As pennant races heat up across the major leagues, we explore the odds of each MLB contender to make the playoffs and win the World Series.
As the final days of August tick by, the MLB postseason picture is taking shape. With a little more than 30 days left in the 2017 season, teams have roughly 30 games each to make their final push for a playoff spot.
Thirty games may seem like a lot. For a team like the Milwaukee Brewers, who enter Wednesday 3.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, it sounds like plenty of time to make up the ground necessary to win the division. Standings can swing three games in a series, after all. Likewise, the Tampa Bay Rays, who sit 3.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race, seemingly have enough opportunities left on the schedule to make their move.
However, time is running out quickly. There are a ton of smart and talented baseball thinkers out there who build models to crunch numbers to inform the rest of us on just about every detail of the game. Fangraphs has the best model in the industry for determining playoff odds, and a quick look shows us just how unlikely it is the Brewers, Rays, or anyone else not currently in first place or a Wild Card position makes it to the postseason.
MLB Playoff Odds (Fangraphs)
- AL East: Boston Red Sox (89.2 percent)
- AL Central: Cleveland Indians (99.5 percent)
- AL West: Houston Astros (100 percent)
- NL East: Washington Nationals (100 percent)
- NL Central: Chicago Cubs (92.3 percent)
- NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers (100 percent)
Even with more than a month to go, the division races are just about wrapped up. The Yankees (10.4 percent) are the only MLB team outside first place with a better than 10 percent chance of winning their division. The only other teams with any chance according to model are the Cardinals (4.9 percent), Brewers (2.8 percent), Orioles (0.2 percent), Rays (0.2 percent), Royals (0.1 percent) and Pirates (0.1 percent).
Wild Card Winners
- New York Yankees (73.6 percent)
- Minnesota Twins (34.5 percent)
- Los Angeles Angels (26.9 percent)
- Kansas City Royals (13.6 percent)
- Baltimore Orioles (11.9 percent)
- Tamp Bay Rays (11.9 percent)
- Boston Red Sox (10.5 percent)
- Seattle Mariners (8.2 percent)
- Texas Rangers (8.0 percent)
- Toronto Blue Jays (0.4 percent)
- Cleveland Indians (0.4 percent)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (96.0 percent)
- Colorado Rockies (76.9 percent)
- St. Louis Cardinals (9.3 percent)
- Miami Marlins (8.5 percent)
- Milwaukee Brewers (6.6 percent)
- Chicago Cubs (2.5 percent)
Combining the probabilities the Red Sox win either the division or the Wild Card gives Boston a 99.7 percent chance of making it to the postseason. The Yankees are 84 percent likely to play meaningful October baseball, meaning there is really just one available playoff spot remaining in the AL.
Odds of earning an NL postseason spot are even longer for any team on the outside looking in. With the Diamondbacks and Rockies in a dominant position to capture the two Wild Card spots, no NL team outside the current playoff picture has even a 10 percent chance to force their way in by the end of the season.
Of note, Giancarlo Stanton has powered the Marlins better odds of making it to the postseason than the Brewers, who have spent a large portion of the season in first place in the Central. Why? The Marlins have a far easier remaining schedule, which includes seven games against the NL East rival Phillies and eight with the Braves.
It’s also important to note if a team finds a ticket to the dance, the odds of winning the World Series even out considerably.
World Series Odds
- Los Angeles Dodgers (19.1 percent)
- Houston Astros (17.4 percent)
- Cleveland Indians (16 percent)
- Chicago Cubs (14.5 percent)
- Boston Red Sox (13.9 percent)
- Washington Nationals (8.6 percent)
- New York Yankees (4.1 percent)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (2.5 percent)
- Colorado Rockies (1 percent)
- Louis Cardinals (0.6 percent)
- Tampa Bay Rays (0.5 percent)
- Minnesota Twins (0.4 percent)
- Los Angeles Angels (0.4 percent)
- Baltimore Orioles (0.2 percent)
- Kansas City Royals (0.2 percent)
- Milwaukee Brewers (0.2 percent)
- Seattle Mariners (0.1 percent)
- Texas Rangers (0.1 percent)
The Dodgers have been one of the greatest teams in MLB single-season history to this point, but even L.A. has less than a 20 percent chance of winning the World Series according to the model. Once the postseason field is set – and even with a month to go it practically is – the road to a World Championship is very difficult.
Three things we learned this week
1. The Royals finally scored a run
Thanks in large part to a nine-game winning streak in late July, the Kansas City Royals entered August with a 55-49 record, which put the club in a position to play in the AL Wild Card Game. K.C. was just two games behind the Indians in the AL Central standings, giving them two paths to the postseason.
However, the Royals are just 9-17 since, and entered Tuesday night’s game against the Rays on a five-game losing streak, including four straight shutouts. No MLB team had been blanked in four consecutive games since 1992.
Kansas City’s scoreless streak reached 45 innings – just three shy of the MLB record – before Whit Merrifield homered in the third inning of a 6-2 win. Long one of the lowest scoring teams in the American League, the Royals were far from clutch during the scoreless streak. Seven hitters had an opportunity to drive in a runner from third base and failed, while K.C. was 0-for-19 overall with runners in scoring position.
Now 65-66, find themselves 9.5 games behind the Indians in the Central and three games back in the crowded AL Wild Card race.
2. Patrick Corbin is heating up for the Diamondbacks
Zack Greinke is a legitimate NL Cy Young Award candidate. Greinke has consistently been one of the best pitchers in the league, and his bounce back performance after a disappointing 2016 campaign is one of the top reasons why Arizona has already surpassed its win total from last year and is sitting atop the NL Wild Card standings. But as good as Greinke has been, Patrick Corbin has been even better recently.
In his first 13 starts this season, Corbin was 5-6 with an ugly 5.38 ERA. The lefty allowed 93 hits in 72 innings, and struck out 62 hitters while allowing 14 home runs and 23 walks. Since June 16, Corbin has made 14 starts for the Diamondbacks, and has gone 7-5 with a 2.69 ERA. He has struck out 92 hitters and allowed 87 hits and nine homers in 87 innings.
As Mike Podhorzer noted for Fangraphs, Corbin has relied even more on his slider in recent months. As a result has seen an improvement in nearly every single statistical category over his last 14 starts, including everything from strikeout rate and walk rate to SIERA, Soft% to O-swing%.
Corbin has been at his very best in his last four starts. Since Aug. 12, the 28-year-old is 4-0 with a 0.30 ERA, having allowed just one run in 30.1 innings. He has surrendered 18 hits, five walks and one home run while striking out 29.
3. Ryhs Hoskins makes the Phillies watchable
You may not have heard of him before the historic start to his big league career, but by now know Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies rookie who has hit 11 home runs faster than any player in major league history. It took Hoskins just 18 career games to hit those 11 home runs, which was five games faster than anyone else in history, and he homered in five straight games from Aug. 23-27 to reach the milestone.
Overlooked by most prospect ranking 24-year-old first baseman/outfielder hit 38 home runs in the minor leagues in 2016 and hit 29 in Triple-A this year before making his major league debut. In other words, his power surge is no fluke.
It has also helped make the Phillies far more competitive. Philadelphia entered Wednesday 49-81 – the worst record in baseball. And though the Phillies lost eight of the first nine games after Hoskins’ call-up, the club is 6-4 over its last 10 and beat the Cubs in two of three games last weekend.
Play of the Week
Blue Jays centerfielder Kevin Pillar went all out to save extra bases and preserve a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning Monday night against the Red Sox. However, Boston scored four runs in the seventh to win 6-5.
“There are a lot of people struggling. There are some people here with family that’s stranded. It’s not comfortable, it’s not fun; this is real life and real emotion. We’re humans first. You can manage them all you want, but you’ve got to let people be humans. These guys do a really good job of being together; I think we’re all leaning on one another. We’re all going through the same thing together. All you can do is hope and pray and stay in contact with your loved ones.”
-Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch following his team’s 12-2 loss to the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida Tuesday, to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Baseball is just a game, folks.
Analytical League Leaders
Isolated Power (ISO), Second Half
- Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (.532)
- J.D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks (.388)
- Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers (.346)
- Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (.340)
- Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (.336)
- Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (.323)
- Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (.319)
- Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds (.317)
- Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (.315)
- Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (.314)
Skill-interactive Earned Run Average (SIERA,) minimum 30 innings, Second Half
- James Paxton, Seattle Mariners (2.38)
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (2.38)
- Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (2.69)
- Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians (2.84)
- Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays (2.91)
- Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (2.95)
- Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (3.03)
- Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (3.18)
- Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers (3.20)
- Brad Peacock, Houston Astros (3.20)
Random MLB Power Rankings
Top 10 prospects in the Arizona Fall League (MLB.com Top 100 ranking)
- Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves (8)
- Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals (5)
- Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians (16)
- Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros (10)
- Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (22)
- Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners (47)
- Corey Ray, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (66)
- Luis Urias, IF, San Diego Padres (55)
- Justus Sheffiled, LHP, New York Yankees (89)
- Yusniel Diaz, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (85)
Giancarlo Stanton became the sixth player in big league history to hit 50 home runs before Sept. 1. Alex Cheremeteff noted Giancarlo Stanton reached 50 home runs before any other player in baseball hit No. 40 for just the seventh time in MLB history. The last to do it was Willie Mays in 1965.
Stanton hit home run No. 51 Tuesday night, giving him 30 home runs combined in July and August. He needs one more to tie the two-month record set by Albert Belle in August and September, 1995.
Stanton has hit 18 home runs in August. The San Francisco Giants have hit a combined 22 homers this month. The Washington Nationals have hit 24.
As Baseball-Reference pointed out, Stanton entered Tuesday night’s game with a .969 slugging percentage this month, which projects to the 12th best for any player in a calendar month since 1913. Stanton then homered against the Nationals to increase his slugging percentage to .980 – No. 8 on the all-time list.
Barry Bonds, Stanton’s hitting coach in Miami last season, holds the top three spots on the single-month slugging percentage list. Bonds slugged 1.078 in September 2001, hitting 16 home runs and four doubles in 117 plate appearance. Bonds broke his own record of 1.036, which he set in May 2001 while hitting 17 homers and five doubles in 117 plate appearances.
Hoskins has slugged .824 to date, which would rank No. 106 on the list.
The Phillies beat the Braves Monday, giving them a 12-2 record over Atlanta over this season – 24.5 percent of Philadelphia’s win total has come at the Braves’ expense.