Cleveland Indians Offer Most Betting Value Going Into World Series

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The Cleveland Indians come into a historic World Series matchup as the underdog, but the shifting odds might underrate how Terry Francona has re-invented pitcher usage.

With the series opening at Progressive Field on Tuesday, Cleveland is listed at +170 in series prices whereas the Cubs are the -190 favorite, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Chicago has gone nearly wire to wire at the top of the World Series futures board all season, and their odds during the postseason have never been lower than +250. At the outset of October, Cleveland had the longest odds of any division champion at +900 before going 7-1 to win the pennant.

Generally, the Cubs have been credited with the edge in starting pitching and defense, while the Indians possess the more diverse offense and the scarier bullpen.

For Game 1, the Cubs are the slight -112 favorite at the sportsbooks and the Indians have a -102 payout. The total is listed at 6.5 runs. Cleveland RHP Corey Kluber will start against Chicago LHP Jon Lester.

Kluber has pinpoint control, which suggests he won’t come unraveled against the Cubs’ teamwide plate discipline. The righty has faced the Cubs’ regulars only once this season, working three scoreless innings during  a spring training game in March.

The five-day respite since bouncing the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS presumably helps the bullpen of LHP Andrew Miller and RHP Cody Allen brace for more big workloads. The specter of having Miller, who’s been unhittable in the playoffs, come in as early in the sixth inning could have an effect on Cubs’ batters.

Cleveland’s lineup, whose power comes from 1B Mike Napoli, DH Carlos Santana and 2B Jason Kipnis, scored only 16 runs during the five-game ALCS against the Blue Jays. That might not suffice against the Cubs, who have almost a seven in 10 chance of winning the World Series according to website PredictionMachine.com.

Lester, who has spent most of his career in the American League, has a 3.72 ERA but a tidy opponents’ slash line of .225/.301/.329 (batting, on-base, slugging) in eight starts in Cleveland.

The Cubs scored 23 runs and had 33 hits in the last three wins of their NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The shorter break might assist 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Kris Bryant and SS Addison Russell with carrying over their NLCS success. Kyle Schwarber, who has not played since tearing an ACL in April, is expected to be the Cubs’ DH.

Francona and Cubs manager Joe Maddon have been opposing managers 133 times. Maddon has the slight 69-64 edge, including 5-3 in playoff games.

Cleveland is 14-6 over its last 20 home games against NL teams, and the total has gone over 12 times, according to the OddsShark MLB Database. Chicago is 13-7 over its last 20 road games against AL teams, and the total has gone over eight times.

Dodgers Open World Series as Betting Favorites

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The Los Angeles Dodgers offer a better price at the start of this year’s World Series than last season’s favorite did, but value bettors could still be pushed toward the Houston Astros.

The Dodgers are the -170 betting favorite over the +150 underdog Astros on the World Series prices at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. While the Dodgers had Major League Baseball’s best regular-season record and are 7-1 in the postseason, the odds are closer to parity than they were on the eve of the 2016 World Series when the Chicago Cubs were listed at -190 with the Cleveland Indians coming back at +165.

And of course, those Cubs had to win Games 5, 6 and 7 to capture their first World Series title in 108 years.

The combination of being from America’s second-largest city and being in the Fall Classic for the first time in 29 years is driving some big money toward the Dodgers. If one believes Houston can pull this off, it’s probably best to wait until close to the start of Game 1 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

Conversely, a Game 1 win would drive the Dodgers’ value down even farther. For example, they were a -190 favorite before the NLCS and came down to -290 after taking Game 1 against the Cubs.

The strong suit of the Astros’ lineup, which is led by 2B Jose Altuve, is that they can handle high-velocity fastballs in the strike zone. While the Dodgers bullpen has an earned-run average of 0.94 during the playoffs, power-armed relievers such as Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen might not fare as well at fogging high heat by hitters like they did in the NLDS and NLCS.

In a similar but different way, the Dodgers’ lineup isn’t vulnerable to Houston’s strongest suit. Justin Verlander, who will start Game 2 on Wednesday, and reliever Lance McCullers excel at making hitters chase breaking balls out of the strike zone, but 1B Cody Bellinger, 3B Justin Turner and the Dodgers hitters possess exceptional plate discipline and led the NL in bases on balls drawn. In other words, there’s a chance for some scoring battles.

Game 1 on Tuesday is an all-lefty matchup between Astros sinkerballer Dallas Keuchel and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers are a -165 Game 1 favorite with the Astros coming back at +155. The total is at 7 runs.

Houston is 19-8 in Keuchel starts this season, including 2-1 during the postseason. Since August 2016, the Astros are 14-3 when Keuchel starts on the road.

Los Angeles is 26-4 when Kershaw starts, including 3-0 during the postseason. The Dodgers are also 18-2 in the last 20 Kershaw starts where they were favored. The total has gone OVER in three of Kershaw’s last four starts at home.

With a heat wave expected to put the game-time temperature in the vicinity of 100 degrees on Tuesday, there’s a chance the ball could jump off hitters’ bats and pitchers might fatigue at a higher rate. That could favor OVER bettors.

One odd fact is that this is the fifth World Series between an American League team from the Central time zone and a National League team from the Pacific time zone. The NL team has won all four. None of the four was a sweep.

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.