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Chicago Cubs Increase Lead at Top of 2016 World Series Futures

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The Chicago Cubs’ lead on the 2016 World Series odds resembles an astronaut’s view of earth seconds after blast-off, which means it’s a good time to point out that the team with the best record in Major League Baseball seldom wins it all in the fall.

Only six times in the past 30 years has the team with the most regular-season victories proceeded to win the World Series. Yet it is hard to not to be bullish on the Cubs, who have top odds to win the World Series at +325 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, well ahead of the Washington Nationals (+800), San Francisco Giants (+850), and Boston Red Sox (+900).

The Cubs have roughly twice as big a run differential as the next-most dominant National League team, Washington. Their top four starting pitchers, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jason Hammel, each have earned-run averages of fewer than 3.00, and deep starting pitching is a big advantage in the lower-scoring environment of postseason baseball.

The Giants have won the NL pennant and World Series in the last three even-numbered seasons (2010, ’12 and ’14). The Giants can match or surpass the front end of most teams’ starting pitching with LHP Madison Bumgarner and two tough RHP, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, a former Cub.

The Red Sox will have a fight for playoff position in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays (+1400) and Baltimore Orioles (+1800). Boston far and away leads MLB in runs scored with their pick-your-poison lineup of RF Mookie Betts, 2B Dustin Pedroia, SS Xander Bogaerts, DH David Ortiz and 1B Hanley Ramirez.

The NL East’s 1A and 1B teams are the New York Mets (+1400) and the Nationals. The Mets are struggling to keep pace with the Nationals, but 2015 playoff pitching hero Matt Harvey is beginning to find his form after an awful start to the season.

The Nationals have shown good balance so far. Their 1-2 pitching punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are matching each other strikeout for strikeout, while 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 2B Daniel Murphy have consistently cashed in RBI opportunities when teams pitch around reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper.

The Texas Rangers, at +1000, have the second-best odds among AL teams. The Rangers lack star power, notwithstanding the table-setting from No. 2 hitter and CF Ian Desmond. Texas is outperforming their Pythagorean projection (a tool that predicts a team’s record based on run differential).

Their AL West rival, the Seattle Mariners, are now up to +1800 and have been winning games by large spreads thanks to a lineup built around 2B Robinson Cano and DH Nelson Cruz.

MLB 2017 betting props roundup: Home run leader, Cy Young Award odds

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Some long-term trends, one individual and one historical, work against the favorites in two of the big Major League Baseball season props.

Miami Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton is established as the +750 favorite on the MLB home run leader odds for 2017 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. And on the Cy Young Award winner odds, Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox is the +200 favorite on the American League board while a fellow left-hander, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, is the +100 favorite on the National League board.

Stanton’s slugging prowess speaks for itself, but staying in the lineup has been an issue for him. The Marlins star has reached 500 at-bats only once in the past five seasons, so it is buyer beware when it comes to betting on Stanton to stay healthy enough to mash 40-some big flies.

The Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado (+1250) is coming off consecutive 40-homer years in the high altitude of Denver. Reigning champ Mark Trumbo (+2000) is not the first Baltimore Orioles slugger you will find on the board, with corner infielders Chris Davis (+1500) and Manny Machado (+1500) each higher. Machado is entering his age-25 season and is nearing his peak years as a power hitter. He has already had two 35-homer seasons.

One player who might fill a need for deep value is Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (+5000), who hit 42 homers last season.

On the AL Cy Young odds board, the aforementioned Sale (+200) had some regression late last season that should give bettors pause. As well, no Red Sox left-hander has ever won the award, which might be a reason to strike David Price (+550). It’s doubtful that their teammate Rick Porcello (+3300) will win again after his controversial victory against the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander (+1000), who received more first-place votes.

The recent pattern with the AL Cy Young winners has been that it goes to a young star. That might make it worthwhile to throw a dart at the board with the Toronto Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez (+2000) or Cleveland Indians’ Danny Salazar (+4000).

The NL Cy Young odds board is top-heavy, with Kershaw (+100) joined by the reigning honoree, the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer (+300) and the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (+800). Kershaw’s odds may offer too small a payout to back him when he’s coming off a year when he made only 22 starts due to a back injury.

Scherzer has been indomitable for four seasons and his odds make him worth being a safe pick. But Syndergaard winning a Cy Young might just be a matter of when.

Farther down the board, the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks (+3300) is probably the pitcher to back from the defending World Series champions. Rotation mate Jake Arrieta (+1200) had some regression in 2016 after his 2015 Cy Young season, and voters sometimes tend to turn to a more recently established star.

Cubs top World Series futures, but early favorites seldom win

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Neither their price nor recent history makes the Chicago Cubs an enticing play on the latest 2017 World Series champion futures board.

As teams begin spring training in Arizona and Florida, the defending champion Cubs are the +450 favorite on the odds to win the World Series this fall, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Boston Red Sox are close behind at +500, which is also on the low side compared to the prices for other recent World Series-winning champions in mid-February.

It is true that the 2016 Cubs, with their 20-something core led by 3B Kris Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Addison Russell, practically went wire-to-wire as the favorite. The only time they were not at the time was when they were a loss from elimination against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

The Cubs, however, were listed at +750 at the outset of spring training last season, and a price in that range would make the current version a much more worthwhile play.

All of the prior six champions had a price ranging from +1600 (the 2015 Kansas City Royals) to +3000 (2013 Boston Red Sox) in the middle of winter. The Cubs’ price is the lowest seen at this point since 2010, when the New York Yankees were at +300. Those Yankees lost in the ALCS to the Texas Rangers, who in turn were defeated by the San Francisco Giants — a one-time +2500 preseason underdog.

If that is any rule of thumb, then the value is in the middle of the board. Considering that they each pushed the Cubs during the playoffs, the San Francisco Giants (+1200) and Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400) are both underrated at this point.

A fast start from the Giants and their starting pitching trio of LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Johnny Cueto and RHP Jeff Samardzija would cause their odds to move due to their status as a three-time World Series-winning team. The Dodgers also stack up well, considering that they won 91 games last season even though franchise LHP Clayton Kershaw missed about 10 starts.

With their trade for LHP Chris Sale and the Killer B’s on the field — RF Mookie Betts, SS Xander Bogaerts and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. — the Red Sox deserve the preseason hype. Cleveland (+800) is the third AL champion in a row, after the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, to win a pennant on pitching and situational hitting, and that can have a shelf life.

One AL team that profiles similarly is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have spent years amassing young talent. With an excellent infield of 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman and SS Carlos Correa, the Astros’ have a fairly wide window to become the first Texas team to win it all.

No team has won back-to-back World Series since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees three-peated. The MLB regular season begins on April 2.