MLB Playoff Expansion Affects World Series Betting

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Major League Baseball expanded its playoffs from 10 teams to 16 teams on Opening Day, adding another wrinkle to a shortened 60-game season. More than half the league will reach the postseason, giving some clubs a better chance to  make a World Series run.

The first round of the playoffs will feature four best-of-three series in both the American and National League. The higher seed will host all three games, though home-field advantage could mean very little if baseball games continue to be played without fans in the stadium. 

The traditional division series, championship series and World Series will follow the 16-team opening round of the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees are the prohibitive favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, to win the Fall Classic. Los Angeles has +400 championships odds with New York not far behind at +430. 

A $100 bet on the Dodgers would net a $400 profit, in the event that Los Angeles wins the World Series. Placing a $100 wager on the Yankees gives a bettor a chance to win $430.

The Houston Astros, who lost Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, are third in baseball with +900 odds. The Atlanta Braves have +1400 odds, making them the Dodgers’ biggest competition in the National League. The Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays are both given +1500 World Series odds.

The defending champion Washington Nationals have +1650 odds. No team has won consecutive titles since the Yankees did it in 2000 when only eight of MLB’s 32 teams made the playoffs. 

Washington began last season with +1600 odds. 

The New York Mets have +1900 odds, and the Cleveland Indians are given +2000 odds to win the World Series. Both teams missed last year’s playoffs.

MLB’s middle-tier teams that were considered to be contenders for the final playoff spots under the previous format benefit most from the expanded postseason. Thirteen teams have between +2500 and +6500 World Series odds. The Cincinnati Reds (+2500), Chicago Cubs (+2600), Los Angeles Angels (+3500), Boston Red Sox (+4300) and Texas Rangers (+5500) are among the clubs in that group.

Twenty-two teams have better than +7000 odds to win the 2020 World Series. On Opening Day 2019, 19 teams were given better than +7000 odds.

Fangraphs, a site that provides advanced baseball statistics and calculates playoff probabilities, gives 10 teams at least a 3.9% chance to win the World Series. Only seven teams had better than a 3.5% shot to win the title before the postseason was expanded.

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