The Chicago Cubs’ lead on the 2016 World Series odds resembles an astronaut’s view of earth seconds after blast-off, which means it’s a good time to point out that the team with the best record in Major League Baseball seldom wins it all in the fall.
Only six times in the past 30 years has the team with the most regular-season victories proceeded to win the World Series. Yet it is hard to not to be bullish on the Cubs, who have top odds to win the World Series at +325 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, well ahead of the Washington Nationals (+800), San Francisco Giants (+850), and Boston Red Sox (+900).
The Cubs have roughly twice as big a run differential as the next-most dominant National League team, Washington. Their top four starting pitchers, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jason Hammel, each have earned-run averages of fewer than 3.00, and deep starting pitching is a big advantage in the lower-scoring environment of postseason baseball.
The Giants have won the NL pennant and World Series in the last three even-numbered seasons (2010, ’12 and ’14). The Giants can match or surpass the front end of most teams’ starting pitching with LHP Madison Bumgarner and two tough RHP, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, a former Cub.
The Red Sox will have a fight for playoff position in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays (+1400) and Baltimore Orioles (+1800). Boston far and away leads MLB in runs scored with their pick-your-poison lineup of RF Mookie Betts, 2B Dustin Pedroia, SS Xander Bogaerts, DH David Ortiz and 1B Hanley Ramirez.
The NL East’s 1A and 1B teams are the New York Mets (+1400) and the Nationals. The Mets are struggling to keep pace with the Nationals, but 2015 playoff pitching hero Matt Harvey is beginning to find his form after an awful start to the season.
The Nationals have shown good balance so far. Their 1-2 pitching punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are matching each other strikeout for strikeout, while 1B Ryan Zimmerman and 2B Daniel Murphy have consistently cashed in RBI opportunities when teams pitch around reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper.
The Texas Rangers, at +1000, have the second-best odds among AL teams. The Rangers lack star power, notwithstanding the table-setting from No. 2 hitter and CF Ian Desmond. Texas is outperforming their Pythagorean projection (a tool that predicts a team’s record based on run differential).
Their AL West rival, the Seattle Mariners, are now up to +1800 and have been winning games by large spreads thanks to a lineup built around 2B Robinson Cano and DH Nelson Cruz.