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Never Tell Me the Odds? Bah, I’m Telling You the Cubs’ NLDS and World Series Odds Anyway

Analysis and Commentary

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs are heading to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Nationals in the first of a best-of-five National League Divisional Series.


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And although we’ve sometimes joked about the Cubs underdog status in this one, it’s really quite true. According to at least three measures, which we’ll cover below, the Washington Nationals are the odds on favorites to win and continue their march to the World Series. Of course, if I may speak for all of us … We’ll see about that.

Never tell me the odds …

At ESPN David Schoenfield and Bradford Doolittle have the most entertaining interactive odds graphic ever. Seriously, if you are bored and have some time check this out, because it’s a ton of fun to peruse each individual team’s odds from far away.

In any case, according to Schoenfield and Doolittle, the Indians (26%), Dodgers (17%), and Astros (16%) have the best odds of winning the World Series, while the Cubs (10%) rank fifth. That’s notable, of course, because our beloved Cubs fall in just barely behind the Nationals (11%), who appear to be the fourth most likely team to win the last game of the season.


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As for the NLDS, itself, the Cubs odds are pretty significantly below 50/50 (in a relative way – keep in mind, in a short series, deviating much from a coin flip is really significant). According to ESPN, the Cubs have just a 45.9% chance of making it through the first round of the postseason. This feels a bit low to me, but, frankly, I do believe the Nationals are arguably one of the toughest draws in a short series, given their starting pitching. Of course, Max Scherzer’s health remains up in the air, so I return you to an oldie, but a goodie: we’ll see.

Moving on … although the FanGraphs odds page is a little less exciting to look at, the numbers are a tiny bit more encouraging. According to their numbers, the Indians (19.7%) are still the favorites to win the World Series, but their odds of doing so are far lower. Like at ESPN, FanGraphs follows the Indians up with the Dodgers (16.1%), Astros (15.3%), and, ultimately, the Nationals (12.8%). But unlike ESPN, the Cubs aren’t their fifth choice for the championship. Instead, they fall dead last among divisional leaders (10.8%) and ahead of only the two Wild Card teams.

As for the NLDS, however, their odds are better here (47.8% FanGraphs has updated these odds to 49.8% since this post was written) than they were at ESPN. They’re still underdogs, mind you, but just barely and that’s likely to be the case the whole way. Even still, something in the 47-50% range is fine and a first-game victory would swing those odds wildly in such a short series.


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And finally, at FiveThirtyEight, the World Series odds, in order, are quite familiar: Indians (26%), Dodgers (17%), Astros (16%), Nationals (11%), Cubs (10%). In this instance, the Cubs are more heavily favored than the Yankees, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks, but still fall short of their NLDS matchup in the Nationals.

HOWEVA, with a 48% chance of winning the NLDS, FiveThirtyEight does give the Cubs the best chances of moving past round one (well, they did before FanGraphs upped their’s). Decided underdogs? Yes, but will you take those odds? Well, yeah, you will, because you have no choice and they’re the best ones on the table. 🙂

So, let’s recap:

According to these three measures, the Cubs have just under a 1 in 2 chance of moving past the first round and about a 1 in 10 chance of repeating as World Series champions. All things considered, it’s not half-bad.


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And, hey, maybe going back to being the underdogs will be a good thing.


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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.