2009 MLB Playoff Predictions From WhatIfSports.com image

2009 MLB Playoff Predictions

New York Yankees are favorites to win 27th World Series, NL is up for grabs
By Eric Schmoldt and Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
October 5th, 2009

With our computer on a roll after correctly picking North Carolina to win it all before the 2009 NCAA tournament, the 2009 Stanley Cup champion, the Lakers over the Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals and the Pittsburgh Steelers to win Super Bowl XLIII (by four points), we at WhatIfSports.com focus on baseball.

Just as we did with those previews, we have used our free MLB simulation technology to "play" the 2009 MLB Playoffs 10,000 times and determine the exact likelihood of each of the eight teams (really nine with the Twins and Tigers both alive right now) making it to any level.

Here is what we found:

MLB Playoffs (Winning Percentages from 10,000 simulations)

TeamLDS Win%LCS Win%WS Win%
New York Yankees785133
Colorado Rockies54239
Los Angeles Dodgers523013
Los Angeles Angels512211
Boston Red Sox491911
St. Louis Cardinals482711
Philadelphia Phillies46207
Twins/Tigers2285

In 2008, the New York Yankees missed out on the postseason for the first time in 14 years. One year later, they're poised to win their 27th world championship and first since 2000.

In 10,000 simulations, the American League wins the world title 60 percent of the time, with the Yankees (33%) winning in more than half of those occasions. No other team wins the World Series more than 13% of the time and the National League race appears to be wide open, with every team reaching the World Series between 20 and 30 percent of the time.

According to our projections, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the second-highest chance of winning it all, doing so at a 13% clip. The Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals each win 11% of the time, the Colorado Rockies won nine percent of the time and the reigning champion Philadelphia Phillies win just seven percent of the time.

While the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins still have a one-game playoff forthcoming to see who make the playoffs, their equal records through 162 games are as tight as their numbers in the computers. The Twins win Tuesday's winner-take-all game 54% of the time, but that merely reflects their home-field advantage. These teams are that even. Whichever team advances to face the Yankees has an equal chance of winning the American League Divisional Series - just 22%.

While the Yankees are the clear favorite, the numbers behind the simulations suggest an exciting race, especially in the other Divisional series.

The Yankees likely sweep their ALDS opponent, but the other three series are most likely to go to a decisive fifth game. The Rockies are the road team to advance, beating Philadelphia 54% of the time. The Dodgers top the Cardinals 52% of the time and the Angels beat the Red Sox 51%. At the Championship Series level, in the most likely scenarios the Yankees beat the Angels in five games, while the Dodgers take care of the Rockies in seven. The Yankees then oust the Dodgers - and their former manager Joe Torre - in five games to win the World Series.

The Yankees' chances are certainly bolstered by the fact that they’ve earned home-field advantage throughout. They won more than 70% of their games at the new Yankee Stadium this season. Only the Dodgers (+169) had a bigger run differential in Major League Baseball this season than the Yankees (+162).

The series with the Red Sox and Angels is particularly compelling because of their recent playoff matchups and how close they played each other in nine meetings this season. The Angels took two of three games in the two series played in L.A. and the Red Sox won two of three in their one home series less than a month ago. Six of the nine games were decided by one run, no game was decided by more than four and one game went to extra innings. The Angels have a minimal edge in the simulations in the ALDS and have a slightly better chance of taking out the Yankees than the Red Sox would if Boston were to advance.

While the Yankees are the heavy favorite on the American League side, the National League is wide open.

The Cardinals are underdogs against the Dodgers, mostly because of the home-field advantage. Los Angeles actually dropped five of the seven meetings (which featured two extra-inning games) between the two teams this year. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright - the best 1-2 starting pitching punch in the National League - were 3-0 against L.A. and could potentially pitch four of the five games. But the Dodgers' staff boasts the MLB's best marks in both ERA and opponents' batting average and the Dodgers' lineup is better, top to bottom, at the plate than that of St. Louis, which is top heavy with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and otherwise reliant on inconsistent players like Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus. It's not quite a coin-flip, but it's close.

You may find it interesting that the defending champions have the second-lowest chance of winning the World Series this season and are even predicted to lose in the NLDS. While the Phillies secured home-field for the first round, they didn't really secure an advantage. Their 45-36 home record is actually worse than their record on the road (48-33), indicating they are a worse home team than road team. They won't have an advantage at Coors Field either, as the Rockies sport the best home record in the National League. Bullpen woes also hurt the chances of the Phillies, who were swept by Colorado in the NLDS in 2007. There are few holes in the Rockies lineup - which ranked first in OPS and second in both OBP and SLG amongst National League teams - meaning Brad Lidge, or whoever ends up trying to close games for the Rockies, will have his hands full.

Are the Yankees as dominant as their teams at the end of the last decade? (That sounds like a question for WhatIfSports.com. If New York wins, we will use our free baseball simulation technology to answer that later.) For now, the numbers would seem to indicate yes. The 2009 Yankees worst hitter, Melky Cabrera, still had 13 home runs and a league-average OPS, while playing solid defense in the outfield. Seven of nine starters hit at least 22 home runs and the lineup ended with an OPS 36 points higher than the second-place AL team (Boston), which should give a fairly run-of-the-mill rotation (save for C.C. Sabathia) plenty of run support.

If the favorite doesn't win it all, the trophy is up for grabs, just like last year when the Phillies won the World Series despite winning just 10% of the time in our original full 2008 MLB Playoff simulations (we did have them beating the Rays in our World Series preview). But it looks like it's time for the Yankees World Series drought to come to an end.

Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in free mlb matchup analysis and baseball sim leagues. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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