The NLCS Odds Have Swung Back Around

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The NLCS Odds Have Swung Back Around

Chicago Cubs


Well, well, well.

The Chicago Cubs’ probability of winning the NLCS and advancing to the World Series has … GONE UP!

Because obviously! But that doesn’t make it any less fun!

By two separate measures (FanGraphs and FiveThirtyEight), the Cubs’ odds have increased rather significantly after last night’s breathable win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

If you recall, we last checked in on the Cubs’ overall (statistical) chances of reaching the World Series yesterday, and things were really not looking good. Even FiveThirtyEight – who has consistently been higher on the Cubs – was giving the edge to the Dodgers. But now that they’ve evened the series up, the Cubs odds are mighty close.

Before yesterday’s win, FanGraphs gave the Cubs just a 28.5% chance of reaching the World Series, while FiveThirtyEight (a bit more optimistically) gave the Cubs a 40% shot at winning it all. But even though those odds weren’t exactly insurmountable, they both represented a near-20% drop after Game 3 – you just couldn’t be happy.

But odds are meant to be flexible as new inputs arrive, and yesterday, the Cubs added a win – an apparently huge, new input.

Let’s start with FanGraphs. Before the yesterday’s game, FanGraphs projected the following probability split between the Cubs and the Dodgers.

FanGraphs Odds (Before):

  • Chicago Cubs: 28.5%
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 71.5%

But, after losing yesterday’s blowout, things have changed.

FanGraphs Odds, (After):

  • Chicago Cubs: 48.3 (+19.8%)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 51.7 (-19.8%)

That near-20% drop has flipped into an almost exactly equal near-20% gain! (Which makes sense.)

With just three games remaining – two of which would be held at Wrigley Field, one of which would be started by Clayton Kershaw – FanGraphs seems to think things have evened out quite a bit. That’s basically a coin toss.

Before yesterday’s game, FiveThirtyEight had the Dodgers as the solid, but not certain favorites in the series, but like FanGraphs, things can change quite a bit after the loss:

FiveThirtyEight Odds, (Before):

  • Chicago Cubs: 40%
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 60%

FiveThirtyEight Odds, (After):

  • Chicago Cubs: 61% (+21.0%)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 39% (-21.0%)

Once again, the overall figures are quite different – FiveThirtyEight picks the Cubs as the overwhelming favorite, while FanGraphs is actually guessing Dodgers – but the marginal change in odds (+20% in the Cubs favor) is roughly equivalent.

Which makes a fair bit of sense, right?

Both teams need to win two games to advance to the World Series. The Cubs have the benefit of home field advantage while the Dodgers get to pitch Clayton Kershaw on regular rest. Now, Clayton Kershaw is beatable, but he’s also very, very good. Home field advantage isn’t everything (teams win away all the time), but it certainly helps. Would you trade away the Cubs two-game home field advantage if it also meant no Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers? I think you probably would, but I’m not too certain that’s worth it. Hence the coin flip from FanGraphs and Cubs-edge from FiveThirtyEight.

But we need not worry about any of that just yet. Tonight, the Cubs face Kenta Maeda for the second time in the series and a win would put the Cubs in an extremely enviable position heading back to Chicago. Tomorrow, then, will either be the longest or one of the chillest days of your life.

Actually, it might feel long either way.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami