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The Royals Have A 13 Percent Chance To Win The World Series, According To These Numbers

Courtesy Kathleen Kunkler

Despite finishing the regular season with the best record in the American League, the Royals aren’t the AL team most-likely to win the World Series, at least according to FiveThirtyEight, the statistical analysis sports blog headed by Nate Silver.

Sportswriter Neil Paine lists the Toronto Blue Jays as the team most-likely to take the title after crunching the numbers. Paine gives the Jays a 19 percent chance to end the season as winners.

The Royals are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the second-highest title-winning odds in these rankings with a 13-percent-chance to the win the World Series.

  The odds are based on Elo ratings, a system originally designed by a physicist to rank chess players but that Paine has adapted to get a handle on other forms of competition.

Whereas the final regular season standings account for wins dating back to April, Elo ratings assess the strength of teams right now. Injuries and acquisitions can change the caliber of a team mid-season and should, therefore, change World Series odds.

“The Blue Jays have a better Elo rating and that’s driven by the fact that they’ve played better baseball, especially recently,” Paine says. “It’s sort of like a running tally. The more recent the results – if you play well down the stretch of the season then you get credit for that.”

The Blue Jays, for instance, added slugger Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher David Price to an already formidable team. The Royals added Ben Zobrist and pitcher Johnny Cueto during the year.

Toronto opens the playoffs at home against the Texas Rangers Thursday, while the Royals first-round matchup is against the Houston Astros.

Thanks to notching the best record in the league and a win by the AL in the All Star Game, the Royals have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That generally works to a team’s advantage, though the benefits are more pronounced in sports like football and basketball.

“The kind of bad thing about that, though, from the Royals perspective, is just that home-field (advantage) in baseball really isn’t worth a whole lot,” Paine says. “The better team usually wins in a seven-game series in the NBA, but you can be less certain of that happening in something like baseball.”

Ultimately, there are no heavy favorites heading in to this year’s playoffs. Whereas Paine gives the Blue Jays a 19 percent chance at winning the World Series, the same system gave the eventual-NBA-champion Golden State Warriors a 48 percent chance of winning at the start of the 2015 NBA playoffs.

Baseball, with its low-scoring games and funky, short, best-of-five first-round series can be hard to predict.

“The gap between the second-best and the best in baseball is just 6 percentage points,” Paine says.

And as Kansas City learned last year, in the playoffs, anything can happen.

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