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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.

Cubs maintain top odds to win World Series, Dodgers on the rise

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Strong pitching wins out in October, which explains why the Chicago Cubs have maintained the top odds to win the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers moving up to the lead pack.

The Cubs have had top odds all season long while running roughshod over the National League, and their betting line is now down to just +250 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Chicago is closing in on clinching the best overall record in the NL, which will bring the prospect of RHP Jake Arrieta, LHP Jon Lester and RHP Kyle Hendricks dealing on some cool nights at Wrigley Field.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have shrugged off the two-month absence of ace Clayton Kershaw to get into playoff contention. The Dodgers’ prop is now down to +900, less than half that of their +2000 odds at the all-star break shortly after Kershaw went on the disabled list. Kershaw, who returned to action September 9, has a few weeks to get ready for the postseason.

The Texas Rangers, with ace Cole Hamels, are now at a season-best +600 as they close in on the best AL record. The Washington Nationals, with RHP Stephen Strasburg now shut down, are also at +600. Their odds were a season-best +550 at the outset of September.

The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, who could be on a collision course for an ALDS matchup, have each had their odds come down to +800. Boston opened the season at +1400 and was +900 on September 1.

The Red Sox’s offensive capabilities with the likes of RF Mookie Betts and DH David Ortiz is well-known, but since August 1 RHP Clay Buchholz and LHP David Price have also performed closer to career norms than they they did for the season’s first four months.

Cleveland’s prop has been as low as +750 this season. The Indians are below .500 against every American League playoff contender except the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are listed at +1000, up from +750 on September 1, after a recent team-wide funk.

Winning the World Series as a wild card, of course, is contingent on winning a one-game series. Betting on the San Francisco Giants (+1800), Baltimore Orioles (+2500), Detroit Tigers (+2800), or New York Mets (+2800) to win it all would be little more than a hunch play, although it would pay big.