Time is of the essence to get money down if one believes either the Houston Astros or the Los Angeles Dodgers are surefire World Series bets.
With baseball starting up again now that the all-star break is over the Dodgers are +350 favorites on the 2017 World Series odds followed by the Astros at +425, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
A hot streak where the NL West-leading Dodgers won 26 out of 30 games to take a healthy lead in an otherwise strong division has taken away a lot of their betting value, as they were at +800 one month ago. Similarly, the Astros, who have 10 more wins than anyone else in the American League, will likely see their price come down soon enough once they shore up their pitching staff at the July 31 (non-waiver) trade deadline.
It is true that only five of the 27 teams to finish with the top regular-season record during the wild-card era (since 1995) have gone on to win the World Series, including the 2016 Chicago Cubs. However, baseball might as well be called Bullpen in October, and on top of having Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw and a strong offense with the likes of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers have yet to lose a game this year when leading after five innings.
The Astros, with George Springer setting the table, lead the AL in runs, home runs and on-base percentage. Their question mark, even while 30-plus games above .500, is what the make-up of the pitching staff will be once Dallas Keuchel, a one-time Cy Young Award winner, and Collin McHugh rejoin the starting rotation. Houston likely will have to trade for another starter but it’s a thin trade market.
The top of the board also includes the Boston Red Sox (+600), Washington Nationals (+700), Chicago Cubs (+800) and Cleveland Indians (+800). Boston certainly has the pieces to make a run in October even if big-name starters such as Rick Porcello and David Price have higher-than-acceptable earned-run averages. Washington’s 5.20 bullpen ERA sets off red flags like home run fireworks.
Provided that their offense (seventh in the AL) doesn’t go completely stone-cold, Cleveland is a darkhorse due to their pitching staff, which has the lowest overall ERA in the league and lowest bullpen ERA in the majors thanks in large part to Andrew Miller. As for the defending World Series champion Cubs, at some point a team is what it is and the Northsiders’ starting pitching has seemingly regressed too much in one season for them to have a shot.
Farther down the board at sports betting sites, the Arizona Diamondbacks (+1600) are a diamond in the rough. The Diamondbacks have the third-best record in baseball and strong pitching on both ends, but their price is high because the reality is that they will likely have to survive a one-game wild card series in the playoffs since they play in the same division as the mighty Dodgers.
Of course, there’s also the scenario of having to beat the Dodgers only three times in the NLDS instead of four times in the NLCS.