With the regular season winding down, the MLB playoff picture is taking shape. Some, like the Los Angeles Dodgers, have already breezed through the season, while others are fighting for their playoff lives. Let’s take a look at the 2019 World Series odds to see who could take home the championship. MLB odds are presented by DraftKings.
Editor’s note: This article was published, Thursday, Sept. 26, prior to the end of the 2019 MLB regular season. Odds can change throughout the playoffs.
Houston Astros (107-55, +220)
The Houston Astros, at +220, are the clear-cut favorite to take home their second World Series championship in three years. The Astros are loaded with a dynamic offense led by third baseman Alex Bregman and outfielder George Springer. The Astros have arguably the top two pitchers in the American League in right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Verlander and Cole might finish one-two in American League Cy Young voting in November.
To make matters even more challenging for Astros opponents, the team acquired former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline for prospects. Greinke had his best start in an Astros’ uniform Sept. 25when he got into the ninth inning with a perfect game intact in Seattle.
The Astros’ only concern might be their middle relief, as they don’t have a group of reliable bullpen arms other than closer Roberto Osuna. Setup man Ryan Pressly was activated off the injured list Sept. 20, about a month after undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery. If the Astros can get him back to the way he was pitching earlier in the year, the club has zero holes. The Astros are loaded so taking them at +220 is a solid choice.
Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56, +260)
Can the Los Angeles Dodgers get back to the World Series for the third straight season? Having the best record in the National League is impressive but this team still has some issues. The Dodgers have gotten a career year out of lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Ryu is leading baseball with a 2.32 ERA. Having said that, Ryu has an ERA of 5.40 over his last seven starts, despite throwing seven strong innings in his final regular season start of the year. The lefty has thrown 182.2 innings this season, his most since his rookie season back in 2015, is Ryu running out of gas?
MVP candidate Cody Bellinger has severely regressed in the second half of the season. Bellinger is hitting just .244 over his last 48 games. The Dodgers need Bellinger to produce if they’re going to win their first World Series since 1988. The 24-year-old was just 1-for-16 with zero extra base hits in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox last season. The year before, Bellinger was 4-for-28 with 17 strikeouts in the 2017 World Series. Bellinger must improve off his previous World Series numbers if the Dodgers are going to win.
A National League club has not gone to the World Series three years in a row since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals won two of those three World Series appearances.
New York Yankees (103-59, +450)
The New York Yankees have not won a World Series since 2009, which isn’t a drought to many franchises but probably feels like one to them. The team is loaded with great, young position players like Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge. The Yankees have battled injuries all season but now head to the playoffs in relatively good health.
The Yankees’ season will come down to the starting rotation. Luis Severino, after missing the first five months, has looked locked-in once again in his first couple starts of the season. After a rocky first half of the season, lefty James Paxton is 6-0 with a 1.69 ERA over his last seven starts. Opponents are hitting just .155 against him in that span. Those two starters will be paired with Masahiro Tanaka, who has a 1.50 ERA in five career postseason starts with the Yankees.
Those three starting pitchers might not even have to throw five, six innings in each start before an elite bullpen takes over, led by pitchers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino. The Yankees are as dangerous as any playoff club to win the World Series.
The Yankees will be without 18-game winner Domingo German the rest of the year. MLB is investigating German for an alleged domestic violence dispute.
Atlanta Braves (97-65, +700)
The Atlanta Braves, winners of the National League East for the second straight season, are led by an elite group of hitters. Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. nearly had a 40-home run/40-steal season in 2019, first baseman Freddie Freeman had another excellent season overall and second baseman Ozzie Albies has picked up his play in September.
Injuries could play a factor for Atlanta in October. Acuña has been battling a groin strain and was shut down for the remainder of the regular season. Freeman has been dealing with an elbow injury.
The reason against picking the Braves to win the World Series would be their pitching. Right-hander Mike Soroka is probably going to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, but which other Braves starters can the team trust? After an All-Star 2018 season, Mike Foltynewicz has taken a step back in 2019. Dallas Keuchel has been better down the stretch but he’s more of a middle of the rotation starter. The Braves thought right-hander Kevin Gausman could be a solid pitcher in 2019, but he struggled and was designated for assignment in August.
Soroka could be the Braves’ game one starter in a postseason series but which other Braves pitcher can match up with other Game two starters like Stephen Strasburg or Walker Buehler?
St. Louis Cardinals (91-71, +1,500)
Winners of the National League Central, the Cardinals have a 3.39 second-half ERA – only the Dodgers have been better in that span. The pitching staff has been led by 23-year-old right-hander Jack Flaherty, who has a 1.00 ERA over his last 15 starts.
For the Cardinals to get to the World Series, the offense needs to step up.
After an MVP-caliber 2018 season, third baseman Matt Carpenter is hitting just .226/.334/.392. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is also having a down season after being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks over the winter. The Cardinals will need more offense if they’re going to get through a difficult National League.
Minnesota Twins (101-61, +1,600)
Similarly, to the Braves, the Minnesota Twins have mashed all season, but where is the pitching? The Twins likely feel comfortable with staff ace Jose Berrios, but who can they trust to take the ball in other games? To get to the World Series, the Twins are likely to see the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series — a team that they are just 46-107 against this century, including the postseason.
Washington Nationals (93-69, +1,800)
The Washington Nationals were left for dead after a brutal 19-31 start. The Nationals caught fire since that point, thanks to MVP candidate (and free-agent-to-be) Anthony Rendon and 20-year-old sensation Juan Soto.
The starting pitching is excellent, led by a front three that is as good as any in baseball – Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.
If the Nationals are going to fall flat in the playoffs yet again (the franchise has never won a playoff series), it’s going to be because of a bullpen that is the worst in baseball.
The Nationals have a bullpen ERA near six this season, the highest in the sport. Usually bullpens that don’t perform well are the results of overuse, but the Nationals bullpen has actually thrown the fewest innings of any club this season. If the Nationals starting staff can go deep into games and not hand the ball over in key spots to this bullpen, they have a shot.
Milwaukee Brewers (89-73, +2,200)
No Christian Yelich, no problem for the Milwaukee Brewers, as the team has won 13 of 17 since the reigning MVP was lost for the season with a knee injury. The team lacks front-end starting pitching, but it also did last season when it went on a deep run in October before falling a win shy of the World Series to the Dodgers.
Manager Craig Counsell is known to pull his starting pitchers early when they get into trouble. That may not be a bad strategy in the playoffs when your bullpen has Josh Hader. Hader has struck out over 16 batters per nine innings.
Counsell has not had a problem letting Hader pitch multiple innings to close games and with playoff games in the later rounds often not being on consecutive days, it allows the Brewers to pitch Hader more often.
Oakland Athletics (97-65, +2,500)
One of the few teams on this list to not have clinched a playoff spot yet, the Oakland Athletics have nearly everything a good contending team needs. The A’s have power bats led by third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson.
The big question for the Athletics is do they have enough starting pitching
Left-hander Sean Manaea was originally thought to be out for the season after left shoulder surgery, but has come back to throw five strong starts for a glistening 1.21 ERA. Manaea is a good bet to start the American League Wild Card game, should the A’s get there. Right-hander Frankie Montas looked fantastic in the first half of the season before being suspended for using performance-enhancing substances. Montas made his return Sept. 25, and looked very sharp but is not playoff-eligible.
The thought of right-hander Homer Bailey starting a playoff game against the Astros or at Yankee Stadium likely deters most who want to bet on this underdog club.
With no Montas, the Athletics will rely on their bullpen more, led by Liam Hendriks. Hendriks has the most strikeouts in a season ever by an Athletics reliever.
The Athletics are at a disadvantage having to play in the one-game Wild Card but if they survive, they’ll be very dangerous.
Tampa Bay Rays (96-66, +2,500)
The Rays are built with their pitching and they have a rotation led by lefty Blake Snell and right-hander Charlie Morton to dominate quality lineups in October.
If baseball was only about who has the best pitching, the Rays likely wouldn’t be looking for the franchise’s first World Series championship.
The Rays will go as far as their offense will take them. Tampa Bay has a pair of good outfielders in Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows, but the rest of the lineup has question marks, especially after breakout third baseman Yandy Diaz has missed the last few months with a foot injury. Diaz was activated from the 60-day injured list on Sept. 29.
Will the Rays be able to survive the Wild Card game?
Cleveland Indians (93-69, +6,000)
Like the Rays, the Indians’ pitching is why they are still alive.
The Indians have the best ERA in baseball, however, they’ve done it with a completely different staff than we’re used to seeing. The Indians did not ride Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to success. Instead, it’s been Cleveland’s young arms. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger have been incredible this season and there is no reason to think the two of them cannot keep dominating.
The offense gets a boost with Jose Ramirez back from a hand injury. In his first game back off the injured list, Ramirez had two home runs and seven RBI. The Indians have gotten excellent seasons out of shortstop Francisco Lindor and first baseman Carlos Santana, so it’s a solid offense.
After a slow start, the Indians are as balanced as any contender.
Prediction: New York Yankees (+450) over Washington Nationals (+1,800)
In the MLB playoffs, anything can happen. Players can be remembered forever based on how the month of October goes. The Astros are the heavy favorite to win the World Series, but the Yankees are just as good offensively and are getting key pieces like Severino back at the right time. A loaded bullpen means Severino, Paxton, and Tanaka just need to get through opposing lineups twice in a game.
The Yankees also got 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton back in September from a 73-game injury hiatus. The Yankees’ young players also have playoff experience from the last few postseasons. A potential Yankees-Astros American League Championship Series could go either way, so let’s pick the better odds which is with the Yankees.
The pick here is the Yankees over the Nationals. The Nationals have a great offense, a starting pitching staff that can dominate the month of October, but eventually that horrendous bullpen might catch up to them.