Playoff projections are out. Here's what to watch for

March 16th, 2022

The 2022 playoff projections are out on FanGraphs, and while some of the predictions will shock no one -- the Dodgers are the preseason World Series favorites -- there are also plenty of interesting projections, and some big surprises.

To calculate the playoff odds, FanGraphs takes every team's schedule and the projected performance of its players and simulates the season 20,000 times. Playoff odds of 90% mean the team makes the postseason in 18,000 of the 20,000 simulated seasons, World Series championship odds of 10% would mean the team wins in 2,000 of the 20,000 simulated seasons, and so on.

Here are 10 eye-catching tidbits about the playoff odds for this season.

Note: The PECOTA season projections on Baseball Prospectus have also been released, and PECOTA's similarities/differences to FanGraphs' projections are included.

The Blue Jays are the AL favorites

Will this be the Blue Jays' big year? The playoff odds like them to be the American League's representative in the World Series. Only the Dodgers, at 14.9%, have better championship odds than Toronto's 12%. With Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer and Teoscar Hernández all projected to have monster years and the Gausman-Berríos-Ryu-Manoah-Kikuchi rotation projected to be well-above average, the Blue Jays are the pick for the most wins in the AL (92) and have the highest playoff odds (89.5%) despite a stacked division. For reference, the AL's projected top team entering the season was the Yankees in 2021, Astros in 2020, Yankees in 2019, Astros in 2018, Cleveland in 2017 and Red Sox in 2016.

Second opinion: PECOTA also has the Blue Jays at 92 wins -- but finishing six games behind the Yankees, who are projected for an AL-best 98 wins and 15.6% World Series championship odds, just behind the Dodgers' 16%.

The AL East has all three Wild Card teams

The AL East had three playoff teams last year. With the expanded, 12-team postseason format in 2022, it's projected to have four. The Blue Jays are projected to win the division, with the Yankees (91 wins), Rays (87) and Red Sox (84) in line for all three Wild Card slots. When you remember how tight the competition was in the East in 2021, it makes sense. The Yankees and Red Sox were the Wild Card teams last October, the Rays won their second straight AL East title and the Blue Jays finished one game out of the race. All four teams won over 90 games.

Second opinion: The same four AL East teams have winning records in PECOTA's projections, but only the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays would make the postseason. The Red Sox's 83 projected wins put them behind the Angels (89), Twins (84) and Mariners (84).

The NL East is a tossup

The East is projected to be the tightest race in the National League as the longtime rival Mets and Braves go head to head. FanGraphs' projections see the reigning World Series champs as the slightest of favorites in the division entering 2022, with Atlanta projected for 91 wins to New York's 90. The Braves have 84.8% postseason odds, 48.9% odds to win the division and 8.7% odds to win the World Series; the Mets have 78.4% postseason odds, 37.4% odds to win the division and 7% odds to win the World Series. Both teams have made big moves this offseason, with the Braves trading for Matt Olson and the Mets signing Max Scherzer and more.

Second opinion: PECOTA agrees … even more strongly. PECOTA has the NL East as a dead heat, with the Braves and Mets projected for identical 92-70 records. Interestingly, the Mets win the World Series in 10.3% of PECOTA's simulated seasons, second-best of any NL team behind Los Angeles, while the Braves only win 7.2% of the time, which also puts them behind the Brewers (10%).

Welcome the Giants back to the NL West race

Last year, the race everyone was excited for was the Dodgers vs. the Padres in the NL West. Then the Giants came out of nowhere to win 107 games and finish as the best team in baseball. San Diego has vaulted back over San Francisco in the 2022 preseason projections, but the playoff odds see the NL West as a three-team race this year, not a two-team race. The Dodgers (96 wins, 95.7% playoff odds), Padres (90 wins, 78.0% odds) and Giants (85 wins, 49.2% odds) are all 2022 playoff teams by the standings projections. L.A. would win the division at that total, with the Padres and Giants the second and third Wild Card teams behind the Mets, just ahead of the Cardinals and Phillies.

Second opinion: PECOTA doesn't look as favorably upon San Francisco as FanGraphs. The Giants are projected for a losing record (79-83), while the Dodgers are the only 100-win team in baseball (with 99.4% playoff odds) and the Padres also make the playoffs with 86 wins.

The White Sox are finally favorites

Coming off back-to-back postseason appearances and their first division title in 13 years, the White Sox are finally preseason favorites to win the AL Central. Even last year, they were projected to finish second behind the Twins. But now they're the biggest favorite of any division, projected to win the Central by a full 10 games over Minnesota (90 wins to 80). After having preseason playoff odds under 1% from 2017-19, Chicago's odds have jumped to 36.9% in 2020, 48% in '21 and 83.8% in '22.

Second opinion: PECOTA agrees, projecting the White Sox to finish with 91 wins and win the division by seven games over the Twins. Chicago has 83.8% playoff odds and a 71.2% chance to win the Central.

The Astros are the likeliest AL team to clinch a bye

The Blue Jays are the World Series favorites out of the AL, and the White Sox are projected to win their division by the biggest margin, but it's the Astros who have the highest likelihood of clinching a bye to the Division Series (the byes go to the top two division winners in each league under the new playoff format). That's because the Blue Jays might have a tougher time actually winning the division thanks to the stiff competition in the East, and the White Sox are projected to finish with fewer wins than Houston (91) even though they have a weaker division overall.

Second opinion: The Astros are actually projected for one fewer win (90) than the White Sox in PECOTA's simulations, and with PECOTA seeing the Angels as stronger than FanGraphs, Houston is slightly less likely to make the Division Series than Chicago.

The Easts are a gauntlet

Meanwhile, every single team in both East divisions has a strength of schedule of .500 or better. This is actually the second year in a row that's been the case. Even with some projected bottom-feeder teams in those divisions (the Orioles, Marlins and Nationals), they have a lot of contenders who will all have to go through each other on the road to October.

Second opinion: The Easts are the only divisions to feature multiple 90-win teams under PECOTA's projections (the Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL, the Mets and Braves in the NL), but the Red Sox and Phillies fall further behind than they do in FanGraphs' simulations.

The Central champions have the easiest schedules

The White Sox and Brewers are predicted to win the AL Central and NL Central, respectively. They could also have the clearest roads to the postseason, facing the easiest schedules of any teams in baseball. Chicago's opponents have a projected winning percentage of .488, and the Brewers' opponents are projected at .489. The next-most favorable schedules belong to the Dodgers (also .489), Astros (.492) and Padres (.493).

Second opinion: PECOTA sees the NL Central as especially lopsided, with the Brewers projected to win the division by 13 games over the Cardinals (94 wins to 81) … which would be the biggest gap if not for the juggernaut Dodgers being picked to win by 14 games over the Padres despite San Diego also being a playoff team in PECOTA.

The Angels have a chance

The Angels' quest to end their playoff drought and get Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani to the postseason continues. The 2022 odds don't think they'll quite get there, but it could be close -- the Angels are the first team out, and they're projected to finish just behind the Red Sox for the last Wild Card spot (82 wins to Boston's 84). The Angels have playoff odds of 38.1%, putting them ahead of the Mariners despite Seattle's 90 wins in 2021 and moves to add Robbie Ray, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez.

Second opinion: The Angels are in. PECOTA actually thinks they'll be the second Wild Card team, with 89 wins, just behind Toronto and ahead of the Rays. That would be the Angels' most wins since they last made the playoffs in 2014.

The World Series winner comes from the AL East or NL West half the time

Two divisions account for over half of FanGraphs' simulated World Series champions. It's because the NL West has the overall favorite, the Dodgers, and the AL East has four teams with significant championship odds. The Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays or Red Sox win the 2022 World Series in 28.7% of the simulated seasons, while the Dodgers, Padres or Giants win in 22.2% of them. That's 50.9% in total.

Second opinion: It's more about the teams at the top in PECOTA's projections. The Yankees and Dodgers account for nearly a third of the World Series championships all on their own (31.6% between them).