Quantifying Hope: Cubs Have 98 Percent Playoff Odds, Fall Way Behind Dodgers for WS

Though they had their share of lulls in the first half, the Cubs went into the All-Star break with the best record in the NL for the first time since 2008. And despite plenty of competition from the Brewers, Dodgers, and more, they remain one of the most consistent favorites for the NL Central and World Series titles according to this odds tracker that features lots of customizable betting line searches.

That tracker shows the Cubs and Dodgers even at +730, which is more or less where they were just two days ago. The odds over at FanGraphs, however, have shifted decidedly in the Dodgers’ favor. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at the NL Central playoff odds. As you can see from the chart below, the Cubs have opened up a sizable advantage as the Brewers and Cardinals have dropped precipitously.

Back on July 6, the Cubs were at 93.9 percent and the Brewers were at 78.7 percent, as represented the first of those two spikes you see if you run straight up from the “Jul” mark on the x-axis. Mind you, the Cubs were 2.5 behind the Brewers at that point. Fast-forward two weeks and the teams are separated by 3 games in the standings — but with the Cubs on top — and more than 48 percentage points in the odds.

The Cubs currently have a 97.7 percent chance to make the playoffs, with a 90.3 percent chance to win the division. The Brewers, on the other hand, have only a 7 percent chance to win the Central but a 42.5 percent chance to take the Wild Card.

Where things have shifted against the Cubs is when it comes to World Series odds. I know, I know, this stuff is all being done with computers and the games are played on the field and blah, blah, blah. Still, we’ve seen some pretty big movement over the last couple days despite the Cubs being the only team in baseball that has won a game since Sunday.

As of the night of the All-Star Game, the Cubs had a 10.8 percent chance to win the World Series and the Dodgers stood at 14.2 percent. As of Wednesday, when the Manny Machado trade was still just a very solid report, those odds had moved to 10.4 and 13.4 percent, with the difference going to AL teams.

Now that Machado is officially a Dodger, LA has surged to a 17.2 percent chance while the Cubs have dipped below double digits to 9.2 percent. Of course, it’s not just about picking up a new shortstop. LA’s rotation is stacked and they go six or seven deep on that front. The Cubs can’t lay claim to such depth and they have some bullpen questions, hence the drop.

But, again, the gambling odds show the two teams neck and neck, which I actually find encouraging. And all that really matters is that the Cubs get to the postseason by winning the division. Note that I didn’t say “Wild Card,” since getting to the win-or-go-home crapshoot isn’t really what they’re aiming for.

What’s pretty interesting in all this is that the Dodgers could very well help to decide the Central this weekend. The new-look LA squad is in Milwaukee to face the Brewers, so they could boost the Cubs’ odds with a win or three. Of course, it’ll be better if the Cubs work the Cardinals over at the same time. Depending on how things go over the next three days, the odds we see above could shift somewhat meaningfully by Monday.

This stuff is obviously meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but I really enjoy following it for entertainment purposes. Although I suppose the gamblers among you might find it worthwhile for other reasons, in which case I apologize for calling it meaningless.

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