Major League Baseball expanded the playoffs in 1994, adding a single wild card team per league to the postseason. This expanded to two wild card teams in 2012 and in 2020 only, a third wild card team was added to the playoffs. But how many times has a wild card team went on to win the World Series? The answer may be more than you think. The Florida Marlins (1997, 2003), Anaheim Angels (2002), Boston Red Sox (2004), St. Louis Cardinals (2011), San Francisco Giants (2014), and Washington Nationals (2019) all rose from the wild card to hoist the World Series trophy. Which teams are the top contenders to do the same?
1 – Los Angeles Dodgers
The reigning World Series champions are two games out in the NL West and 1st in the Wild Card. The team is a juggernaut, who would likely win the division nearly every time in simulated action. The key is a rotation full of Cy Young winners and current candidates. Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw have won the award a combined six time. The duo, along with Walker Buehler and Julio Urias have a combined record of 49-14.
In the outfield, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger are former MVPs, although Bellinger has struggled all season he has playoff experience. Betts, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner and catcher Will Smith have all belted at least 20 home runs. The Dodgers lead the league in run differential and have the best winning percentage of any defending World Series team. If the Dodgers don’t come back to win the division, it might not matter. They are that good and the MLB odds for them to win the World Series is at +270, best in all of Major League Baseball.
2 – Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are right in the mix for the 2nd AL Wild Card spot in large part due to a dynamic offense that no pitcher in the league wants to face. Toronto features the likes of Vlad Guerrero Jr, who is having a sensational season. He’s hitting .323 with 46 home runs and 109 RBI. He’s also a top candidate for league MVP along with teammate Marcus Semien (41 home runs, 97 RBI) and the Angels’ Shohei Otani. Add in George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr and Randal Grichuk, who have combined to hit 116 home runs, and there are no weak links in the batting order.
The pitching team is solid enough to eat up innings and let the offense take over. Robbie Ray, Jose Berrios, and Hyun Jin Ryu would be the probable three starters in a playoff series. Closer Jordan Romano has been solid with 20 saves and an ERA of 2.29, but the rest of the bullpen has been shaky. All told, the Blue Jays MLB odds to win the World Series sit at +1600, ninth in MLB.
3 – San Francisco Giants
Currently on top in the NL West, the Giants have a small lead over the Dodgers, so they could drop back into the wild card position. Projected to finish under .500 at the start of the season, the Giants have continued to surprise everyone. An offensive machine, the Giants are leading the league in home runs with a steady all-around lineup, led by Brandon Belt’s 26 home runs. Buster Posey is showing signs of his All-Star form from nearly ten years ago, hitting .306 with 18 home runs.
The pitching staff is solid with Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Logan Webb, but they are clearly not a dominating trio. The Giants lack a superstar ace to pitch in the Wild Card Game. After winning three World Series titles since 2010, you cannot count out the Giants. Currently, the odds for the Giants wining the World Series are fifth best in the league at +800.
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