Astros remain World Series betting favorite after All-Star break

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The latest World Series futures reflect that the American League is a shallow circuit, which might also help protect the value on the National League’s top contenders to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy.

The defending World Series champion Houston Astros are the +400 favorite in 2018 World Series betting lines as the second half of the Major League Baseball season resumes, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Their AL counterparts, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, are next on the board at +450, with the Los Angeles Dodgers (+650) and Chicago Cubs (+700) having the top odds out of the NL.

No team has repeated as World Series champion since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three in a row. However, laying chalk on Houston is a pragmatic play. The Astros are in the top five in MLB in runs scored, like five of the last 10 champions were in the regular season. Thanks in large part to Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, they also went into the all-star break first in starting pitching ERA. Four of the last 10 champions have finished the regular season sixth or higher in this category.

Picking between the Red Sox and Yankees, one of whose season will come down a one-game wild-card series in October, depends on what a bettor believes counts for more in October: starting pitching or the bullpen. The Red Sox have performed better on the front end, while the Yankees are stingier in the late innings.

For what it might be worth, the National League champion has won the last six even-year World Series. The senior circuit is also more competitive – the AL has three teams on pace for 100 losses to match its big three on pace for 100 wins – and that could bear fruit in the post-season.

The Dodgers, through picking up all-star shortstop Manny Machado as a rental player earlier this week, have signaled they are all in on winning their first World Series title in 30 years. The Dodgers’ World Series odds could also be a reflection on the slow start they had this season; despite injuries that included a brief loss of No. 1 starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, they still have a top-10 offense and pitching staff.

The Cubs are also in the top 10 in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. They are also a less risky pick than the Dodgers at this stage, given that their only competition in their division appears to be the Milwaukee Brewers (+2000), while the Dodgers have the the Arizona Diamondbacks (+2000), San Francisco Giants (+2500) and Colorado Rockies (+3300) within striking distance in the NL West race.

The speculative play is the Cleveland Indians (+1200), who go into the second half with the largest divisional lead in MLB. The big question with Cleveland is how much its trade for all-star left-handed reliever Brad Hand improves a bullpen that was among MLB’s worst during the first half. Cleveland is third in run scored and has the second-most efficient starting pitching corps, led by Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber.

It’s not unheard-of for a team whose bullpen was mediocre over the run of 162 games to win after putting it together for three post-season series.

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.