MLB Home Run Derby odds boil down to Stanton, Judge

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The combination of a home ballpark and being the only returning power hitter in the field has put Giancarlo Stanton atop the MLB Home Run Derby futures board – albeit barely.

Defending champion Stanton, of the hometown Miami Marlins, is listed as a +165 betting favorite to capture MLB’s annual contest of clout at Marlins Park on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge, who has an MLB-best 30 home runs and is threatening to take down Mark McGwire’s rookie record, is listed right behind at +175. By virtue of having had more home runs on June 15, Stanton is the No. 1 seed, whereas Judge is No. 2.

Eight players will be participating in a bracket-style timed event, where each player has four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. Hitters get another 30 seconds if they hit two home runs measured at more than 440 feet.

Stanton, who bashed 61 big flies during the 2016 contest at San Diego’s Petco Park, will try to become just the third repeat champion and third player to win in his home park. Judge will try to be the first rookie to win since 1986.

Either player is a worthy play, but there’s far, far greater value in picking one of the darkhorses. For the quarter-finals, Staton faces that other Yankees rookie, Gary Sanchez (+1400 to win). Sanchez has the longest average home-run distance in the field (422 feet to Judge’s 415 and Stanton’s 410) and could be an early bracket-buster. Upsetting Stanton would throw the field wide-open.

The Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano (+1000) and Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas (+1400) meet in the other quarter-final in the “Stanton region” of the bracket. Sano (average home run distance of 414 feet) should also be considered a darkhorse.

Judge faces the other Marlins representative, Justin Bour (+1400), in his quarter-final. Bour has an average home-run distance of 398 feet – tied with Moustakas for lowest in the field – and might be a bit of a sacrificial lamb up against Judge.

Meantime, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger (+900 on the 2017 Home Run Derby odds) and the Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon (+2000) meet in an all-NL West quarter-final. Bellinger has enlisted his father Clay Bellinger as his pitcher and will be the fourth competitor to have his dad serving up meatballs. One of the other three (Robinson Cano in 2011) won and another (Bryce Harper in 2015) was runner-up.

Blackmon, meantime, faces a potential Bellinger-Judge tag team just to make the final, so his high price is probably a red herring.

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.