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Cubs enter September still atop World Series odds at sportsbooks

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The Chicago Cubs boast baseball’s best record and the lowest staff earned run average in the National League, which is why their 2016 World Series champion odds have been lowered at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Entering the final month of the regular season, the Cubs are listed at +300 to win the World Series, which the Northsiders have not done since 1908. It does not take a long-suffering Cubs fan to know that finishing in the range of 100 wins isn’t a guarantee of postseason success, but the Cubs have a formidable big three in their starting pitching with RHP Kyle Hendricks, RHP Jake Arrieta and LHP John Lester.

Trading with the New York Yankees for closer Aroldis Chapman has also fortified the Cubs’ bullpen. Chicago has also had better than league-average production from six of their eight everyday players, including 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo.

October baseball is more about pitching and the fundamentals than putting up big numbers, which is why the AL West-leading Texas Rangers have seen their odds come down to +650. Texas has MLB’s best record in one-run games, thanks to a balanced lineup and a strong bullpen built around closer Sam Dyson. Texas should have RHP Colby Lewis back in time for the playoffs to join ace LHP Cole Hamels in their rotation.

The Washington Nationals are also listed at +650. Washington has a safe lead atop the NL East, thanks in large part to big years from 2B Daniel Murphy, RF Bryce Harper and Nos. 1 and 2 starters Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark. The Nats’ bullpen, particularly the middle-inning relief, is problematic. That could prove to be an Achilles heel in a NLDS matchup against the NL West winner, either the San Francisco Giants (+750) or Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400).

Whoever finishes second in the NL West will likely be a wild card. The Giants won the World Series in 2014 as a wild card, and LHP Madison Bumgarner and RHP Johnny Cueto have both been aces on championship teams.

The Cleveland Indians are listed at +800. Like Texas, Cleveland is balanced at the plate and in the field, where RHP Corey Kluber and closer Cody Allen have contributed to the second-best ERA in the American League. The AL Central and AL East winners are likely to meet in the first round, and it’s concerning that Cleveland is a combined 7-12 against the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays, whose middle relief has been problematic, are listed at +900. Toronto boasts a deeper starting staff than it did in 2015, when it slugged its way to within two victories of the World Series. Both the Orioles (+1200) and Red Sox (+1400) are excellent offensive teams, but pitching depth is an issue.

The defending champion Kansas City Royals are now listed at +20000. The Royals still have a mathematical possibility of a wild card spot, but disabled stints for relievers Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar and Chien-Ming Wang likely hurt their potential for a big finish.

Dodgers, Indians are World Series favorites in MLB postseason

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Last October was a rare instance where the team with the best record in baseball won the World Series, which is something to keep in mind before laying the favorite.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the +300 favorite on the World Series odds as the MLB playoffs begin Tuesday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Cleveland Indians (+350) are a close second favorite.

From there, the board spreads out to the teams with Division Series home-field advantage, the Houston Astros (+500) and Washington Nationals (+700), followed by the Boston Red Sox (+800) and defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs (+800).

Wild-card teams have won six of the last 22 World Series, while the top regular-season team has triumphed in only seven of the last 31. So there is potential to cash in early on the value of a wild-card team. The New York Yankees (+1400) stack up well against the Minnesota Twins (+2800) in the wild-card game. However, Aaron Judge, et al., fared poorly in their season series against both Cleveland and Houston.

The Arizona Diamondbacks (+1400), conversely, won the season series against the NL West rival Dodgers and might have the starting pitching and slugging prowess to take them out in a best-of-five NLDS. The Diamondbacks have to first get by the Colorado Rockies (+2800).

While MLB has not had a team repeat as World Series champions since 2000, teams that make a World Series seem more apt to do it again, regardless of what happened in the regular season (see the San Francisco Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014). The Cubs, who have had their act together since the all-star break, are well-priced at 8/1.

It could well be that this is the year the Dodgers, five-time NL West champions, figure it out. But of the top seeds in each league, Cleveland played better in the second half and has lights-out pitching on the front end through the likes of Corey Kluber and on the back end with Cody Allen and lefty Andrew Miller in the bullpen.

As far as the wild-card matchups go, the Yankees (-235) are heavily favored against the Twins (+200), with a 7.5-run total in Tuesday’s AL wild-card game Yankees RHP Luis Severino is MLB’s hardest-throwing starter this season and the Twins are not a team of fastball hitters. Severino has limited batters to a .207/.265/.362 slash line (batting average, on-base and slugging percentage) this season at Yankee Stadium.

Twins RHP Ervin Santana also has a lifetime 6.43 earned run average in six games at Yankee Stadium, while allowing a .310/.379/.486 slash line.

The Yankees, with the likes of RHP Dellin Betances and LHP Aroldis Chapman, possess a deeper bullpen than the Twins. The total has gone under in five of Twins’ last seven road games against the Yankees.

The Diamondbacks (-166) are favored against the Rockies (+156) with an 8.5-run total in Wednesday’s NL wild-card game. Arizona is likely to start ace RHP Zack Greinke, who held the Rockies to a .229/.241/.435 slash line in five starts this season.

The Rockies’ presumptive starter, Jon Gray, is MLB’s second-hardest throwing starter. That could end up being in Arizona’s wheelhouse since power threats such as 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 3B Mike Lamb and RF J.D. Martinez make them one of baseball’s best teams at hitting against high velocity. If Arizona has a fatal flaw, it’s that closer Fernando Rodney has been human at home this season.

Arizona is 7-2 straight-up in its last nine games against the Rockies. The total has gone under in four of these teams’ last six games at Chase Field.

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.