21 October 2014

MLB Postseason Projections 2014: Odds about Even in Fall Classic

This post is part of a series tracking the postseason series win probabilities throughout the 2014 MLB Playoffs. Click here to enjoy the full series of posts.

Kauffman Stadium • Photo credit: Ian MunroeCreative Commons 2.0

Tonight begins one of the most improbable World Series match-ups in recent memory. Both teams are the lowest seed in their league. Neither one enjoyed home field advantage after the play-in round. At the start of LSD play, I placed the odds of a San Francisco-Kansas City World Series at just under 3%. Vegas' expectation was about the same. Among LDS contenders, I ranked the Giants and Royals 6th and 7th most likely to reach the final stage. Their Power Scores were equally pathetic.

Yet here we are.

The Kansas City Royals have faced the #1 and #2 seeds, enjoying four home games out of eight (including the play-in), but nevertheless set a postseason record with eight straight victories. The San Francisco Giants had to win on the road just to reach the postseason, promptly disposed of the best team in the National League (the Washington Nationals), and then swiftly dispatched a significantly weaker St. Louis Cardinals squad.

My model underestimated both squads, and what we're left with is a match-up of equals. Equal in seeding, the Royals and Giants are equal in talent with a Power Score of .534, the latter fractionally ahead, both trailing eight teams that have since waived goodbye. As a result, both teams are essentially an equal shot at winning it all, the Royals with an insignificant 51-49 edge.

Like I said, a match-up of equals. The Royals enjoy their slight edge only because of the result of the 2014 All Star Game. Had the NL taken the Midsummer Classic, the Giants would be about 52-48 favorites, instead.

The model is picking a Kansas City win in seven, barely more likely than a Royals win in six. However, if the Giants are able to neutralize their opponent's home field advantage, they could be poised to win it in five. As it stands, a six game series is the Giants best bet, by the smallest of margins. Both squads are equally likely (unlikely) to sweep each other.

Vegas and the Rational Pastime model are pretty much in agreement on the two teams' prospects. Betting houses are offering negative money lines on both teams to win. Converting those money lines to probabilities, we see that Vegas has the Royals winning 53% of the time and the Giants 51% of the time. Of course, this is impossible. Adjusting the sum of probabilities to 100%, we get the same numbers my model offers: 51-49, Royals.

These numbers are about to get a whole lot more volatile. Check back tomorrow for updated probabilities after Game 1 of the 2014 World Series.

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