The 5 Most Likely World Series Champs (in June 2013)

Who's our current most likely World Series Champ? Here's a hint: it's not the MLB-leading Cardinals.

We're pretty close to that cutoff for halfway through the season. The Cardinals have played 76 games, the Marlins are already far out of contention, and Troy Tulowitzki has already made fantasy owners cry out in anguish due to a debilitating injury. You know, the usual for this time of year.

So finally, we're in range to actually talk about something that's not going to happen for another four months: the World Series. You excited for your team getting there? That depends, are you from a Midwestern city that isn't Chicago?

As it stands, the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals are our most likely World Series participants, and in the case of the Tigers, it's not even close. No other AL team holds more than a 19 percent chance at winning the ALCS; the Tigers are at 36 percent. The Cardinals, meanwhile, may hold the best record in baseball but will have a harder time holding off the pack down the stretch.

The stats don't lie: if your team isn't on this list, then you better hope for a Ray Allen-level miracle. These five will be tough to beat.

For our complete playoff and championship odds, check out our Team Power Rankings page to see your team's chances.

1. Detroit Tigers

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The Tigers and their .568 win percentage have them as only the seventh-best team in the majors and third-best team in the AL by record. By overall efficiency standards, however, the Tigers are far above and beyond any other team, with an expected differential of 1.47 runs better than the league-average team every single game they play.

Want guys who get on base? Try Detroit's MLB-leading .351 OBP on for size; Cabrera, Peralta, Fielder, and Jackson all hold a .374 OBP or better. Want power? Detroit's .429 slugging sits fourth overall, and Miggy's .644 slugging only trails Chris Davis. You're not competing with this lineup.

You're also not messing with that Too Big to Fail pitching staff. At this point, everybody knows about Max Scherzer and his roughly 497 percent strikeout rate (actual number: 31.0 percent). But maybe you don't realize that Anibal Sanchez is right behind him with his own 30.4 percent strikeout rate, Justin Verlander holds a 26.3 percent K rate and has simply gotten unlucky with a .347 BABIP against, and both Porcello and Fister hold a WHIP that is better than all but three MLB teams. This rotation won't give you a break.

They may have gotten swept against the Giants in the World Series last year, but that only seems to be a bump in the road. If you're looking for your eventual World Series champs, our odds are easily with the D-Town Boys.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

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The Cardinals currently hold the best record in the majors, a pitching staff that has forgotten how to walk guys, and a lineup that thinks Strikeouts is just that show John Anderson hosts on ABC. So why are they only our second-most likely World Series champion? Because in order to win the World Series, you have to get there first.

According to our nERD efficiency rankings, the Cardinals are the second-most efficient team in all of baseball. That's great, except for when you realize the Pirates are seventh. And the Reds are ninth. And the Cubs are 12th. And the Giants and the Braves are the only teams in their respective divisions in the top half of all MLB teams. The Cardinals will face tougher competition than their opponents to get to the same point, and that drives their overall win odds down.

That's how, despite the third-best offensive OBP and 11th-best slugging percentage and second-best pitching staff WHIP and lowest walks per nine innings allowed in the majors, the Cardinals may not even make it out of the Wild Card play-in game. With the Reds and Pirates looming, St. Louis only holds a 63.1 percent chance at winning their division. And as the Braves saw last season, it only takes one blow infield fly call to completely change the dynamic of that one game play-in.

3. Atlanta Braves

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In speaking of the Upton Brothers and the Bravettes, we only need to sneak one spot down to find where they sit in the rankings. Their 0.70 nERD score means their expected run differential against a league-average team is 0.32 runs worse than their St. Louis counterparts, but because of the easier road, their championship odds are only one percent lower.

But that's what happens when one of the expected best divisions in baseball flops harder than After Earth. 21, 23, 27, and 28 aren't just the dollar amounts that people think Josh Hamilton is worth, it's also the efficiency rankings for the Nationals, Phillies, Mets, and Marlins, respectively. The Braves wouldn't even need to be in the top ten to hold a substantial edge in the division. In fourth place, it's almost like they're toying with everybody else.

The Braves have one main weakness that could hurt them when it comes to the playoffs - offensive strikeout rate. Atlanta has wiffed on 23.6 percent of their total plate appearances this season, the second-highest rate in the majors behind Houston. Especially in the current NL playoff picture, that weakness could prove fatal. Each of the other four projected NL playoff teams are in the top 11 of pitchers' strikeout rates, while current projected LDS opponent Cincinnati sits fifth.

4. Boston Red Sox

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See, it's funny, because the Red Sox aren't actually the most efficient team in their division. That would actually belong to the Rays, who would be expected to hold a run differential 0.04 higher against a league-average team than their Boston counterparts. But the stats obviously have that BOSTON BIAS and give the Red Sox the higher odds.

Well actually, not exactly. The Red Sox just hold a current five game lead over Tampa Bay. And given the small difference that 0.04 more runs makes, the Rays would actually be expected to have exactly as many wins as Boston the rest of the way. That's how Boston holds a 64.5 percent chance at winning the division, while Tampa only sits with a nine percent chance. (Given their current record, Baltimore actually has the second-best division odds at 16 percent).

Boston's main key is that incredible lineup: with their second-ranked .345 OBP and third-ranked .441 slugging, the Red Sox are the only team that can match the Tigers in terms of hitting efficiency. Their pitching staff, however, leaves a little to be desired. They sit second in the majors in strikeout rate behind Detroit, but their 9.6 percent walk rate makes them the single wildest team overall. Their 2.9 percent homeruns allowed rate, meanwhile, is the ninth-highest in the MLB. In the playoffs, the combination of high walks and high homeruns can be deadly.

5. Cincinnati Reds

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There are a couple distinct tiers in championship competitors. The Detroit Tigers are on that LeBron level - nobody's touching them right now. Then you've got the Cardinals, Braves, and Red Sox, the Tim Duncan level where you wouldn't be surprised if a victory came to them. The Reds start the Stephen Curry tier - sure they have the talent, but can you really trust them?

The problems mostly seem to be on the offensive side of the ball, strangely enough for a team with Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo. Cincy gets on base at a decent clip, with the sixth-best .328 OBP. However, they simply can't seem to find power this season, and their .399 slugging percentage is actually a bit below the .401 MLB average. According to our batter efficiency rankings, Votto, Choo, and Jay Bruce are all in our Top 30, but no other Reds hitter adds more than 0.7 runs per 27 outs of value to the team.

Yeah, the Reds' pitching is solid, and that helps. A fifth-best strikeout rate, eighth-best walk rate, and third-best WHIP are surely positives. But the same tough division caveats that applied for the Cardinals also apply here, and the road is immensely tough for the Reds to even make it past the Wild Card play-in game. However, luckily for the Reds, other efficient teams (namely Oakland) also have tough roads, which gives them just enough of an advantage to sit No. 5.