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Cubs enter September still atop World Series odds at sportsbooks

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The Chicago Cubs boast baseball’s best record and the lowest staff earned run average in the National League, which is why their 2016 World Series champion odds have been lowered at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Entering the final month of the regular season, the Cubs are listed at +300 to win the World Series, which the Northsiders have not done since 1908. It does not take a long-suffering Cubs fan to know that finishing in the range of 100 wins isn’t a guarantee of postseason success, but the Cubs have a formidable big three in their starting pitching with RHP Kyle Hendricks, RHP Jake Arrieta and LHP John Lester.

Trading with the New York Yankees for closer Aroldis Chapman has also fortified the Cubs’ bullpen. Chicago has also had better than league-average production from six of their eight everyday players, including 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo.

October baseball is more about pitching and the fundamentals than putting up big numbers, which is why the AL West-leading Texas Rangers have seen their odds come down to +650. Texas has MLB’s best record in one-run games, thanks to a balanced lineup and a strong bullpen built around closer Sam Dyson. Texas should have RHP Colby Lewis back in time for the playoffs to join ace LHP Cole Hamels in their rotation.

The Washington Nationals are also listed at +650. Washington has a safe lead atop the NL East, thanks in large part to big years from 2B Daniel Murphy, RF Bryce Harper and Nos. 1 and 2 starters Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark. The Nats’ bullpen, particularly the middle-inning relief, is problematic. That could prove to be an Achilles heel in a NLDS matchup against the NL West winner, either the San Francisco Giants (+750) or Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400).

Whoever finishes second in the NL West will likely be a wild card. The Giants won the World Series in 2014 as a wild card, and LHP Madison Bumgarner and RHP Johnny Cueto have both been aces on championship teams.

The Cleveland Indians are listed at +800. Like Texas, Cleveland is balanced at the plate and in the field, where RHP Corey Kluber and closer Cody Allen have contributed to the second-best ERA in the American League. The AL Central and AL East winners are likely to meet in the first round, and it’s concerning that Cleveland is a combined 7-12 against the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays, whose middle relief has been problematic, are listed at +900. Toronto boasts a deeper starting staff than it did in 2015, when it slugged its way to within two victories of the World Series. Both the Orioles (+1200) and Red Sox (+1400) are excellent offensive teams, but pitching depth is an issue.

The defending champion Kansas City Royals are now listed at +20000. The Royals still have a mathematical possibility of a wild card spot, but disabled stints for relievers Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar and Chien-Ming Wang likely hurt their potential for a big finish.

Yankees move to the top of the 2018 World Series Odds

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The top three offensive teams in Major League Baseball are also at the top of the 2018 World Series champion futures board.

With the MLB regular season nearing its midpoint, the New York Yankees are the +500 favorite on the 2018 World Series odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The defending champion Houston Astros (+525) and the Yankees’ AL East archrivals, the Boston Red Sox (+600), round out the troika of top contenders.

Led by Aaron Judge, the Yankees lead MLB in runs, home runs and slugging percentage. The Yankees will be upgrading a pitching staff that allows almost four runs per game before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, so it’s possible that their betting value will never be greater than it is presently.

No World Series champion has repeated since the 1998-2000 Yankees. But the Astros, thanks to the likes of Justin Verlander, have gone from ninth in runs against in 2017 to first by a country mile so far this season.

The Red Sox, led by rightfielder Mookie Betts, are the only team other than the Astros which is in the top four in runs scored and runs against. However, the AL East is a much shallower division than the AL West, which has only one mediocre-or-worse team compared to the East’s three.

For what it might be worth, the last six World Series titles in even-numbered years have been won by National League teams. The Chicago Cubs (+750), Washington Nationals (+800) and Los Angeles Dodgers (+1000) are the highest NL teams on the board. All three are retaining value due to strong competition for first place in their respective divisions from the Milwaukee Brewers (+1600), Atlanta Braves (+1600) and Arizona Diamondbacks (+2800).

The Dodgers are an interesting highly speculative play, having rejoined the living after falling 10 games below .500 at the quarter-pole of the regular season. If ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw (back) ever gets healthy, the Dodgers could resume being a dangerous team.

The Cleveland Indians (+2200) will be a postseason team since MLB rules say someone has to win the AL Central. Cleveland has a first-rank pitching staff led by Corey Kluber, but a league-average offense could be its downfall come October.

The last four World Series champions each qualified for the playoffs within the two seasons prior. That doesn’t mean that upstarts such as Atlanta, Milwaukee, the Philadelphia Phillies (+2000) or the Seattle Mariners (+1600) should be faded automatically. Atlanta has played the fewest one-run games among those four teams, while Seattle has played the most in MLB, suggesting randomness and luck have been on the Mariners’ side so far.

While winning the World Series involves eking out some low-scoring wins, teams talented enough to reach that stage don’t always live on the margins. Two recent champions, the 2014 San Francisco Giants and 2015 Kansas City Royals, had losing records in one-run games during the regular-season.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Value in 2018 MLB Pennant Odds Ranges Beyond Astros, Yankees, Dodgers

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Only three teams have won consecutive pennants in the last 16 Major League Baseball seasons, which should be a nudge to look beyond the teams about to unfurl flags celebrating 2017 success.

Three weeks out from Opening Day, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros and the New York Yankees are +275 co-favorites on the odds to win the 2018 American League pennant  and the Los Angeles Dodgers have the National League’s top prop at +225, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Astros have a strong chance to repeat as AL champions thanks to the prospect of having a full season of both Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in the starting rotation, which should upgrade a pitching staff that had just the 11th-best earned-run average in MLB in 2017. The hype over the Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton show has pushed the Yankees’ price below 3-to-1, but a wait-and-see approach should be taken with New York, since both sluggers could regress.

The Cleveland Indians (+325) and Boston Red Sox (+600) round out the top of the AL board. The Minnesota Twins (+1800), who have quietly improved and play in a shallow AL Central division, could be a surprise.

Over in the National League, the Dodgers still look scary at bat and on the mound and could benefit from getting a push in the NL West, where the San Francisco Giants (+1000), Arizona Diamondbacks (+1200) and Colorado Rockies (+1800) have no time for tanking. Iron sharpens iron, after all.

The Washington Nationals (+350) and Chicago Cubs (+375) likely won’t face such a deep group of challengers in their respective divisions, the NL East and NL Central. Since the Nationals are in a now-or-never situation with one-time MVP Bryce Harper due to become a free agent, there is some appeal in putting a bet down just to tap into that urgency in Washington. The Cubs should field a playoff-calibre team, but whether they ever re-capture their 2016 postseason magic remains to be seen.

It’s probably best to fade the St. Louis Cardinals (+900) and the aforementioned Giants, whose prices on the 2018 National League pennant odds owe more to history or recent success than the outlook on the field in 2018. Bettors seeking a sleeper have a far greater return by taking, say, Colorado, which has an exciting lineup built around third baseman Nolan Arenado and made the 2017 playoffs with the second-youngest pitching staff in all of MLB.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.