MAJOR LEAGE BASEBALL ODDS TO WIN EACH DIVISION: DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE
We're right in the heart of the 2021 Major League Baseball regular season.
What happens over the next month or so will go a long way towards separating contenders from pretenders. Ten teams will make the playoffs come late Spetember, including all six division winners, plus four wild-card qualifiers.
Right now is a great time to examine the odds on each team to win its division.
What follows is PART 1 – a look at the odds and analysis of the NL divisions, along with several opinions about what bets to make and which bets to take.
That's the opening pitch, now let's play ball!
This race looks like it could turn into a NY Mets runaway, especially based on their dominant pitching. However, the Mets rank around the 11th spot on most mid-June power rankings, so their -330 lay price to win the division looks way too high. New York's mediocre run-differential (ranks 11th in the majors) isn't indicative of a huge favourite laying more than 3 to 1. The Atlanta Braves or Phillies are much better values at this price (+400 and +1100, respectively). Why? Well, Atlanta's pitching should improve and the fact they're the defending division champs should count for something. The trouble is, Atlanta hasn't had a winning record all season. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies with a 30-31 W-L record and 4 games out of first appear to be far better than their 11-1 odds to win the NL East would indicate. Then, there are the bottom two slugs. A week ago, the Miami Marlins were only one game under .500 and looked like a live dog to rise up and steal the division, but since then they've lost 9 of 10 games and are in the cellar. They're done. The once-mighty Washington Nationals are wasted money, even at +2600. If they haven't made a move by now, they aren't going anywhere except 4th place and probably a 90-loss season.
Best Bets: Atlanta at +400 and Philadelphia at +1100
This division, in what appears to be a three-team race, has shown most movement over the course of the young season. Three different teams have been favoured at various points by oddsmakers, and a fourth team – Cincinnati jumped out to an early division lead. In the past few weeks, the Milwaukee Brewers have made their move, winning 8 of 10 games, good for a share of the division lead. But it's hard to justify Milwaukee priced at roughly even money (-110) to win such a wide-open division with no dominant team. The Brewers look particularly weak at the plate. They're 26th in the majors in runs scored, and have posted a horrific .211 team batting average, which is 29th of 30 clubs. Even with a trio of power pitchers, how can Milwaukee be such a favorite? The Chicago Cubs should contend all the way into the fall, with an improving offense and a team that's +36 in run differential, the only team in the NL Central on the plus side. The Cubs at +275 are worth a strong look. The St. Louis Cardinals always seem to be in the NL Central race and normally wouldn't ever be counted out this early in the season. Their number shows +325. The trouble is, the Cardinals have been decimated with key injuries. Their starting rotation is getting a major shake up. St. Louis is likely to fade the second half of the season given they simply don't stack up well with the two main rivals in this division. The Cincinnati Reds are +1100 and are hoovering around the .500 mark. They're not out of contention by any stretch and could surprise if a lot of things go their way. The offense can score runs. Probably priced about right at 11-1, but this isn't a bad longshot bet. Finally, the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates have locked up last place. The only thing they'll contend for in 2021 is the worst record in the majors.
Best Bets: Chicago Cubs +275
Since spring training, this discussion has been dominated by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have retained their grip as overwhelming favourites to win the NL West no matter what the standings show. While the Dodgers rightly deserve to be favoured, they shouldn't be anywhere near this price. Let's begin by noting that all three teams atop this division hold the best W-L records in the National League. That's right, they're 1-2-3. Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco are each 10 games or better over .500. So, the very fact that three teams playing outstanding ball since the season started are locked inside the same division has to diminish the chances of the other to rise far above the trio. The reason why the Dodgers are -285 is obvious – this is the defending world champion and they remain a pitching powerhouse. However, at +89 in run differential, LA also leads the majors. That's an important stat showing this team is balanced and probably the best all-around roster in the game. The San Diego Padres are treated like a stepchild in this division, listed at +235. They'd probably be at least co-favourites in any other division in MLB. The Padres have been a very streaky team this season, which can be tricky to predict. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants still get no respect. They've been in first place since early March, posted the best record in the majors much of this season, and aren't fading despite everyone else waiting for their magic to expire. The Giants' +75 run differential isn't a fluke. San Francisco did suffer two injuries to key bats in the lineup, which is a concern. But they have to be better than the +1400 price indicates. Finally, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies might as well face reality that their the two punching bags in this dogfight of a division. Arizona is 15 games out of first and Colorado is 20 games back – even at +100,000 this isn't worth a longshot, unless you believe that a giant meteor will strike the earth and wipe out California before September.
Best Bets: San Francisco Giants at +1400