After six months and a 162-game regular season, 10 teams remain in the hunt for the 2016 World Series. The MLB playoffs are some of the most unpredictable in sports each year, but one team stands above the rest as the clear favorite to win the title.
The Chicago Cubs have been MLB favorites since even before the season started, and all they’ve done during that time is increase the belief that they’ll win their first title since 1908. The NL Central champs have easily been baseball’s best team with 103 wins, and oddsmakers give them a good chance to end the supposed curse.
Chicago leads the way with 12/5 championship odds, via Bovada.lv. The Cubs began the regular season with 5/1 betting odds, and all they’ve done in 2016 is win the division by 17.5 games with the likely NL MVP and MLB’s best pitching staff. The team was swept in the NLCS a year ago, but they’ll have home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs this time around.
After the Cubs, there doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite to reach the NLCS. The Washington Nationals have 13/2 odds, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have 15/2 World Series odds ahead of their NLDS matchup. The Nationals won the NL East comfortably with 95 wins, and the Dodgers are in the playoffs for a fourth straight season after winning the NL West by four games.
The New York Mets and San Francisco Giants, who finished in second place to the Nationals and Dodgers, respectively, will meet in the NL Wild-Card Game. The Mets are a slight favorite as the home team with +18/1 World Series odds. San Francisco is tied for the worst championship odds of any team in the playoffs at +22/1.
The Baltimore Orioles (+22/1) and Toronto Blue Jays (+10/1) are relative long shots to win the World Series as they get ready to meet in the AL Wild-Card Game. But there is no clear favorite in the AL, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see any team from the league make a deep run.
The Boston Red Sox are the betting favorites in the AL with 5/1 World Series odds, but they’re just ahead of the Texas Rangers (6/1) and Cleveland Indians (9/1). Texas finished one game ahead of Cleveland with the AL’s best record, and Boston was just one win shy of Cleveland.
The Mets might be set up for a trip to the NLDS if they were facing any other starting pitcher, but the Giants will send one of the best playoff pitchers of all time to the mound. Madison Bumgarner had a 1.03 ERA in 52.2 playoff innings in 2014, and he should be able to outduel Noah Syndergaard at Citi Field.
Anything can happen in one game, but the Blue Jays are simply better than the Orioles. Neither team will send a top starting pitcher to the mound. Toronto’s vaunted middle of the lineup should help them score enough runs to advance.
Prediction: San Francisco, Toronto
Chicago and Washington are on a collision course to meet in the NLCS. Not only are they the top two teams in the NL, but they might be the most well-rounded teams in all of baseball. The NL Wild-Card winner might be lucky to win a game against Chicago, and the Dodgers’ playoff failures should continue when they take on the Nationals.
Texas’ 95-win season doesn’t make much sense, considering they’ve only outscored their opponents by eight runs on the entire season. Their good luck could come to an end in the playoffs against a tough Toronto pitching staff that leads the AL in ERA. Boston might not have an easy time against Cleveland, but their offense will be too much for Cleveland to handle.
Prediction: Chicago, Washington, Toronto, Boston
League Championship Series
The Cubs were embarrassed in the 2015 NLDS, and they’re more than capable of getting redemption this year. Washington has two top starters in Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, but Chicago’s rotation is the deepest in baseball with ERA leaders Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, in addition to 2015 Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta. Couple that with the NL’s best offense, and the Cubs have a trip to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1945.
The Red Sox looked like the best team in the AL before they had the AL East title in hand, and that’s what opposing teams should expect to see in the playoffs. Mookie Betts and David Ortiz are MVP candidates, and Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia give Boston the best middle infield in the playoffs. Whether it’s the Blue Jays, Rangers or Orioles, no team will be able to slow down the Red Sox lineup.
Prediction: Chicago, Boston
It’s a World Series matchup that seemed nearly impossible 15 years ago when neither team had won a championship since the early part of last century. But Chicago and Boston are the best teams in their respective leagues, and it only makes sense that the season will come down to them. The Cubs have MLB’s best record, but they know better than anyone how hard it is to win a championship.
Boston has the best offense in baseball, just as they did when they won the World Series in 2003 and 2013. Chicago has the edge in the rotation, but the Red Sox’s bullpen is just as good. The team with the superior offense has won each of the last three World Series, and with home-field advantage, Boston has a chance to break the Cubs’ hearts in the season that was supposed to finally bring them a title.