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.

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.