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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

Houston Astros Now World Series Favorite Against Los Angeles Dodgers

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The line on the World Series has shifted to the Houston Astros, but do keep in mind that having home-field advantage for Games 6 and 7 tilts the chances of a Los Angeles Dodgers comeback.

Up 3-2 in the best-of-seven Fall Classic, the Astros are now the -275 favorite against the +225 underdog Dodgers on the World Series prices at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

There is a convincing argument to lay chalk with Houston and its name is Justin Verlander, the Astros’ starter for Game 6 on Tuesday. Historical trends, though, would suggest backing the Dodgers to make the comeback, especially at better than 2-to-1 odds.

In MLB history going back to 1985, 14 of the 28 teams, or exactly half, who have trailed any best-of-seven series 3-2 with the final two games at home have come back to win. The result in Game 5 has had little effect on outcomes, as eight of the 17 who lost Game 5 on the road – like the Dodgers did on Sunday – have come back to win.

Teams which have managed to tie the series in Game 6 at home are also 14-2 in Game 7s. In fact, none other than the Astros added to that tally with their comeback against the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

All time, 43 of 65 teams which had a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win. Twenty-five clinched in Game 6, the other 40 who were forced to a winner-take-all contest are only 18-22 all-time in Game 7s.

While this series has been all about expecting the unexpected, that would suggest that if Houston is to win, it will happen on Tuesday. The Dodgers are a slight -112 favorite with the Astros coming back at -108, while the total is at 8.0 runs.

While Houston is turning to Verlander, the Dodgers will counter with left-hander Rich Hill. Both will go on five days’ rest.

Verlander has been close to untouchable with a 1.53 earned-run average in the regular season and postseason since joining Houston in late August. Verlander’s teams are 5-0 in his last five away starts, and the total has gone under in seven of his 10 most recent road starts with the Astros and Detroit Tigers.

Hill, for his part, has a 2.77 ERA this season at Dodger Stadium and has held batters to a .179 average. However, the total has gone over in three of his last four starts at Dodger Stadium.

Both bullpens were overworked in Game 5. Kenley Jensen was the only Dodgers reliever who threw more than 30 pitches. Three different Astros relievers threw at least 29.  Houston closer Ken Giles has also had a wretched postseason and might not be trustworthy enough to use in a one-run or tied game.

Los Angeles Dodgers’ World Series odds dip heading into month of September

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The Los Angeles Dodgers’ first losing skid all season has done little to increase their World Series price, which is lower than the 2016 Chicago Cubs’ at the same point of last season.

As they get set to welcome ace Clayton Kershaw back after a six-week absence, the Dodgers are a +220 favorite on the 2017 World Series odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. That’s a fair shot below the +290 another National League legacy franchise, the aforementioned Cubs, commanded last season as the calendar flipped to September.

The Houston Astros are the not-so-close second favorite at +500, with the Boston Red Sox (+700), Washington Nationals (+700), Cleveland Indians (+700) and the Cubs (+750) all below 10/1 odds.

The best news for potential Dodgers bettors is that their five-game losing streak – which involved consecutive series losses against the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks – might have prevented a rush of casual-bettor money. It will likely also take Kershaw, who will be on a 75-pitch count when he starts on Friday, a few starts to show that he’s in peak form after missing more than a month with a back injury.

In other words, the Dodgers’ price might not move until the September 15-17 weekend, when they visit the Nationals in a  potential NLCS preview.

If either the Astros or Nationals are to make a deep playoff run, they’ll have to score enough in the playoffs to offset their leaky bullpens. Each division leader’s relief corps has an earned run average north of 4.00, which does not fit the recent formula for winning in the postseason.

Either Boston or Cleveland is an acceptable alternative if one is looking for more value than the Dodgers offer, or simply hates laying chalk. The Indians and Red Sox are second and third in MLB in bullpen ERA, and each boasts a staff ace – Corey Kluber for Cleveland, Chris Sale for Boston – who’s capable of flipping a best-of-seven series by winning two games. Those two hurlers are also battling atop the odds to win the AL Cy Young.

The difficulty picking one right now is the fact they would be playing each other in the ALDS if the playoffs were starting this weekend.

It will be interesting to see how the line on the Cubs moves over the next month, especially with a not overly demanding September schedule where they play only two series – both against the Milwaukee Brewers (+5000), their closest pursuer in the NL Central – against a team with a winning record.

Of the two wild card leaders, the Arizona Diamondbacks at +3300 have a far better price than the New York Yankees (+1400) and probably have a better case as a World Series darkhorse.

The Diamondbacks have star power on both ends of the equation (RHP Zack Greinke, 1B Paul Goldschmidt). As a wild card, they could potentially play the Dodgers in the NLDS, which as a best-of-five series has a higher chance of an upset. The Yankees might not have the pitching to win in October, plus there’s the matter of rookie Aaron Judge’s drop-off in play.