Current Playoff Format Making MLB Odds More Unpredictable

By Chris Hughes   March 12, 2024 

Current Playoff Format Making MLB Odds More Unpredictable

If you were paying attention, the Texas Rangers made some big moves during last offseason with the hopes of winning the 2023 World Series.

While going on a spending spree doesn’t work for many teams (looking at you, New York Mets and Yankees), the Rangers built on acquiring Marcus Semien and Corey Seager the previous offseason by making a big splash in signing Jacob DeGrom along with — what turned out to be more important acquisitions — Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney.

DeGrom was shut down for Tommy John surgery after playing for just a month, but the Rangers went and traded for Max Scherzer, Aroldis Chapman, and Jordan Montgomery.

Entering the playoffs as a wild card after struggling down the stretch, the Rangers got hot. They swept Tampa Bay in the first round, swept Baltimore in the ALDS, defeated the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in a seven-game ALCS, and did away with the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games to win the World Series.

The Rangers made history by going 11-0 on the road in the 2023 postseason. It was a run that few were able to predict, and that’s becoming a theme in the Major League Baseball playoffs. But you can take advantage with some nice MLB World Series odds. Let’s explain.

LONG MLB WORLD SERIES ODDS: Almost 2 Years in a Row

The Rangers won the Fall Classic with preseason odds of +5000, which are the longest since Washington won in 2019. The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2022 season at +3000, were so bad going into June that year that manager Joe Girardi got fired, and the Fightins still came within two games of a championship.

Many casual bettors find baseball to be the most lopsided sport when it comes to competitiveness. But in reality, we haven’t had a back-to-back World Series champion in nearly 25 years. The last team to do it was the Yankees three-peat of 1998-2000. The NBA has had four back-to-back champs since, the NHL had Tampa Bay do it in 2020-21, and the Kansas City Chiefs are defending back-to-back Super Bowl champs.

So while you can nearly be assured that teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and Houston Astros will be in prime position at the beginning of October, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be the last team standing.

How Does the Current MLB Playoff System Favor Underdogs?

In baseball, long layoffs can be a bad thing. The Colorado Rockies in 2007 come to mind. The Rockies bulldozed their way through the National League playoffs, winning the Wild Card game and sweeping the first two NL rounds. They sat and waited while the Boston Red Sox had to fight to win a seven-game series over Cleveland in the ALCS. Once they began the World Series, the Red Sox charged out fast and swept Colorado.

While that isn’t always what happens, and the layoffs aren’t always the reason why, it’s a classic case.

In the current MLB playoff format adopted in 2022, it calls for the top-two seeds in each league to get a first-round bye while four other teams battle it out to advance. It’s the first time in MLB history that a team is received a bye in a postseason round.

In the divisional series that followed the first round, here’s how each team fared.

YEARUNDERDOGFAVORITERESULT
2022ClevelandNY YankeesNY Yankees (3-2)
2022SeattleHoustonHouston (3-0)
2022PhiladelphiaAtlantaPhiladelphia (3-1)
2022San DiegoLA DodgersSan Diego (3-1)
2023MinnesotaHoustonHouston (3-1)
2023TexasBaltimoreTexas (3-0)
2023ArizonaLA DodgersArizona (3-0)
2023PhiladelphiaAtlantaPhiladelphia (3-1)

Out of eight series, the underdog won five times. In the case of Atlanta and Los Angeles, each had won 100 games and were bounced in the NLDS two years in a row. The only team who has figured it out is Houston, who is 2-0 in the ALDS under the new format.

What Does That Tell Us About 2024 MLB World Series Odds?

Going into this year, there are only two teams — the aforementioned Dodgers and Braves — who are below +1000 in World Series futures odds. Oddsmakers seem to be picking up on this unpredictability. In fact, the champion Rangers can be had for +1500 at BetRivers. That’s quite a bargain for a defending champ, but as we said, beware betting on a back-to-back champ.

So while the unpredictability makes it harder to pick a champion, the odds are more in your favor to cash in if you’re able to predict the winner come October.

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