Cleveland Indians Offer Most Betting Value Going Into World Series

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The Cleveland Indians come into a historic World Series matchup as the underdog, but the shifting odds might underrate how Terry Francona has re-invented pitcher usage.

With the series opening at Progressive Field on Tuesday, Cleveland is listed at +170 in series prices whereas the Cubs are the -190 favorite, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Chicago has gone nearly wire to wire at the top of the World Series futures board all season, and their odds during the postseason have never been lower than +250. At the outset of October, Cleveland had the longest odds of any division champion at +900 before going 7-1 to win the pennant.

Generally, the Cubs have been credited with the edge in starting pitching and defense, while the Indians possess the more diverse offense and the scarier bullpen.

For Game 1, the Cubs are the slight -112 favorite at the sportsbooks and the Indians have a -102 payout. The total is listed at 6.5 runs. Cleveland RHP Corey Kluber will start against Chicago LHP Jon Lester.

Kluber has pinpoint control, which suggests he won’t come unraveled against the Cubs’ teamwide plate discipline. The righty has faced the Cubs’ regulars only once this season, working three scoreless innings during  a spring training game in March.

The five-day respite since bouncing the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS presumably helps the bullpen of LHP Andrew Miller and RHP Cody Allen brace for more big workloads. The specter of having Miller, who’s been unhittable in the playoffs, come in as early in the sixth inning could have an effect on Cubs’ batters.

Cleveland’s lineup, whose power comes from 1B Mike Napoli, DH Carlos Santana and 2B Jason Kipnis, scored only 16 runs during the five-game ALCS against the Blue Jays. That might not suffice against the Cubs, who have almost a seven in 10 chance of winning the World Series according to website PredictionMachine.com.

Lester, who has spent most of his career in the American League, has a 3.72 ERA but a tidy opponents’ slash line of .225/.301/.329 (batting, on-base, slugging) in eight starts in Cleveland.

The Cubs scored 23 runs and had 33 hits in the last three wins of their NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The shorter break might assist 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Kris Bryant and SS Addison Russell with carrying over their NLCS success. Kyle Schwarber, who has not played since tearing an ACL in April, is expected to be the Cubs’ DH.

Francona and Cubs manager Joe Maddon have been opposing managers 133 times. Maddon has the slight 69-64 edge, including 5-3 in playoff games.

Cleveland is 14-6 over its last 20 home games against NL teams, and the total has gone over 12 times, according to the OddsShark MLB Database. Chicago is 13-7 over its last 20 road games against AL teams, and the total has gone over eight times.

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.