Cubs Clear Favorite on Odds to Win World Series as MLB Playoffs Begin

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The way the end of the Major League Baseball regular season played out has caused some shuffling on the 2016 World Series champion futures board.

The Chicago Cubs retain the +225 top odds that they possessed entering the last week of the season, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Cubs, who led all of baseball with 103 wins, have had weeks to set up their rotation for a NLDS matchup between the  winner of Wednesday’s wild card game between the New York Mets (+1600) and San Francisco Giants (+2000).

Chicago also has a 27.6 percent chance of winning the World Series, tops in the league, entering the playoffs according to the simulations run by website PredictionMachine.com.

The Texas Rangers, who have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, are the second favorite at +500. The Rangers are an astounding 36-11 in one-run games, which could be their hole card in the postseason. Texas awaits the wild card game winner, either the Baltimore Orioles (+2000) or Toronto Blue Jays (+1200).

The Boston Red Sox are listed at +600 while the Cleveland Indians are at +800 in spite of having a potential extra home game in their ALDS showdown. The Red Sox went 19-10 after August 31 to win the AL East, while Cleveland went 16-13 in that span.

The set NLDS foes, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, are also listed at +600. Two aces, Washington’s Max Scherzer and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, will likely go head-to-head in Game 1 and in a potential Game 5.

The Blue Jays are a -150 favorite against the +135 underdog Orioles in the AL wild card game on Tuesday. The total is 8.5. Toronto is 12-7 at home against Baltimore over the last two seasons. The total went over in 11 of those 19 games.

The Blue Jays are starting RHP Marcus Stroman, even though he has a 7.04 ERA in four starts this season vs. Baltimore, with a .344 opponents’ batting average. Toronto has LHP Nelson Liriano and RHP Marco Estrada available. Baltimore is throwing RHP Chris Tillman, who had a 3.63 ERA and .250 opponents’ average in four starts vs. Toronto.

The Orioles also have a near-untouchable closer with LHP Zach Britton.

The NL wild card game is a toss-up befitting a pitching showdown between LHP Madison Bumgarner and RHP Noah Syndergaard. Bumgarner’s San Francisco Giants are listed at -103, with Syndergaard’s New York Mets a razor-thin -107 favorite. The total is 6.0.

The Giants are 6-4 on the road against the Mets at Citi Field since 2014. The Giants are 5-1 against the Mets in Bumgarner starts. The lefty has handcuffed the Mets to the count of a 1.80 ERA and .189 batting average in those six starts. Syndergaard is 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA and .243 opponents’ average in three career starts against the Giants.

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.