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Books get lines up for MLB season

Baseball is set to return with Opening Day scheduled for July 23 and it took most sportsbooks less than 24 hours to respond with a full slate of future prices and unique propositions in what will be a shortened 60-game season played at each team’s home park.

With the long-awaited 2020 season right around the corner, let’s get reacquainted with the updated numbers being offered.

William Hill sportsbooks opened up with the Yankees being +380 to win the World Series and the Dodgers 4-1 with the Orioles, Tigers, Marlins, and Royals offered the longest odds at 300-1 each. But with such a short season where one team could get hot for two months and not experience the June swoon back to reality, no team in the top-20 has odds higher than 40-1 (Diamondbacks) and 10 teams are 75-1 or higher. It’s part of the unknown of how a 60-game season will play out.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook is using the same bet numbers that were set in October and VP of risk management Jeff Sherman says they have multiple teams already with six-figure losses.

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“You know, the teams like the Royals, Mariners, and Tigers, but the most risk among teams with double-digit odds are the Twins and Angels,“ Sherman said. “The Angels opened at 100-1 and are now 20-1 and the Twins opened 30-1 and now they’re 16-1.”

The Angels are an interesting look in the AL West this season after adding 3B Anthony Rendon and boosting the starting rotation with Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy, along with new manager, veteran Joe Maddon. The rotation will also have Shohei Ohtani, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery.

Beyond the meat and potatoes of World Series, pennant, and division odds, a few books got extremely creative with a few props such as the SuperBook asking whether or not any batter will hit .400 or better this season. They opened No at -1400 and Yes at +800 and got immediate action on Yes because it seems as if there’s always one player flirting with .400 heading into June after two months of play.

“We got plays on the Yes at +800 and +700 and now were at -900/+600 on the .400 prop,” Sherman said.

The SuperBook also put out the most incredible list of player props set for a 60-game season such as an over-under on most home runs set at 19.5 or most wins set at 7.5. Or how about most complete games set at 1.5 over -160. The complete game is a thing of past eras, and wins by a starting pitcher are deemed meaningless by baseball scholars, but you have to still take a shot on over 1.5 complete games, right? Especially with the DH now mandated in the National League where a starter’s spot in the batting order and deficiency as a hitter will not be a reason to take him out of the game.

SuperBook executive manager Randy Blum got to work right away with the numbers as soon as commissioner Rob Manfred decided to run a 60-game season last Monday night.

“We started by just translating our 162-game numbers into what they would be for 60 games,” said Blum. “For example, for stolen bases, we went a bit higher expecting guys to run more since they don’t have to worry about wearing down. Saves were also a bit higher expecting managers won’t worry about saving the bullpens.”

The Westgate posted the over-under on saves at 17.5 and stolen bases were set at 18.5.

It’s a tricky process to make numbers for only 60 games for both player statistics as well as season wins. A 162-game season has standard achievement numbers of excellence such as 100 runs scored or 100 RBI’s, 40 home runs, 200 strikeouts or 20 wins for a starter. Bookmakers and bettors are both at the same disadvantage of the unknown and what to expect.

Station Casinos immediately posted a season win total for the most wins at 39.5 and most losses at 20. The ugliest teams in baseball should be able to win 21 of 60 games, maybe. And for the same reason, a player gets on a two-month roll and can possibly hit .400, the same can be applied to some team roaring hot with a two-month run to win 40 or more games. I like the over in both of those.

And then when I look at what Circa Sports is doing, they help me smile more about baseball and the smell of fresh-cut grass. The operation is just barely a year old in Las Vegas with locations at the Golden Gate and The D waiting for their new home at the Circa expected to open in October where they will take over the claim as world’s largest sportsbook. But the offerings and opinions in their prices make them a must look, especially with the season win totals that are completely different from what any other book posted.

Their opinions help give bettors a middle opportunity at the best numbers because these teams are most likely to land somewhere around the actual numbers posted. They’ve got the Yankees posted at 36.5 wins and the Dodgers at 38 wins. Their lowest total is the Orioles at 21 wins.

But the best thing about Circa’s odds are the future prices where they keep their numbers honest by offering a Yes/No price on every team to win the World Series while keeping a theoretical hold on the Yes prices at only 20 percent. The Yankees are +370 to win the World Series, but No is only -525, and that price alone looks like the best bet. The Astros are 9-1 to win it all, but laying -1600 on the No looks more attractive.

The SuperBook has the Astros as one of the teams they do the best on with World Series futures.

“We do the best with the Astros,” Sherman said. “We opened them at 5-1 and have them up to 12-1 now. We also do well with the Rays, but we still dropped them from 30-1 to 16-1 because they may have an edge with their pitching situation (bullpen starting games) in a short season.”

The Astros come back with a lineup that had an MLB-record .495 slugging percentage in 2019 while also striking out the least amount. Who knows the extent of how far their sign-stealing affected the numbers, but it’s hard to ignore it had some sort of effect. The only team rooting for the pandemic was probably the Astros, who were shamed and mocked by fans in a few spring training games before the shutdown. But now they have company with the Yankees apparently doing the same type of sign stealing at home as detailed in a leaked old memo from the commissioner’s office.

Gerrit Cole is on the Yankees now and is a -110 favorite in the season opener at Washington, the defending champions, with Max Scherzer starting. It was a mixed bag with Cole’s brief spring that saw him dominate as well as get rocked.

Mookie Betts won the AL MVP for the Red Sox in 2018 and led them to a 4-1 World Series win against the Dodgers, and this year he’ll play for the Dodgers, who have the most impressive combination of hitters and pitchers in baseball.

It’s finally baseball season. Play Ball!