National League has a few longshots worth backing
March 28, 2017 3:01 AM
by Bob Christ
Last week's AL MLB Previews
Fans of playing long-shot MLB futures are hoping for a bounce-back year after chalk took nine of 10 playoff spots in 2016, with all five teams that reached the NL postseason having pennant odds of 7-1 or lower entering the season.
That’s a far cry from 2011, when Arizona won the NL West at 50-1 and eventual Series champ St. Louis could be had for 500-1 late in the year before its stunning turnaround. In 1991, much the same happened for Minnesota and Atlanta, both of which had 50-1 odds in June before reaching the World Series.
An extreme example of midseason value occurred on the NBA board this winter at Westgate Las Vegas when Miami, during its darkest days, was listed 9999-1 to win the title. Now Miami is likely to make the playoffs and has 60-1 odds.
Here’s a look at this year’s long-shot options, with the definition of a “long shot” being at least 12-1 for the pennant.
Washington is the heavy choice to win the loop at 10-13, going off at 5-1 for the pennant/10-1 for the Series. The Mets and their talented, but fragile, pitching staff are at 6-1/12-1. Hands off. Miami (40/80) is next, but apparently has fallen out of favor at the windows after opening at half those odds. And with the tragic death of RHP Jose Fernandez (16-8, 2.86) from a team that otherwise went 63-74, no thanks.
That leaves Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Braves acquired a lot of young talent, but their pitching staff lacks pizzazz. At 40/80, there’s not enough value after being offered at 100/200 three months ago. Thus, it’s Philly (50/100), which improved by eight games to 71-91 last year. If those young pitchers stay healthy, watch out.
The world champion Cubs (7-4/7-2) would seem to be a lock to again hoist the loop flag at 1-6. But maybe not. Two seasons ago Washington was 1-5 to win the East but wound up out of the postseason at 83-79.
That leaves St. Louis (15/30), Pittsburgh (30/60), Cincinnati (150/300) and Milwaukee (150/300). The Cardinals missed earning a wild card last year by one game by going 86-76, a drop of 14 wins from 2015. Blechh!
The Pirates flamed out worse (78-83), a 20-win drop. But they still have star outfielder Andrew McCutchen and it’s hard not to like staff anchors Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. As for Milwaukee and Cincy, either one would be fun. But it would probably be over soon. Save your bucks for the Bucs.
Los Angeles is the favorite (4-1 pennant/8-1 WS) to win its fourth straight division title. And, San Francisco (6/12), which has finished second three years running, figures to give LA a good run. But those odds aren’t good enough here. Next are Colorado (25/50), Arizona (50/100) and San Diego (250/500). The Rockies pack a lot of wallop with Nolan Arenado (41 HR) and averaged 5.22 runs a game last year, third best in the majors. But their foes averaged 5.31. The Rockies aren’t worth the aggravation.
That leaves Arizona and SD. The Padres are a team of the distant future. The D’Backs, though, have nice value after opening last year at 12/25. With Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt around, Arizona will be ready if LA and/or SF slips.