Cubs overwhelming favorite for 2017 World Series futures

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No team has won back-to-back World Series since the turn of the millennium, but the Chicago Cubs are favored to do so after ending their 108-year drought earlier this month.

The Cubs opened 2016 at the top of the board and delivered by winning three elimination games in a row to defeat the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs will return almost all of their nucleus except for free-agent closer Aroldis Chapman, so it is no surprise that Chicago is at the top of the 2017 World Series odds at +350 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

With utilityman Javier Baez, 3B Kris Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo, SS Addison Russell and LF Kyle Schwarber all in their peak years, Chicago is well set up to be postseason regulars for years on end.

Only the 1998-2000 New York Yankees have gone back-to-back during the 22-season postseason history of the wild-card era. The afterglow of the Cubs winning has probably inflated the prices for other contenders. The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are each listed at +900.

The Red Sox will have five everyday players who will age 28 or younger next season and are rumored to be the landing spot for free-agent DH Edwin Encarnacion, who has turned down a qualifying offer from the rival Toronto Blue Jays.

The Dodgers won the NL West last season even though ace LHP Clayton Kershaw missed a third of the season, so clearly their ceiling could be even higher than last season’s 91 wins.

The Washington Nationals are listed at +1200, on the presumption that they might eventually have a bullpen to buttress the star power of RF Bryce Harper and RHP Max Scherzer.

Washington’s prospectus will change if they go against their emphasis on starting pitching and get in on the bidding war for one of the four prized free-agent closers – Chapman, Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon.

Despite coming within one run of winning the World Series, Cleveland is listed at +1400 along with Toronto, the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants.

It seems strange to see the New York Yankees well down the board at +2500, but the Yankees are still in belt-tightening mode and are unlikely to add more payroll.

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.