Anyone else feel like we’re playing with house money?
After reaching the NLCS in 2015/2016, and winning the World Series in 2016, this trip to the NLCS (the Cubs’ third in as many years) feels almost gratuitous. I guess this is what Epstein and Co. were envisioning when they started aiming for sustained success back in 2012, but, I mean, damn! It’s hard to imagine it going any better.
In any case, yes, the Cubs are now just four wins away from their second consecutive trip to the World Series, and they’ll have to get through the Dodgers (in a rematch of the 2016 NLCS) first.
Unlike last October, however, the Dodgers were the best team in baseball this year, not the Cubs. On top of that, the Cubs will not have home field advantage in this one, and just wrapped up a grueling five-game NLDS (compared to the Dodgers’ three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks). It feels like a shoe-on-the-other-foot situation from last year’s NLCS.
All things considered, the Cubs are the obvious underdogs this time around …
… But by how much?
World Series: 20.5%
World Series: 18%
Bovada (Gambling Odds)
World Series: 15/4
FanGraphs doesn’t see the Cubs as underdogs by that much. Given everything that’s working against them, a 46.2% chance to beat the Dodgers in a seven-game series without home field advantage actually feels pretty high. Similarly, the Cubs’ 20.5% odds of winning the World Series don’t quite match up with their position among the final four teams, but, again, given that they have to get through the Dodgers first, you’ll take that.
FiveThirtyEight, on the other hand, is a bit more cautious with our feelings. They give the Cubs just a 40% chance to win the NLCS, which is about as low as you’ll see odds get in a series like this before a single pitch is even thrown (though, to be fair, this is what FanGraphs projects for the Yankees against the Astros).
As a matter of fact, the Cubs 40% chance of advancing to the World Series is the lowest among the remaining four teams according to FiveThirtyEight, as is their 18% chances of repeating as Champs.
But, hey, if you happen to be feeling like it’s house money, if you feel like the Cubs are good at being the underdogs (after all, they had about 108 years of practice as such), maybe this doesn’t bother you. And just because the odds are against the Cubs, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance.
For the gamblers among you, the Cubs are pretty solid bet (in terms of upside), in my opinion, for the World Series. At 15/4, the people behind Bovada see them as much greater long-shots than the Dodgers (2/1), and I’d say their chances are a bit better than that. Then again, there’s just so much more working against them this time around, so who’s to say?