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Introducing our 2018 MLB playoff odds tracker

It’s never too early to look at the playoff picture and using playoff odds, we can do just that.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

We’re starting a new weekly series here at Daily Dish were we look at playoff odds for the entire league and note the changes from week to week.

Since it is a new series, I’m going to do a brief overview of the system we’re using, how it works, and what it means.

For the series, we’ll be using Fangraph’s playoff odds given they’re widely used and understood in the baseball community. Their system is based of their Depth Chart which is a 50-50 split of the ZiPS projections and Steamer projections, with playing time estimated by their staff. Once they have the playing time and projections lined up, they run 10,000 simulations of the season and use the results to build their odds. So for instance, if a team has a 20% chance of making the playoffs, that means in 2,000 of their 10,000 simulations, that team made the playoffs. Simple enough.

It’s important to remember that the odds change as actual results change. Even if the projections don’t like a particular team, if they keep winning, their odds are going up. The model isn’t going to ignore real results. It’s also important to remember that the entire model is built on the inputs of projections. So if a player’s projection changes, that’s obviously going to change the results of the simulations. Better projections equal better results.

And of course with any predictive model, we have to put in the disclaimer that there will be misses. The goal of these odds is to combine the actual results of the season so far with where projection systems see true talent level to spit out a general idea of a teams playoff chances. All this means it’s best to use playoff odds as the start of a conversation. Not the end of one.

With that let’s jump into the odds.

AL East

Photo and graph courtesy of Fangraphs

So far in 2018, two of the best teams in baseball play in the same division. Even on May 25th, The Yankees and Red Sox are virtual lock for the postseason. But one of the teams is going to have to play in an elimination Wild Card game. That’s what these two teams will be fighting to avoid all summer. Every one else in this division needs to be rebuilding and they needed to start yesterday.

AL Central

Photo and graph courtesy of Fangraphs

The AL central has been the division of mediocrity so far in 2018. The Indians are far and away the most talented team and it’s clear by these odds, that’s who the projections like. But they’re 24-24 as we sit here today and only a 1.5 games up on the Twins. Minnesota is the only other competition this year. The other three teams are either rebuilding or about to start.

AL West

Photo and graph courtesy of Fangraphs

The projections love the defending champs and see them as almost guaranteed locks for postseason. They just have more talent then everyone else in their division. But Seattle and Los Angeles have both been really good this year and even Oakland is above .500. I doubt it stays a 4 team race all year but don’t be surprised if one or two of these teams keeps Houston in sight for the better part of the summer.

NL East

Photo and graph courtesy of Fangraphs

The NL East is going to be one of the most interesting divisions to follow. Washington has the most talent of anyone in the division but the Braves and Phillies both are full of young, exciting players. And if they ever could stay all healthy, the Mets have enough to be there in October. Expect this division to go down to the wire.

NL Central

Photo and graph courtesy of Fangraphs

The Brewers are in the same boat as the Braves and the Phillies. A young team playing excellent baseball but not yet getting much respect from the projections. The models still see the Cubs and the Cardinals as the class of this division and give the significant edge in playoff odds. The Pirates have surprised everyone by being 5 games over .500 and only 3 games back, but again, the projections still see that roster behind the others in talent. This division race should be one of the best.

NL West

Photo and graphs courtesy of FanGraphs

The NL West hasn’t been as mediocre as the AL Central, but it’s been close. The Dodgers were consider far and away the best team but have stubbed their toe out of the gate. Arizona jumped out to nice start but has come crashing back down to Earth. And the Rockies and Giants are just hanging around with enough talent to make it interesting. The model sees the Dodgers playing to their potential eventually but as you can see from the graph, Arizona had the edge as of a week ago. Things can and will change quickly.

Top 5 Increases Since Last Week

  • Dodgers +20.6%
  • Brewers +9.7%
  • Mariners +8.3%
  • Mets +7.6%
  • Twins +2.8%

The Dodgers big gain is a result of both better play on their part and Arizona’s severe rough patch. The Brewers keep winning despite what projections think of them and keep adding to their odds. The Mariners have surprised everyone with strong play despite losing Robinson Cano for 80 games on a PED suspension. I’m guessing the NL East will have a team in this section every week just because it’s so competitive. And the Twins keep hanging around with Cleveland stuck in the mud.

Top 5 Decreases Since Last Week

  • Diamondbacks -21.4%
  • Rockies -8.1%
  • Blue Jays -7.7%
  • Nationals -6.0%
  • Pirates -5.1%

The projections love the Dodgers so much that any move by them is going to hurt the Rockies and the Diamondbacks. Of course, Arizona hasn’t done anything to help their own case. The Blue Jays had a horrible week and their playoff odds went from slim to much slimmer. The Nationals were such favorites to start the season that they might be here a few time over the coming weeks as the Braves, Mets, and Phillies continue to show they aren’t going anywhere.