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Dodgers-Tigers: World Series preview?

7/8/2014

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers play an intriguing two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit, with Hyun-Jin Ryu versus Justin Verlander on Tuesday and Zack Greinke versus Max Scherzer on Wednesday afternoon. The clubs split a two-game series in the second week of the season, with both games going 10 innings.

Is this a World Series preview? Well, it obviously has World Series potential. Based on the playoff odds from FanGraphs that we use at ESPN.com, however, neither team is quite the favorite in its league to advance to the World Series.

American League odds to advance to the World Series:

A's: 28.0 percent

Tigers: 25.2 percent

Angels: 15.6 percent

Orioles: 8.2 percent

Blue Jays: 6.6 percent

National League odds to advance to the World Series:

Nationals: 28.4 percent

Dodgers: 24.8 percent

Giants: 11.0 percent

Braves: 10.6 percent

Cardinals: 8.8 percent

Those odds factor in what has happened so far, projected results from the current roster, the remaining schedule, injuries and so on. The additions of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel certainly make the A's stronger on paper. One thing that helps the Tigers' odds is that they are projected as an easy winner in the AL Central; their 84.0 percent odds of winning the division is the highest of any of the six divisions. Win the division and miss the wild-card game and your odds of reaching the World Series increase.

The belief in the Dodgers and Tigers rests on the strength of their rotations. But does either team really have the best rotation in its league? The Dodgers' rotation is fifth in the NL in runs allowed per nine innings -- although the top seven staffs are bunched between 3.47 and 3.67 runs per nine innings. In terms of FanGraphs WAR, the Dodgers are also fifth. Meanwhile, the Detroit rotation has been nowhere near as dominant as last year, when it recorded the highest WAR for a rotation in the past decade. The Tigers have allowed 4.35 runs per nine -- below the AL average of 4.26. The starters do, however, rank first in FanGraphs WAR.

It's certainly not decisive that either team has the best rotation in its league.

Even if that were the case, is that any kind of playoff guarantee? Hardly. I looked back at the past 10 years and checked the team rotation leaders in FanGraphs WAR and fewest runs allowed per nine innings in each league. This gave us 38 staffs, as the leaders in those categories usually didn't match up.

Three of those teams won the World Series -- the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox and the 2005 White Sox. Four others reached the World Series. Eighteen missed the playoffs altogether. So of the 20 teams that did make the playoffs, seven reached the World Series (35 percent). Including the wild-card teams of the past two years, 84 teams have made the playoffs in the past 10 years, so the random odds of reaching the World Series is basically 1 in 4. So having the best rotation would appear to slightly improve a team's chances of making the World Series (of course, the differences between best and second-best and third-best are often minimal).

So, Dodgers-Tigers? If I had to pick today, I'll stick with the Dodgers, my preseason pick. I would change from the Rays to the A's in the AL. What do you think?

Here are the complete results of the past 10 years:

2013

AL WAR: Tigers (25.3) -- Lost ALCS

NL WAR: Dodgers (13.9) -- Lost NLCS

AL R/9: Royals (3.71) -- Missed playoffs

NL R/9: Braves (3.38) -- Lost NLDS

2012

AL WAR: Tigers (20.6) -- Lost World Series

NL WAR: Nationals (16.7) -- Lost NLDS

AL R/9: Rays (3.56) -- Missed playoffs

NL R/9: Reds (3.63) -- Lost NLDS

2011

AL WAR: White Sox (19.7) -- Missed playoffs

NL WAR: Phillies (24.7) -- Lost NLDS

AL R/9: Rays (3.79) -- Lost ALDS

NL R/9: Phillies

2010

AL WAR: Red Sox (18.5) -- Missed playoffs

NL WAR: Rockies (19.4) -- Missed playoffs

AL R/9: A's (3.86) -- Missed playoffs

NL R/9: Padres (3.59) -- Missed playoffs

2009

AL WAR: Red Sox (18.8) -- Lost ALDS

NL WAR: Rockies (17.9) -- Lost NLDS

AL R/9: Mariners (4.27) -- Missed playoffs

NL R/9: Giants/Dodgers (3.77 ) -- Missed playoffs/Lost NLCS

2008

AL WAR: Blue Jays (20.3) -- Missed playoffs

NL WAR: Diamondbacks (19.9) -- Missed playoffs

AL R/9: Blue Jays (3.77)

NL R/9: Dodgers (4.00) -- Lost NLCS

2007

AL WAR: Red Sox (19.0) -- Won World Series

NL WAR: Giants (13.0) -- Missed playoffs

AL R/9: Red Sox (4.06)

NL R/9: Padres (4.09) -- Missed playoffs

2006

AL WAR: Angels (18.2) -- Missed playoffs

NL WAR: Rockies (16.0) -- Missed playoffs

AL R/9: Tigers (4.17) -- Lost World Series

NL R/9: Padres (4.19) -- Lost NLDS

2005

AL WAR: White Sox (18.8) -- Won World Series

NL WAR: Marlins (17.4) -- Missed playoffs

AL R/9: Indians (3.96) -- Missed playoffs

NL R/9: Astros (3.74) -- Lost World Series

2004

AL WAR: Red Sox (22.3) -- Won World Series

NL WAR: Cubs (17.2) -- Missed playoffs

AL R/9: Twins (4.41) -- Lost ALDS

NL R/9: Cardinals (4.07) -- Lost World Series