MLB World Series 2021 Odds: Breaking Down the Chances of All 8 Teams

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 7, 2021

MLB World Series 2021 Odds: Breaking Down the Chances of All 8 Teams

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    Are the 100-win Rays even the favorites in the American League?
    Are the 100-win Rays even the favorites in the American League?David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    With the American and National League Wild Card Games over and done with, what had been a 10-team field for the 2021 Major League Baseball postseason is down to eight.

    So, let's take a look at the latest World Series odds for each club and break down their chances of living up to them.

    For this, the easy part was pulling odds from the DraftKings Sportsbook. As for whether these odds are justified, well, that was our gateway to the less easy part of determining why the eight remaining teams will or won't make it to the Fall Classic.

    Naturally, we'll start with the team with the longest odds and go from there.

Atlanta: +1100

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    NLDS Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers

    Even if Atlanta fans aren't pleased with the club's World Series odds, it's only fair that the team with the lowest regular-season win total among the remaining squads isn't exactly a favorite.

    Yet Brian Snitker's club does specialize in at least one thing that could take it deep into October: hitting home runs. Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley and Co. finished third with 239 long balls, and 90 of those have come just since August.

    This is where Atlanta has a clear advantage over Milwaukee. The Brewers weren't a good offensive team during the regular season, and they hit only 67 homers in the final two months.

    Nevertheless, Atlanta has its work cut out for it to match up against a Brewers staff that pitched better than even its third-ranked 3.50 ERA indicates.

    Starters Charlie Morton and Max Fried were hot in September, as were relievers Will Smith and Luke Jackson. Atlanta otherwise has a ton of questions on the mound, which could persist even if it survives Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader.

    It's therefore a good guess that Atlanta will be in trouble if its offense falters, and that's where there's a less-than-secret problem. Even despite all those homers of late, it had only a .314 OBP and couldn't match the league average with a 99 wRC+ in August and September.

Boston Red Sox: +950

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    ALDS Opponent: Tampa Bay Rays

    The Boston Red Sox must have heard they were favored to lose to the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game, because they played with a chip on their shoulder and won 6-2.

    The victory was keyed by Nathan Eovaldi's pitching and a sharp offensive approach against Gerrit Cole and a parade of relievers. This is perhaps no great surprise, as Eovaldi is Boston's best pitcher and the lineup—which, albeit in part thanks to injured slugger J.D. Martinez (ankle), ranked second in slugging—is its best asset.

    Unless, that is, you want to give that distinction to manager Alex Cora. He might over-manage at times, but he generally presses the right buttons, and he sure did Tuesday by going with a new-look lineup and quick hook for Eovaldi.

    Even with more of Cora's magic, however, the Red Sox face a tall task in getting past the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Whereas the Rays are a well-rounded team with tons of depth, the Red Sox are very much not those things. Despite the brilliant relay they executed Tuesday, a defense that finished dead-last in outs above average is especially lacking. Eovaldi aside, Boston pitching also leaves much to be desired.

    The latter became especially apparent as Red Sox hurlers struggled to a 4.50 ERA in the second half. Sans a top-shelf Chris Sale and much greater consistency out of supposed late-inning relievers Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino, more of the painful same could be enough to sink Boston's season.

Milwaukee Brewers: +800

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    NLDS Opponent: Atlanta

    As noted earlier, the Brewers do have at least one significant disadvantage in the form of their offense.

    It's not just that it's deficient when it comes to hitting home runs, though that certainly is a big part of it. There's also the absence of something—heck, anything—that makes up for that. Even amid a relatively productive second half, the Brewers neither got on base nor tore up the basepaths at an elite rate.

    Pitching is therefore everything for Milwaukee, and there's some bad news on that front. Sans reigning NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams (hand), their bullpen is down one very important arm.

    But even without Williams in the mix, the sheer stuff Brewers pitchers can throw at hitters is not to be underestimated. Maybe even more so than their regular-season ERA, the best measure of their dominance was their 82.6 contact percentage within the strike zone. That was the lowest in the NL.

    While Milwaukee posted minus-14 outs above average, that was the fault of the infield. Its outfield was among the best with a plus-17 mark, so any defensive mistakes the Brewers make are more likely to result in mere singles than extra-base hits.

    The Brewers might be able to walk the same path to the World Series that the Giants took in 2010, 2012 and 2014: with a ton of run prevention and just enough run production.

Chicago White Sox: +750

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    ALDS Opponent: Houston Astros

    Even though they have better World Series odds than the Brewers, the Chicago White Sox are similar to them in some ways and arguably worse than them in others.

    To wit, the South Siders launched fewer homers than Milwaukee during the regular season and landed among baseball's dregs by hitting only 29 in September. So despite big names such as Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada, the fright factor of the offense is debatable.

    There's less to gripe about with White Sox pitchers, though Michael Kopech and especially Craig Kimbrel were often liabilities out of the bullpen down the stretch. It's also a blow that Carlos Rodon (shoulder), who pitched like an ace earlier in the year, is in limbo.

    Even still, only so much doubt can be cast on a pitching staff that led the majors in fWAR during the regular season. Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito are the best one-two rotation punch in the AL field, and the staff as a whole made even Milwaukee blush with its 82.1 in-zone contact percentage.

    And despite its inconsistency, there's also little question that the White Sox offense has serious breakout potential. If it can recapture the mojo it had in August—in which it peaked with 47 homers—Chicago might hold up against the run-scoring machine that is the Houston Astros.

    Those who expected the White Sox to be more of a juggernaut this season may soon get their wish.

San Francisco Giants: +750

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    NLDS Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers

    Wait a second...the San Francisco Giants just tied for the fifth-most wins in National League history, and they're not even a top-three favorite to win the World Series?

    Well, it does hurt that they'll be without Brandon Belt for perhaps the entire postseason. He was the leading home run hitter for an offense that hit more long balls than any team but the Toronto Blue Jays, and he had been scorching with a 1.089 OPS after Aug 5.

    Otherwise, the Giants are arguably ace-less in their starting rotation. Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Logan Webb were plenty good this season, but only DeSclafani really pitched well in September, and he did it with just 25 strikeouts in 32 innings.

    But if these sound like mere nit-picks, well, give us a break. After all, picking nits has been pretty much the only way to criticize the Giants this year.

    Truth be told, they should have enough power both in their starting lineup and on their bench to compensate for Belt's absence. They're also quite good on defense, especially with three-time Gold Glover Brandon Crawford (15 OAA) at short.

    Because its bullpen posted a 2.44 ERA after the trade deadline, San Francisco also doesn't need its top three starters to do all the heavy lifting. The bottom line is that this is a very good, well-rounded team even without Belt, and thus it is perfectly capable of returning to the World Series for the first time since 2014.

Tampa Bay Rays: +650

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    ALDS Opponent: Boston Red Sox

    The Tampa Bay Rays aren't a perfect team, specifically with regard to a starting rotation that barely resembles a starting rotation.

    Whereas the Rays had Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow for their World Series run in 2020, all three are now out of the picture. It shows in how Tampa Bay had only four pitchers top as many as 100 innings, and three of them had ERAs north of 5.00.

    However, underestimate Drew Rasmussen and the rookie trio of Shane McClanahan, Luis Patino and Shane Baz at your peril. All four operate in the mid- to high 90s, which is where relievers Andrew Kittredge, Pete Fairbanks and JT Chargois also dwell.

    Throw in that Tampa Bay also recorded 30 outs above average, and you get why it was a leader in run prevention. But even knowing that, it was actually the offense that stood out on a daily basis.

    Indeed, the Rays led the majors with a 118 wRC+ and 504 runs after super-rookie Wander Franco debuted June 22. In tandem with fellow rookie and 2020 playoff hero Randy Arozarena, veteran Nelson Cruz and slugger Brandon Lowe, Franco is one of many talented hitters the Rays can trot out.

    If nothing else, a team with this many weapons can feel comfortable about a matchup with the Red Sox. And if the Rays' iffy starting pitching doesn't trip them up, chances are nothing will.

Houston Astros: +500

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    ALDS Opponent: Chicago White Sox

    The Houston Astros "only" won 95 games and were just four games over .500 in their last 58 contests. So why should anyone believe they're the team to beat in the AL?

    Their offense, for one. Maybe it wasn't as good in the second half, yet it still led the majors in scoring and finished with the league's lowest strikeout rate while also ranking third in slugging percentage.

    If that isn't scary enough, you can name-drop Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez, and you'll still have missed Houston's best hitter: Kyle Tucker, who carried a 1.013 OPS over his last 107 games.

    Per their 43 outs above average, the Astros also boast the best defense on the AL side. The main beneficiaries of that were starters Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, Framber Valdez and Jose Urquidy, each of whom finished with an ERA in the 3.00s over more than 100 innings.

    Earlier in the year, the bullpen was Houston's most obvious weakness. But the arrival of Kendall Graveman before the trade deadline begat a respectable 3.92 ERA the rest of the way, and now future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke may be ready to contribute in relief.

    As they did down the stretch, there's a possibility the Astros will add up to less than the sum of their parts. But if they can be equal to said sum, their third World Series in five years awaits.

Los Angeles Dodgers: +240

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    NLDS Opponent: San Francisco Giants

    Even after their dramatic walk-off victory in the NL Wild Card Game, why should the Los Angeles Dodgers be favored over the Giants even though they could neither win the teams' season series nor the NL West?

    For starters, the Dodgers are perhaps better positioned to overcome Max Muncy's injury than the Giants are Brandon Belt's. Muncy went cold with a .668 OPS after Aug. 18, yet the Dodgers' Trea Turner- and Corey Seager-led offense posted a 111 wRC+ in September.

    That push was barely helped by Mookie Betts, but the Dodgers know just how huge he can be when he's on. That was certainly the case last October, as he starred defensively while also posting an .871 OPS.

    In the meantime, certainly the best thing the Dodgers have going for them is the front three of the starting rotation. It's a bummer that Clayton Kershaw (forearm) isn't part of this picture, yet fellow three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias did fine with a 2.28 ERA after July.

    The Dodgers also had the majors' best bullpen after the trade deadline with a 2.42 ERA. Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen capped the season as a nightmare duo, posting a 1.41 ERA over their last 57.1 innings.

    This isn't even to mention that incumbent Dodgers all gained World Series experience last year, while their two biggest newcomers (Scherzer and Turner) became champions with the Washington Nationals in 2019. So barring further injuries, their chances to repeat indeed look good.

          

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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