It’s almost two months into the Major League Baseball season and futures boards at sportsbooks including DraftKings, FanDuel, the Westgate SuperBook, and BetMGM have had to adjust to surprise teams and highly disappointing teams as we move into the second quarter of the season.
Still the favorite to win the World Series are the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were the clear season-opening choice at +460 at DraftKings to grab their second title in three seasons. They are now at +400.
But as a needless reminder, there are no guarantees when making futures wagers when dealing with such favorites. Sure, six years ago the Chicago Cubs were the top choice to win the title and they did. But a year earlier it was the Washington Nationals as the pick, and they failed to even make the playoffs.
Yankees Highlight Top Performers In American League
In the American League, on opening day, it was Toronto at +850 (DraftKings) as the favorite to win the World Series. The Jays were a tick ahead of the Yankees at +950. But with New York currently setting the pace in the division with a five-game lead over Tampa Bay (and 5.5 over Toronto), the Yanks’ number has dropped to +600 (FanDuel), with the Blue Jays at +1000 and Rays a lofty +2500. Those teams are all currently in line to at least earn wild cards.
In the Central there’s been much more upheaval. Only the Dodgers were a heavier favorite to win a division before the season than the defending champion Chicago White Sox at -190, according to DraftKings, and they were +1000 for the Series. Now, Chicago’s World Series odds have doubled to +2000 because of its 23-23 start to the season in which it has been outscored by 45 runs. That’s a stunning reversal of their 2021 season when they had a plus-160 differential.
They’ll soon benefit from the return of starting RHP Lance Lynn (knee surgery), who had a career year in 2021, but that might not be enough to catch Minnesota, whose World Series odds were +6000 (DraftKings) to open and still are at a generous +4000.
A big longshot to watch, though, at least over the next couple of weeks, are the Cleveland Guardians, the youngest team in the league. Cleveland is only 20-24 and 6.5 games behind the Twins. But the Guardians have an extremely favorable schedule during their next 15 games, with series against four last-place teams (Kansas City, Baltimore, Oakland and Colorado). Mixed in is a matchup vs. Texas, which also has a losing record. In addition, Cleveland has had only 17 homes games to date, four fewer than anyone else.
Anyway, the Guardians are at +18000 to win the World Series at DraftKings and could be worth a fun longshot bet. But don’t wait too long to jump on the bandwagon.
In the West, the Houston Astros went off as the division favorite for the seventh straight season, and based on win expectancy, were expected to to win the division by eight games over the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers. They’re already four games clear of second-place L.A. and the rest have losing marks.
Houston’s Series odds haven’t dropped off much since opening day, going from +950 to +800 at FanDuel. It helps that RHP Justin Verlander has had a remarkable to start to his season after Tommy John surgery, going 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA. The Angels (+1700 DraftKings), tied for most homers in MLB, have a 2.5-game lead for the final wild-card berth. But they just lost five straight games at home to Texas (one) and Toronto (four) and now head to N.Y. for three games with the Yankees.
Mets Are On A Heater In The National League
In the East, the N.Y. Mets (+850 DraftKings) have by far the biggest lead of any division front-runner at 9.5 games, which is somewhat startling since they are in the same loop with the defending champion Atlanta Braves, who are second.
But we’ve been here before. For the second straight year, a conveyor belt has dropped off Mets starting pitchers on the IL, most prominently this year with Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tylor Megill. And last season, the Mets similarly were kingpins of the division most of the year, even with a five-game lead entering August, before thudding home 11.5 games behind Atlanta.
The Braves, at +1700 (FanDuel), would be most likely to catch them.
One would think that Philadelphia (+4000 DraftKings), with the fourth-highest payroll in the bigs, would be a threat, but the Phillies are 11.5 games out and there are internal rumblings that the players just don’t bother to bring their “A” game to the park. That’s particularly bad on a team that has wretched infield and outfield defense. Oh, and a lousy bullpen.
In the Central, Milwaukee (+1100 DraftKings), which won the division by five games last season, is four games clear of St. Louis (+3500 DraftKings), which is second and currently has the second wild card.
The Brewers will be hard to catch with their solid pitching, resulting in the fourth-best ERA in the NL (3.28), behind only the Dodgers. But star slugger Christian Yelich is having yet another subpar year, hitting only .229.
St. Louis, which went on a 17-game win streak late last year, could be a big threat at those nice odds and the Cardinals are the league leaders in stolen bases. That’s got to help. But before heading West, let’s dumpster dive for a moment and consider the Cincinnati Reds, who started the season 3-22 but have gone 13-9 since. Their odds at the Westgate are a stupendously large +500000 (5,000-1). Considering the Reds are only 10 games out in the wild-card race for the expanded playoffs, if Cincinnati was to win it all, a $100 Series bet would get you halfway to being a millionaire (before taxes).
In the West, the Dodgers entered play Tuesday night tied with the Yankees for the best record in baseball at 33-15. But staying on their heels are the San Diego Padres (+1700 FanDuel).
The Padres, with a deep, talented pitching staff, have a seven-game cushion in the wild-card chase and have been playing well without Fernando Tatis Jr., last year’s NL home run champ who’s been out all season after wrist surgery. So, just like with the Guardians above, if you’re going to put money down on San Diego, don’t wait for Tatis to return (probably in late June).
The Giants at +2500? They’re also worth a look provided they can stay in the wild-card hunt through the summer. It’s late in the season when their schedule gets relatively easy, with 13 straight games against Arizona and Colorado from Sept. 19 through Oct. 2.
As for Arizona (+70000 DraftKings), it has nice starting pitching, but in recent days the Diamondbacks lost eight straight games to the Dodgers. That’s no way to be a threat.
Longshots Have Produced Big Payoffs In The Past
Since expansion began in 1961, there have several longshots that contended deep into the season/postseason for the championship over the years. Not all of them prevailed at the end, but many won pennants or led the league in wins, which made for a rollicking summer.
And some of the best odds were available for those teams in mid- to late season.
The first out-of-nowhere longshot came in 1967 with the Boston Red Sox, who hadn’t had a winning season since 1958 when Ted Williams was there. They wound up winning the AL pennant at 100-1 before losing in the World Series to St. Louis in seven games.
Two years later came the Miracle Mets. They had 100-1 World Series odds to open, but written accounts indicated the number skyrocketed to 1,000-1 during the season. That’s probably because on this date in 1969 they were only 21-23 and already nine games behind in the NL East race.
A fun close call took place in 1984 when the Minnesota Twins, who finished 29 games off the AL West pace the year before, went off at 120-1 for the pennant and +250 for the Series. No one got to cash a ticket on them, but with a 5.5-game lead in late August, it had to be a thrill ride for their backers.
In 1991, the Twins were involved again as a big longshot, climbing to 500-1 during the season by some published accounts, and this time they pulled off a world championship at the expense of the long-forlorn Atlanta Braves, who had preseason odds of 250-1.
Then comes the mother of all longshots, which is an extreme example that futures bettors should keep their eyes open until the toe tags are placed on teams. On Sept. 12, the Cardinals were languishing 6.5 games behind in the NL Central and 5.5 from the only wild card with 17 days remaining in the season. That morning a bettor wagered $250 at 500-1 odds at the MGM Grand on St. Louis to win the pennant. He also put up $250 at 999-1 for the World Series. He collected on both for a total of $375,000.
Then of course, last preseason, somehow the Giants unbelievably were briefly 150-1 for the NL pennant and 300-1 to win the World Series at the Westgate. They finished with a franchise-record mark of 107-55 before losing in the division series. Like the 1984 Twins, it had to be quite a ride for Giants bettors, who might still have cashed in with some hedge bets. Even the world champion Braves could be had at 50-1 as late as August before their late-season surge.