're going to take a more broad approach and lay down the eight Division Series participants' odds of winning the World Series.
Each team's biggest strengths and weaknesses were highlighted to provide some context to those odds and give a preview of sorts for the month ahead.
Colorado Rockies (91-72, NL Wild Card)
Don't look now, but the Colorado Rockies have themselves a starting rotation.
The starting staff finished the season 18th in the majors with a 4.17 ERA—a marked improvement from the 4.59 ERA it posted a year ago—and there are multiple under-the-radar starters who could become household names before October is over:
- Kyle Freeland: 17-7, 2.85 ERA (164 ERA+), 1.25 WHIP, 173 K, 202.1 IP
- German Marquez: 14-11, 3.77 ERA (124 ERA+), 1.20 WHIP, 230 K, 196.0 IP
- Antonio Senzatela: 6-6, 4.38 ERA (107 ERA+), 1.37 WHIP, 69 K, 90.1 IP
- Jon Gray: 12-9, 5.12 ERA (92 ERA+), 1.35 WHIP, 183 K, 172.1 IP
Freeland should show up on his fair share of Cy Young ballots, while Marquez pitched as well as any starter in baseball down the stretch, going 6-3 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 over his final 13 starts.
As for the offense, it's been dangerous as usual, plating 4.79 runs per game.
Nolan Arenado (133 OPS+, 38 HR, 110 RBI) and Trevor Story (127 OPS+, 37 HR, 108 RBI) both had stellar seasons. Outfielder David Dahl could be the X-factor, as he posted a 1.012 OPS with nine home runs and 27 RBI in September.
Closer Wade Davis led the NL with 43 saves and has ample postseason experience.
While his save total was impressive, Davis ran into some rough patches this season, posting a 4.13 ERA and blowing six saves along the way.
Scott Oberg and Chris Rusin are both quality options, and Adam Ottavino had a terrific season, but he's fallen off down the stretch. All told, the bullpen ranks 20th in the majors with a 4.33 ERA, and they've spent much of the season trying to compensate for disappointing performances from Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw and Mike Dunn.
The offense is also very top-heavy.
If someone like Arenado or Story goes cold, it could be a real issue, and their lineup simply is not as deep on impact bats as some of the other postseason teams.
A lot will have to break right for the Rockies to reach their second World Series in franchise history.
Crazier things have happened, though.
Atlanta Braves (90-72, NL East Champions)
The Atlanta Braves were expected to take a step forward from their 90-loss showing in 2017, but no one expected them to be this good.
The emergence of Mike Foltynewicz as the ace of the staff, consistent performance of Anibal Sanchez after he was plucked from the scrapheap and immediate impact of deadline-addition Kevin Gausman has given them a starting staff capable of standing up to the tough test that is October baseball:
- Mike Foltynewicz: 13-10, 2.85 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 202 K, 183.0 IP
- Anibal Sanchez: 7-6, 2.83 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 135 K, 136.2 IP
- Kevin Gausman: 5-3, 2.87 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 44 K, 59.2 IP
They can turn to Julio Teheran or Sean Newcomb to fill the No. 4 starter slot, while young starters Touki Toussaint and Max Fried will be available for multiple innings out of the bullpen.
At the plate, veterans Freddie Freeman (140 OPS+, 23 HR, 98 RBI) and Nick Markakis (117 OPS+, 14 HR, 93 RBI) have handled the run-production load, while rookie phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. (144 OPS+, 26 HR, 16 SB) is one of the game's most dynamic table-setters.
The Braves finished 10th in the majors and fifth in the NL with 759 runs scored, and they're capable of doing damage at every spot in the lineup.
The addition of Brad Brach and the emergence of rookie Chad Sobotka has helped stabilize a young and largely untested bullpen.
Experience is the clear weakness for the Braves.
Freeman and Teheran are the only players still around from when Atlanta last made the playoffs in 2013, and the roster as a whole is thin on playoff exposure.
That's especially true in the bullpen, where Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter have handled closing duties, and they'll now be tested like never before.
Meanwhile, losing Dansby Swanson to a partially torn ligament in his left hand is a significant blow.
The 24-year-old upped his offensive production this season with an 88 OPS+ and 14 home runs. It's his defense that will really be missed, though, as he tallied 10 DRS and a 5.9 UZR/150 at the shortstop position.
Charlie Culberson, who made some noise last postseason, will fill in during the NLDS and perhaps longer.
Can the Braves overcome their lack of postseason experience and the loss of their starting shortstop?
Cleveland Indians (91-71, AL Central Champions)
The Cleveland Indians are the first team in baseball history to have four pitchers reach the 200-strikeout mark in the same season, and that staff will be the key to their October success:
- Corey Kluber: 20-7, 2.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 222 K, 215.0 IP
- Carlos Carrasco: 17-10, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 231 K, 192.0 IP
- Mike Clevinger: 13-8, 3.02 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 207 K, 200.0 IP
- Trevor Bauer: 12-6, 2.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 221 K, 175.1 IP
They also have rookie Shane Bieber (11-5, 4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 118 K, 114.2 IP), who will move into a bullpen role where he has a chance to be a major weapon.
Offensively, the Indians ranked third in the majors in runs scored (818), sixth in home runs (216) and first in stolen bases (135), as they're capable of doing damage in a number of different ways.
Jose Ramirez (150 OPS+, 38 2B, 39 HR, 105 RBI) had an MVP-caliber season, while Francisco Lindor (131 OPS+, 38 HR, 92 RBI) and Edwin Encarnacion (115 OPS+, 32 HR, 107 RBI) also had strong seasons at the plate.
After missing large chunks of the season to injury, relief ace Andrew Miller and August trade pickup Josh Donaldson are both finally healthy and hungry to make some noise before entering free agency this coming offseason.
A major strength in years past, the bullpen has been the Achilles' heel for the Indians this season. They rank 25th in the majors with a 4.60 bullpen ERA after leading the majors in that category last year.
The departure of Bryan Shaw cost them one of their most consistent setup options, and an injury-plagued season from Miller robbed them of another.
Trading for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber has provided some welcome reinforcement alongside Oliver Perez, Cody Allen and a now-healthy Miller. Still, this is not the lights-out unit we've seen, and they'll be put to the test in October.
Detractors will also point to a 23-31 showing against teams with a winning record and all the wins they racked up playing in the cupcake division that was the AL Central, but this is a battle-tested group capable of flipping the switch in October.
Milwaukee Brewers (96-67, NL Central Champions)
This Milwaukee Brewers team has an awful lot in common with those Kansas City Royals teams that captured back-to-back AL pennants in 2014 and 2015 on the strength of speed, defense and strong relief pitching.
The Brewers led the NL in steals (124), ranked fifth in the majors in bullpen ERA (3.47) and had the fourth-best defensive squad in the game, according to the DEF metric from FanGraphs.
It's the three-headed monster at the back of their bullpen that could be a big factor in October:
- Jeremy Jeffress: 73 G, 15/20 SV, 1.29 ERA, 10.5 K/9
- Josh Hader: 55 G, 12/17 SV, 2.43 ERA, 15.8 K/9
- Corey Knebel: 57 G, 16/19 SV, 3.58 ERA, 14.3 K/8
Those three are by no means the only quality arms available in relief, either. Joakim Soria is a proven late-inning option, lefties Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeno are quality specialists, and rookies Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are both dangerous multi-inning weapons.
And then there's Christian Yelich.
The NL MVP favorite is hitting an absurd .367/.449/.770 with 25 home runs since the All-Star break, and he slugged 10 home runs with 33 RBI in 26 games in September.
Jesus Aguilar (135 OPS+, 35 HR, 108 RBI) has also been a breakout star, and the offense as a whole has plated 4.63 runs per game and finished fourth in the majors with 218 home runs.
This is also the hottest team in baseball, as it went 19-7 with a gaudy plus-67 run differential in September.
It speaks volumes that the Brewers are going with a "bullpen day" for Game 1 of the NLDS and then calling on Jhoulys Chacin on short rest in Game 2.
Chase Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley are the other starting options alongside Chacin, and while it's clear the Brewers will go as far as their bullpen carries them, those starters are going to log innings at some point or the relief corps will be toast before the postseason is over.
Even those aforementioned Royals teams had guys like James Shields, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura to help take pressure off their dynamic relievers.
The Brewers have shown no signs of slowing down over the past month, and their bullpen is built for October success, but those relievers can only be stretched so far.
New York Yankees (100-62, AL Wild Card)
- Andrew McCutchen: 20 HR, 28.5 AB/HR
- Aaron Judge: 27 HR, 15.3 AB/HR
- Aaron Hicks: 27 HR, 17.8 AB/HR
- Giancarlo Stanton: 38 HR, 16.2 AB/HR
- Luke Voit: 15 HR, 10.7 AB/HR
- Didi Gregorius: 27 HR, 18.7 AB/HR
- Miguel Andujar: 27 HR, 21.2 AB/HR
- Gary Sanchez: 18 HR, 17.9 AB/HR
- Gleyber Torres: 24 HR, 18.0 AB/HR
The New York Yankees set an MLB record with 267 home runs this season, and the entire lineup is capable of going deep:
With Judge finally healthy and Voit coming out of nowhere to shore up what had been a black hole at first base, the offense is as good now as it has been all season.
On the pitching side, J.A. Happ (11 GS, 7-0, 2.69 ERA) has been a game-changing addition, as he'll join Wild Card Game winner Luis Severino and 2017 postseason standout Masahiro Tanaka in anchoring the rotation.
Those starters are backed by a bullpen that ranked fourth in the majors with a 3.38 ERA and led all relief units with a staggering 11.4 K/9.
Zach Britton (25 G, 3 SV, 8 HLD, 2.88 ERA) has pitched well since coming over from the Baltimore Orioles, and he joins Chad Green, David Robertson, Jonathan Holder, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman to form an elite relief corps.
The Yankees scored 53.8 percent of their runs this year on balls that left the yard.
The other playoff teams for the sake of comparison: Brewers (50.1 percent), Dodgers (46.4 percent), Rockies (46.2 percent), Indians (45.7 percent), Astros (43.9 percent), Red Sox (43.3 percent), Braves (39.5 percent).
When you live with the home run ball, you can also die with the home run ball. Think an excellent three-point shooting team going cold from deep during March Madness.
It's also hard to look at the rotation of Severino, Happ, Tanaka and CC Sabathia as anything but inferior to the rotations that will be trotted out by the Astros and Indians, while the Red Sox had baseball's best offense and scored 25 more runs during the regular season.
The question becomes, where does that leave the Yankees?
They didn't win 100 games by accident, and they can put a crooked number on the scoreboard at any time, but the Yankees have more boom-or-bust potential than any other contender.
Los Angeles Dodgers (92-71, NL West Champions)
The Dodgers have battled key injuries for much of the season, but the starting rotation has rounded into form in September:
- Clayton Kershaw: 6 GS, 3-0, 3.89 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 31 K, 37.0 IP
- Walker Buehler: 5 GS, 1-1, 1.95 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 42 K, 32.1 IP
- Hyun-Jin Ryu: 5 GS, 3-2, 1.50 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 30 K, 30.0 IP
- Rich Hill: 5 GS, 5-0, 3.90 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 37 K, 30.0 IP
With Buehler pitching like an ace and a healthy Ryu pitching with the added motivation of his upcoming free agency, this staff looks significantly stronger than it did a year ago when Kershaw and Hill were leaned on heavily.
Another player who has gotten healthy and hot at the right time is third baseman Justin Turner.
After playing in just 48 games before the All-Star break and producing a middling .747 OPS, he's hitting .356/.447/.619 over 237 plate appearances in the second half.
The emergence of Dylan Floro (29 G, 1.63 ERA, 10.1 K/9) has been a nice boon to the bullpen, and closer Kenley Jansen converted all five of his save chances with a 1.59 ERA in September after a shaky month of August.
Manager Dave Roberts will continue to employ an extreme platoon approach, and that should help keep guys fresh and provide him with plenty of double-switch and pinch-hitting opportunities late in games. No other team will use its entire 25-man roster to quite the extent that the Dodgers do.
While the Dodgers have a dangerous offense that finished fifth in the majors with 804 runs scored, they strike out a ton, and that's the kind of thing that can be exposed in October.
Only the Chicago White Sox (690) had more whiffs than the 631 recorded by the Dodgers in the second half, and with opposing pitchers dialed in at a different level, that could be a real issue.
Meanwhile, despite a strong finish from Jansen and the breakthrough performance of Floro, the bullpen remains an area of concern.
The Dodgers had 26 blown saves during the regular season—tied for fifth-most in the majors—and they could wind up relying heavily on guys like Floro, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson and Kenta Maeda pitching in a new setup role to get the ball to Jansen.
This is a talented team with the starting pitching and offensive firepower to make a return trip to the World Series. That said, some of the same issues that have done them in during past playoff runs could again rear their ugly heads.
Boston Red Sox (108-54, AL East Champions)
- Mookie Betts: 186 OPS+, 84 XBH (32 HR), 80 RBI, 129 R, 30 SB
- Andrew Benintendi: 123 OPS+, 63 XBH (16 HR), 87 RBI, 103 R, 21 SB
- J.D. Martinez: 173 OPS+, 82 XBH (43 HR), 130 RBI, 111 R
- Xander Bogaerts: 135 OPS+, 71 XBH (23 HR), 103 RBI, 72 R
The Boston Red Sox offense has been a juggernaut all season.
They led the majors in runs scored (876), batting average (.268) and OPS (.792), while also climbing from 27th (168) to ninth (208) in home runs.
While there has been some shuffling of the batting order throughout the season, the four guys who have settled into the top spots have all enjoyed excellent seasons:
Adding Martinez has transformed a lineup that sorely missed David Ortiz last season, and with Betts likely headed for AL MVP honors, they have two of the baseball's best offensive players anchoring their attack.
On the pitching side, a return to front-line form from David Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA, 177 K) is also a major plus. He pitched well in a relief role last October, but he can make a much bigger impact as the No. 2 starter behind Chris Sale.
And while the bullpen has gone through some ups and downs, if they can carry a lead into the ninth inning, Craig Kimbrel is still one of the best in the business at slamming the door.
As mentioned, getting the ball to Kimbrel has been something of a balancing act.
Veterans Joe Kelly (30 G, 4.50 ERA, 1.65 WHIP), Heath Hembree (26 G, 5.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) and Matt Barnes (21 G, 6.41 ERA, 1.63 WHIP) have all struggled since the All-Star break, leaving unheralded rookie Ryan Brasier as the team's most reliable setup option.
The starting rotation is also a question mark.
Chris Sale saw a significant dip in his velocity after returning from a stint on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, and the Red Sox can't afford to have their ace at anything but 100 percent.
Meanwhile, the back of the staff behind Sale and Price will consist of Rick Porcello (17-7, 4.28 ERA) and either Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 3.82 ERA) or Nathan Eovaldi (6-7, 3.81 ERA). All three pitchers are capable of pitching well, but the rotation as a whole doesn't compare to that of the Astros or Indians.
Simply trying to out-slug your opponents is often a recipe for disaster in October. If any offense is capable of doing it, though, it's Boston's stacked group.
Houston Astros (103-59, AL West Champions)
The biggest strength for the Houston Astros—and the reason they are the favorites—is a starting rotation that was the best in baseball during the regular season.
Their starting staff led the majors in quality starts (105), ERA (3.16), strikeouts (1,101) and opponents' batting average (.219), and it will line up as follows for the postseason:
- Justin Verlander: 16-9, 2.52 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 290 K, 214.0 IP
- Gerrit Cole: 15-5, 2.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 276 K, 200.1 IP
- Dallas Keuchel: 12-11, 3.74 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 153 K, 204.2 IP
- Charlie Morton: 15-3, 3.13 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 201 K, 167.0 IP
If that group pitches like it has all season, the Astros could very well be hoisting the trophy again when the World Series wraps.
The bullpen has become a strength as well, with trade acquisitions Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly shoring up the late innings. After leaning on starters Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton in key relief spots last postseason, the Astros should be able to take a more traditional approach to closing out games this time around.
All told, the relief corps led the majors in ERA (3.03) and WHIP (1.06), with former starter Collin McHugh (58 G, 1.99 ERA, 11.7 K/9) among the standouts as he adjusted to a multi-inning relief role.
While the Astros finished the season sixth in the majors in runs scored (797, 4.92 RPG), they were just 16th in that category after the All-Star break (297, 4.71 RPG).
Alex Bregman had a breakout season and Jose Altuve was his usual productive self, but no one else in the everyday lineup had an OPS over .800 and the team fell from second (238) to 10th (205) in home runs.
Carlos Correa, in particular, has struggled since returning to the lineup in early August. After missing more than a month with a back injury, he's hit just .180/.261/.256 with two home runs in 153 plate appearances over 37 games.
This is still a dangerous offense with a lot of the same pieces from a year ago. It just hasn't been as dynamic as that group.