The ultimate goal in baseball is to win the World Series. To win the World Series, you need to win the LCS. To win the LCS, you need to win the LDS. To win the LDS, you need to make the playoffs by winning the division or the Wild Card Game. Winning in the regular season sets you up to win in the postseason and FanGraphs provides some tools to help you determine the odds of those victories.
One such tool is our Playoff Odds which tell you what our projections are for each team’s record and their odds of reaching the postseason, LDS, LCS, and WS.
The Playoff Odds are based on our Depth Charts, which is a 50/50 Steamer and ZiPS blend scaled to individual playing time estimates programmed and updated by the FanGraphs staff. We then simulate the season 10,000 times (using the actual remaining schedule) using a method adapted from the folks at CoolStandings.
If you don’t like our projections, you can also switch to “Season to Date” mode which runs the same simulations based on the current year statistics of the players in question rather than the projections. You can also view the results based on simulations which assume every game is a coin flip.
The full system updates nightly, but as games finish you will notice the records change even if the odds don’t.
Our Playoff Odds can be sorted by division, league, MLB, and Wild Card depending on who you wish to compare. Additionally, each sorting returns the following categories for each club:
- W – Current Season Wins
- L – Current Season Losses
- W% – Current Season Winning Percentages
- GB – Current Season Games Back
- EXPW – Expected End of Season Wins
- EXPL – Expected End of Season Losses
- rosW% – Expected Rest of Season Winning Percentage
- DIV – Percentage Chance of Winning The Division
- WC – Percentage Chance of Winning One of the Two Wild Card Spots
- POFF – Percentage Chance of Winning The Division or a Wild Card Spot
- DOFF – Percentage Chance of Reaching the ALDS
- ALDS -Percentage Chance of Winning the ALDS
- ALCS – Percentage Change of Winning the ALCS
- WS – Percentage Chance of Winning the WS
All of the numbers are self explanatory except for the “percentage chances,” which indicate the percentage of the 10,000 simulations in which the event occurred. In other words, if a team has a 9% World Series odds, that means than in our 10,000 season simulations, they won the World Series 900 times. The team with the highest World Series odds would be considered the favorite, but in all likelihood, the the model will be suggesting any one team will have a low overall chance of winning the title.
You also have the option to use the date selecting menu to go back and review the Playoff Odds page from previous days in order to make comparisons and track progress. You can also tab over to the Playoff Odds Graphs, which communicate the same information graphically.
How To Read The Odds:
As noted above, the odds are the output of 10,000 season simulations based on the Depth Charts (or Season to Date/Coin Flips), so they are only as good as the inputs. If you don’t like the projections, you’re not going to like the odds.
Additionally, there is uncertainty in the inputs and uncertainty in the model. We don’t know how players are going to perform individually, we can’t be sure about playing time, and when you get 30 teams interacting across one schedule it becomes quite complicated. For that reason, we recommend you view these odds as the center of a distribution. A team might have a 9% chance to win the World Series in that day’s model, but the true odds are a range and we are trying to grab an estimate.
Also keep in mind, the odds can change based on actual results and changing projections. If the best team starts 0-10, that will tank their odds because they have an immediate deficit. But if a great player gets hurt, the quality of the team goes down and changes their forecasts going forward.
As with any statistical model that tries to predict the future, the system will miss. Hopefully, however, the Playoff Odds is a fun and useful tool that helps you amalgamate a lot of the information available at the site into a set of numbers you find relevant.
Neil Weinberg is the Site Educator at FanGraphs and can be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44.