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Top of 2017 World Baseball Classic odds board tight, with USA slim favorite

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With their deep hitting attack and strong bullpen, the United States goes into the 2017 World Baseball Classic as the betting favorite even though they have been shut out of the medals during the first three editions of the event.

Team USA is a +200 betting favorite on a tight World Baseball Classic odds board with defending champion Dominican Republic listed at +250 and two-time champion Japan at +300 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Americans have never placed higher than fourth in the tournament, but come in with a potential powerful lineup that includes 3B Nolan Arenado, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, RF Giancarlo Stanton and CF Andrew McCutchen. The United States also has a plethora of power arms to support their starting pitching with closers Sam Dyson, Luke Gregerson, Andrew Miller and David Robertson all on the roster.

The tournament’s introduction of a designated pitcher pool, which allows teams to replace two pitchers before the second round and the championship, might also favor the Americans because of their depth.

The Dominican Republic is matched up with the United States in Pool C. It’s hard to see a deficiency on manager Moises Alou’s squad. The Dominicans can run out the likes of 2B Robinson Cano, RF Nelson Cruz, 3B Manny Machado, 1B Hanley Ramirez and DH-1B Carlos Santana. The pitching staff is well-stocked, with RHP Johnny Cueto and RHP Carlos Martinez among the notables.

Japan is the only nation that has earned a medal in all three World Baseball Classic events, and it had multiple MLB players when it won in 2006 and 2009. Houston Astros OF Nori Aoki is the only Stateside big-leaguer this time around. Shohei Otani, the Nippon Professional Baseball two-way star who had both a 1.86 earned-run average on the mound and an OPS above 1.000 as a DH last season, is not playing.

With its pitching depth and strong fielding, along with home-field advantage since Pool B and second-round Pool E are being held in Tokyo, Japan should be good for a semifinal appearance.

Puerto Rico (+1000) has a better price than Venezuela (+900) if one is inclined toward a darkhorse play. With three of Major League Baseball’s brightest young infielders with 2B Javier Baez, SS Carlos Correa, SS Francisco Lindor and the veteran leadership of Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico could contend for a medal again.

Puerto Rico also has momentum from winning the recent Caribbean Series.

Venezuela has underachieved in the past two WBCs and is a bit of an unknown quantity under new manager Omar Vizquel. However, the team accounts for the last six American League batting titles with 2B Jose Altuve and 1B Miguel Cabrera and everyday MLB players populate the entire lineup, including one-time 40-home run man Carlos Gonzalez and all-star CF Odubel Herrera.

Seattle Mariners superstar Felix Hernandez is also back after passing on playing in 2013. There’s talent there, but it’s never clear how a team will react in a short tournament, especially when the country’s recent history is checkered

Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox stay even on 2017 World Series odds

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Timing will be everything if one is inclined to bet on either the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago Cubs to win the 2017 World Series, due to the effect of big-market bandwagon fandom.

With Opening Day just more than a week away, the Cubs and Red Sox are each listed at +450 on the odds to win the World Series at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

There’s a chance the odds might not get more high-yield once the season starts. With their giant fanbases in the Midwest and New England, both will draw plenty of betting action and odds could fall closer to even money if either has a hot start in April. The teams were both also listed at +450 at the outset of spring training.

The Cubs, who are also +175 to win the National League Pennant, have a nucleus of young stars – 3B Kris Bryant, 2B Javier Baez, SS Addison Russell, 1B Anthony Rizzo – who might stay together for several seasons. The big variable, as always, is the health and performance of the pitching staff; the Cubs are looking for a bounce-back from new closer Wade Davis.

The Red Sox, after three years of regenerating since their 2013 World Series win, have added ace LHP Chris Sale to their rotation and have their own cohort of young offensive stars such as SS Xander Bogaerts and RF Mookie Betts.

Boston has to replace the run production of retired DH David Ortiz, but are a solid choice given that they are the AL East team which is most in win-now mode. The Toronto Blue Jays (+2200) might have missed their window, while the New York Yankees (+2500) are still a year away from their peak.

The upside of the Cubs and Red Sox being so highly touted is that it might inflate prices on other teams – and hey, postseason baseball is a wide-open game. The Cleveland Indians (+900), who were one win away last season and added RBI machine Edwin Encarnacion, still have an excellent shot at getting back to the postseason.

The National League’s other teams in major markets, the Los Angeles Dodgers (+1000), San Francisco Dodgers (+1100) and New York Mets (+1400), have all come down slightly in price since mid-February. All three certainly have the pitching to make a run in October, but perhaps not the balanced lineup.

One team whose odds has been surprisingly static since the winter meetings in October is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have one of the game’s most offensively prolific double-play combos with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. The Astros’ late-season stumbles of the past two years might be a fixed reference point for many baseball fans, but they have been following the model of slow-growing their prospects over a period of several years.

Cubs, Dodgers lead way on MLB win total props for 2017 season

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Not surprisingly, three of the last four teams standing in late October have the three highest season win totals in Major League Baseball preseason betting.

The reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs are projected for 95.5 wins according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, marking the second season in a row that the Northsiders have had the highest total.

After the Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers (93.5), Cleveland Indians (92.5) and Boston Red Sox (92.5) fill out the top four. The Washington Nationals (90.5) are the other team in the ’90 club.’

There’s a distinct chance the Cubs, with a fully healthy Kyle Schwarber joining 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Kris Bryant and SS Addison Russell, could beat their projection. The Cubs also seem unlikely to face a major push from their NL Central opponents, who form nearly half their schedule.

The St. Louis Cardinals (84.5) are retooling and the Pittsburgh Pirates (82.5) could end up dealing CF Andrew McCutchen, a one-time NL MVP, before the July 31 trade deadline.

Of the two American League powerhouses, Boston and Cleveland, the Red Sox are projected to have the more potent offense. That tends to win out in the long run across 162 games, before pitching takes over in the postseason due to chillier weather and more off-days. The Indians could have some regression.

The Nationals always seem to have good regular seasons. It’s important to remember that their NL East rivals, the New York Mets (89.5), were still strong last season in spite of a plethora of injuries.

The team which oddsmakers see taking the biggest drop is the Texas Rangers (84.5), who had 95 wins in 2016 but had a likely unsustainable record in one-run games. Their cross-state rival, the Houston Astros (89.5), have the highest total of anyone in the AL West. As a young team on the rise, the Astros might be a little under the radar.

The Minnesota Twins (74.5) are pegged for the biggest jump after having just 59 wins last season. The Twins haven’t done a lot to upgrade their pitching, though, and could move 42-home run man Brian Dozier before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Speaking of the deadline, other big names such as McCutchen, Oakland Athletics RHP Sonny Gray and Chicago White Sox LHP Jose Quintana may all be on the move to contenders. In that event, the Athletics (73.5) and White Sox (69.5) could end up on the under side.

The San Diego Padres (66.5) are pegged for the worst record in baseball, but with 1B Wil Myers and RF Hunter Renfroe, they’ll at least be an interesting bad team. Some breakout from their youngsters could help the Padres beat their projection. The White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers (also 69.5) are the other teams with a prop of fewer than 70 wins.