May 17, 2022

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MLB postseason odds: Five teams that have helped playoff chances; and five teams that have hurt them

The 2022 MLB season is only three weeks old and already so much has happened. Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera recorded his historic 3,000th hit! We’ve also seen Clayton Kershaw get pulled from a perfect game bid, Freddie Freeman hit a home run against the Braves, and Reds president Phil Castellini insult his paying customers. It’s been an eventful few weeks. 

MLB and the MLBPA agreed to an expanded 12-team postseason format as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The one-and-done Wild Card Game is no more, and instead we get a new round with two best-of-three Wild Card Series per league. The season does not end today (thankfully), but here’s what the 12-team postseason field would look like if it did:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
BYE:
Yankees and Angels
WC1: Twins vs. Mariners
WC2: Blue Jays vs. Rays

NATIONAL LEAGUE
BYE:
Mets and Giants
WC1: Brewers vs. Cardinals
WC2: Dodgers vs. Padres

Three weeks is a drop in the bucket in baseball (only 287 of 2,430 regular season games have been played, or 11.8 percent), though the old adage rings true: you can’t win a division in April, but you sure can lose one. That said, getting into the postseason as a wild card team is a little easier now because there’s one more spot per league.

Even with 88.2 percent of the schedule still to be played, the postseason outlook has changed quite a bit in the early going. Here, according to Sportsline, are the teams that have most helped (and hurt) their postseason odds this year.      

Biggest postseason odds increases

Los Angeles Angels

14.4%

59.4%

+45.0%

San Francisco Giants

63.6%

86.1%

+22.5%

New York Mets

64.0%

80.0%

+16.0%

San Diego Padres

66.6%

82.1%

+15.5%

New York Yankees

61.2%

76.1%

+14.9%

The Mariners are right behind the Yankees at plus-14.1 percent and the Athletics are right behind them at plus-13.8. Oakland has started the season better than I think anyone expected, but it’s hard to see that lasting given the skeleton crew roster they run out there each night. Credit to the A’s players for playing hard and playing to win. Ownership sure isn’t. Here’s where the five teams that most improved their postseason odds sit at the moment. 

Angels: Mike Trout is again dominating the sport, Brandon Marsh and Taylor Ward are breaking out, and the rotation has been solid in the early going. Shohei Ohtani hasn’t really gotten going yet (particularly at the plate), though that’ll happen soon enough. Anaheim will have a chance to really bank some wins next month, when they play the A’s, Nationals, and Rangers 15 times in an 18-game span. The Angels have played three postseason games in Trout’s 10 full seasons. If that doesn’t change this year, I don’t know when it will.

Giants: Projection systems have trouble with teams like the Giants (and Rays) because their thing is maximizing very specific skills of players the projections see as just OK overall. Austin Slater is a good example. His career .251/.337/.401 batting line is fine, but he’s hit .266/.352/.496 against lefties the last two years, and San Francisco uses him almost exclusively against lefties. The Giants are better — a lot better — than the postseason odds would lead you to believe. That said, the numbers are the numbers, and they say the Giants have improved their postseason odds more than any team other than the Angels.

Mets: The Mets have baseball’s best record and, going into Thursday’s action, they joined the Dodgers and Giants as the only teams to rank in the top six in both runs scored per game and fewest runs allowed per game. The rotation has been amazing even without Jacob deGrom and the lineup has been productive 1-9 (well, maybe not nine, catcher James McCann started very slowly). The Mets have played half their games against the Nationals and Diamondbacks, going 7-3 against them. You can only play the schedule you’re given, but great teams beat up on bad teams, and the Mets have done that thus far. Just an all-around excellent start to the season.

Padres: Dropping two of three at home to the Dodgers and Giants is a bummer — at some point San Diego has to beat those two powerhouses to be taken seriously as a World Series contender — but they’re 11-3 against everyone else, and they’ve done it without Fernando Tatis Jr. MacKenzie Gore has looked very good in his three starts, Manny Machado will contend for the NL MVP award again, Taylor Rogers has been automatic in the ninth inning, and Eric Hosmer and Jurickson Profar have been pleasant surprises. Starting Friday, the Padres will play their next 12 games against the Pirates, Guardians, Marlins, and Cubs.

Yankees: The pitching has been fantastic all year and the offense is starting to wake up thanks to Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and a resurgent DJ LeMahieu. The just swept a six-game homestand and have won eight of their last nine games overall. On paper, the Yankees have a favorable schedule the next few weeks — they won’t play back-to-back series against 2021 postseason teams until mid June — though they will need Josh Donaldson and Joey Gallo to contribute consistently at some point. For now, they’re doing enough to pace the AL East.

Biggest postseason odds decreases

As is usually the case early in the season, the largest postseason odds decreases belong to teams that came into the season with strong odds and started slower than they would have liked. Now their postseason odds are a bit lower, but are still good with a lot of season to go. Here are the five teams that have season their odds take the biggest hits.

Braves: The Braves are a good reminder postseason odds are everchanging, and they can go up as quickly as they go down. When we did this three-week postseason odds update last year, Atlanta was among the biggest decreasers, and they of course went on to win the World Series. Have they started this season slowly? Yes. Do they still have five months to straighten things out with a healthy Ronald Acuña Jr. back in the lineup? Also yes. For now, their slow start combined with the Mets’ hot start have taken a bite out of their postseason odds.

Astros: With three straight wins and four in their last five games, the tide may be turning in Houston. They did lose eight times in an 11-game span earlier this month though, and that will take a bite a bit out of your postseason chances. The Astros still have a few too many offensive underperformers (Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker, most notably) and the pitching staff has been prone to crooked numbers (seven games with six-plus runs allowed is fourth most in baseball). Houston’s next six games are against the Blue Jays and Mariners. Good opportunity for the Astros to remind the world they’re a World Series contender.

White Sox: The defending AL Central champions recently lost eight straight games, and they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games overall. It hasn’t been pretty either. The offense has really struggled lately (15 runs scored during the eight-game losing streak) and a few of those recent losses were heartbreaking. To wit:

The White Sox are without several key players due to injury (Garrett Crochet, Eloy Jiménez, Lance Lynn, Yoan Moncada) and they also have several underperforming regulars, including José Abreu. Their recent 1-9 stretch combined with the Twins winning seven in a row has really put a dent in Chicago’s postseason odds. It’s not panic time yet, but a little concern is warranted. 17 of their next 27 games are against the Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees. It isn’t getting any easier.

Red Sox: It’s shocking to see a Boston team near the bottom of the league in runs scored per game. The offense has struggled mightily in the early going this season (no more than two runs scored seven times in their last 10 games) and the lineup is very top heavy. They lean on Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and JD Martinez. If those three are quiet, runs are hard to come by. The bullpen being questionable doesn’t help matters. There are red flags abound, though the postseason odds haven’t take too big a hit yet. In the deep AL East, the Red Sox can’t afford to continue their current pace much longer.

Tigers: Detroit was a deep sleeper for an expanded postseason spot coming into the season. They’re improved, for sure, but some key injuries (Casey Mize and Matt Manning) combined with young players taking their lumps (namely Spencer Torkelson) make it clear the Tigers are still a year away from making noise. They’ve lost five straight and have won back-to-back games just twice this season (and never more than two straight wins), cutting their already slim postseason odds.