PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers were both 100-loss teams in 2021. A short two seasons later, they now find themselves playing the part of one of baseball’s most iconic underdog stories.
The preseason odds for a Rangers-Diamondbacks World Series matchup were listed at +175000, or a 1 in 1,750 chance, making this the most unlikely World Series matchup of all time.
From day one, hardly anyone, including oddsmakers, would have predicted the Diamondbacks to win the National League pennant and compete for a title in 2023.
Arizona opened the season at +6000 odds (1.6% implied probability) to win the National League and +12500 (0.8% implied probability) to win the World Series, according to BetMGM.
Compare that to the Rangers, who opened the season at +2500 (3.8% implied probability) to win the American League and +4600 (2.1% implied probability) to lift The Commissioner’s Trophy.
The Diamondbacks and Rangers open World Series play Friday night in Arlington, Texas.
The odds for the Diamondbacks and Rangers to meet in the Fall Classic have been on a bit of an up-and-down journey for both teams throughout the regular season and even during the postseason.
Aside from the direct betting odds, it’s incredibly rare for a team with 85 or fewer regular season wins to reach the World Series.
Only one team – the 2006 Cardinals – has won a World Series with 84 or fewer regular-season wins. The World Series is one thing, but the Diamondbacks are now just the sixth team in history to qualify for the postseason with 85 or fewer wins.
A contributing factor to the Diamondbacks’ not-so-great regular-season record in comparison to traditional playoff teams was a 16-34 stretch from June 11 to Aug. 13. Of course, they bounced back, but a 16-34 clip is the all-time worst 50-game stretch of any team to win a pennant.
The odds for the Diamondbacks to win the World Series jumped from +2250 to +8400 after the 16-34 run, but the race wasn’t quite out of reach yet.
“It’s really impressive that they were kind of able to flip a switch,” said Caleb Wilfinger, deputy editor at Pickswise. “We’ve seen other teams in the past do it, but those teams did not go through as much regular-season turmoil as the Diamondbacks did.”
The Diamondbacks more than just bounced back, going on a 26-14 run over a 40-game stretch directly after the 16-34 run that nearly knocked them out of playoff contention.
Furthermore, the Diamondbacks were outscored by 15 runs in the regular season. Only one other team – the 1987 Twins – has won the World Series with a negative run differential in the regular season.
“Run differential is a huge thing for MLB handicappers,” Wilfinger said. “Usually that’s a very predictive stat. In the postseason, if you’ve gotten there, if your run differential is negative, you’re probably going to eventually hit that regression against really good competition.”
The list of crazy facts and stats related to this remarkable playoff run goes on and on.
From an individual standpoint, the Diamondbacks are the fifth team in history to reach the World Series with a rookie leading the team in WAR. Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll led the team with a 6.2 Wins Against a Replacement Player this season and has posted a .295 batting average in the playoffs.
‘Can you take me higher?’
Not only is this the Rangers’ first World Series trip since they lost back-to-back title chances in 2010 and 2011, but this is also their first winning season in seven years.
“They were supposed to be a barely above .500 team,” Wilfinger said. “Based on most people’s projections, they were supposed to be a third-place team in that division based on the Astros and the Mariners success last season.”
The Rangers hadn’t had an All-Star starter since their World Series roster over a decade ago yet managed to become only the fourth team in MLB history with five starters in a nine-man roster at the Midsummer Classic this year.
Similar to the Diamondbacks with Carroll and rookie pitcher Brandon Pfaadt, Texas has had some help from youngsters during this playoff push. September call-up Evan Carter became the youngest player ever at 21 years old to reach base safely 13 or more times in a five-game stretch in the postseason during the Rangers’ ALDS win over the Orioles.
Carter hasn’t been the only late-season boost for this Rangers squad. Of course, signing household-name stars such as Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom was a significant part of the Rangers’ surprising year, but a rather forgotten 1990s band has fueled the fire in the Rangers clubhouse.
As did Arizona, Texas also had a rough stretch en route to the Fall Classic. The Rangers went 4-16 from Aug. 16 to Sept. 8, which is the second-worst 20-game stretch from a team to win a pennant in MLB history.
The reason for the turnaround stems from listening to Creed songs in the locker room before games, particularly the song “Higher,” according to Rangers pitcher Andrew Heaney.
In all seriousness, this is another club that not a lot of people expected to see in the Fall Classic.
Since the club moved to Arlington in 1974, the Rangers had only reached the championship series twice in franchise history before this year and held a 21-31 record in the playoffs before this year’s run.
The average regular season win total of 87 games between the two clubs is now the lowest average win total for World Series opponents ever.
The tale of the tape
So, with two otherworldly underdogs reaching the World Series, how do the Diamondbacks’ odds fare this time around?
Arizona has been the underdog in every playoff game this postseason and that isn’t expected to change against the Rangers.
FanDuel Sportsbook has the series price listed at -175, or 63.6% implied probability, on the Rangers while the Diamondbacks were given +150 odds, 40% implied probability, to win the title.
As for the exact outcome, odds suggest that the Rangers winning the seven-game series 4-2 is the most likely outcome, with a 20.4% implied probability based on the +390 odds.
The good news for Arizona is that history is on its side. The Milwaukee Brewers have reached the postseason nine times in franchise history, and all nine times the team to eliminate them from the playoffs has gone on to win the NL pennant. Six of the previous eight teams went on to win the World Series.
Being that the Diamondbacks eliminated Milwaukee in the wild-card round earlier this month, they are looking to be the next team on that list to win the championship.
With Zac Gallen earning the starting nod on the mound in Game 1, the Diamondbacks enter Friday’s matchup as +135 underdogs (42.6% implied probability). First pitch is set for 5:03 p.m. MST as the Diamondbacks begin the hunt for their first World Series win since 2001.