Cubs top World Series futures, but early favorites seldom win

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Neither their price nor recent history makes the Chicago Cubs an enticing play on the latest 2017 World Series champion futures board.

As teams begin spring training in Arizona and Florida, the defending champion Cubs are the +450 favorite on the odds to win the World Series this fall, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Boston Red Sox are close behind at +500, which is also on the low side compared to the prices for other recent World Series-winning champions in mid-February.

It is true that the 2016 Cubs, with their 20-something core led by 3B Kris Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Addison Russell, practically went wire-to-wire as the favorite. The only time they were not at the time was when they were a loss from elimination against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

The Cubs, however, were listed at +750 at the outset of spring training last season, and a price in that range would make the current version a much more worthwhile play.

All of the prior six champions had a price ranging from +1600 (the 2015 Kansas City Royals) to +3000 (2013 Boston Red Sox) in the middle of winter. The Cubs’ price is the lowest seen at this point since 2010, when the New York Yankees were at +300. Those Yankees lost in the ALCS to the Texas Rangers, who in turn were defeated by the San Francisco Giants — a one-time +2500 preseason underdog.

If that is any rule of thumb, then the value is in the middle of the board. Considering that they each pushed the Cubs during the playoffs, the San Francisco Giants (+1200) and Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400) are both underrated at this point.

A fast start from the Giants and their starting pitching trio of LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Johnny Cueto and RHP Jeff Samardzija would cause their odds to move due to their status as a three-time World Series-winning team. The Dodgers also stack up well, considering that they won 91 games last season even though franchise LHP Clayton Kershaw missed about 10 starts.

With their trade for LHP Chris Sale and the Killer B’s on the field — RF Mookie Betts, SS Xander Bogaerts and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. — the Red Sox deserve the preseason hype. Cleveland (+800) is the third AL champion in a row, after the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, to win a pennant on pitching and situational hitting, and that can have a shelf life.

One AL team that profiles similarly is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have spent years amassing young talent. With an excellent infield of 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman and SS Carlos Correa, the Astros’ have a fairly wide window to become the first Texas team to win it all.

No team has won back-to-back World Series since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees three-peated. The MLB regular season begins on April 2.

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.