I certainly understand some of the allure of daily MLB betting. It’s more of a relaxed viewing experience than MMA prizefighting or even basketball and hockey. There is a heavy dose of suspense and intrigue whenever a club puts runners on base.
But there are just so many weird results and unexpected outcomes. Managers must make big-picture decisions with the stretch run in mind, making a favorites’ moneyline into a minefield.
For instance, the recent Dodgers-Nationals series ended with an anticlimax that only a few veteran handicappers are likely to have anticipated.
The Nats had acquitted themselves well in the first 3 lengths of a 4-game road battle, with newcomer Gerardo Parra dinging a Grand Slam game-winner on Saturday. Stephen Strasburg took the mound for Washington against Hyun-jin “Greg Maddox 2.0” Ryu of L.A. for the final meeting.
Meanwhile the Dodgers (-130) were the slight ML favorites as leaders of the NL West.
An impending pitcher’s duel sent sharks racing to Over/Under markets. But was the plus-side of the moneyline a worthy wager?
Nope. Ryu and the Dodgers killed the Nationals 6-0 on Sunday.
There’s only one remedy for the syndrome of handicapping tight ballgames that turn out to be blow-outs. Take a free betting tip from me – go for the futures lines.
Bookies who are kindly enough to post “floating” World Series futures throughout most of a Major League Baseball season provide an opportunity for speculators to dip-into the horse race without getting balled-up over an outcome on a given Sunday afternoon.
Those MLB betting sites that offer running odds on the National League and American League pennants are even better. Those markets don’t offer such lucrative payoffs on tiny wagers…but you’ve got twice the chances to hit on one, and avoiding the World Series outcome means less pure luck is involved.
Here’s a glance at 6 ballclubs from each league who are surprising, disappointing or thrilling fans and gamblers alike through a 1/4th of the 2019 season.
Judging each team’s chances to prevail in a 7-game championship series this fall vs the club’s current line-to-win the pennant is the key to finding the right pick.
Odds courtesy of BetOnline.
2019 National League Pennant Futures and Team Analysis
Los Angeles Dodgers ((+350) Odds-to-Win 2019 NLCS at BetOnline)
The 2-time defending National League champs are looking like the class of the majors once again, posting a 27-16 record to start the season. Dave Roberts may just have his best opportunity yet to bust the door down and finally win a World Series with the Dodgers.
A dynamic offense has produced at an unfathomable clip in the post-juice era. The Dodgers scored the 3rd most runs in Major League history over the first 10 games of the young season. Cody Bellinger is a burgeoning superstar, combining with LF Joc Pederson for an almost-scary 26 home runs and 58 RBIs. Those are Ruth-Mantle-Maris numbers when you extrapolate them, though the 2nd half of the campaign will pit the L.A. lineup against more-cautious pitching staffs.
Ryu has been phenomenal on the mound with a 5-1 record, 1.72 ERA, and 54 strikeouts. It’s hard for the rest of the NL to compete with the best assets of Western and Japanese baseball put together, but it’s also too early in the pennant race to call any favorite a lock.
Philadelphia Phillies (+500)
2nd-year manager Gabe Kapler is enjoying an extended honeymoon with Philly fans, who are all smiles (for once) as the club has opened the season 24-16 and stands in 1st place in the NL East. Numerous offseason acquisitions meant to boost the offense have paid off in a big way.
Leading the charge is Rhys Hopkins with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. 2B Cesar Hernandez and shortstop Jean Segura have been consistent in supporting roles at the plate. Hurler Zach Eflin has been a key man in the starting rotation, posting a 5-3 record and 2.47 ERA.
Aaron Nola leads the staff with 48 strikeouts and is 3-0 to start the season.
Chicago Cubs (+700)
The Cubs are currently one of the hottest teams in baseball. Wins in 12 of the last 14 games, including crucial tilts against the Cardinals and Brewers, have propelled the Cubs to a league-best 24-14 record. Veteran manager Joe Maddon knows how to win in the postseason, if only Chicago can keep this up.
Shortstop Javier Baez and catcher Wilson Contreras are each hitting over .300 and have a combined 21 homers on the year. But the pitching staff is dynamic. Cole Hamels is off to a 3-0 start and leads the team with 49 strikeouts. Jon Lester is 3-1 with an outstanding ERA of 1.16.
Milwaukee Brewers (+700)
Craig Counsell’s squad has put together a terrific start in defense of last season’s NL Central title. But oh, how competitive the division is likely to be in 2019. At 24-19, the Milwaukee Brewers sit 2 and ½ games back of the streaking Chicago Cubs.
Defending league MVP Christian Yelich’s slugging % is massive, and the wunderkind will be into double-digit stolen bases soon. He could sign the first billion-dollar contract in history someday if MLB salaries keep ballooning.
2B Mike Moustakas has been superb with double-digit dingers, but pitching will be needed to get through the dog days even in mild Wisconsin. Zach Davies has been brilliant in the starting rotation going 4-0 with an ERA of 1.54.
Washington Nationals (+1600)
A highly-touted Nats club has surprisingly struggled to a 16-24 record to start the season. Dave Martinez’s team has had to overcome injuries and an inconsistent bullpen, with key batters like Ryan Zimmerman (foot) and Trea Turner (finger) going down in the early spring.
Howie Kendrick has picked up some slack, batting .306 with 21 RBIs. Infielder Anthony Rendon is hitting .305 and is tied for a team-high 6 home runs.
The rotation’s aces haven’t gotten it rolling so far, but Patrick Corbin has been a bright spot on the mound, going 3-1 with a 3.20 ERA.
San Diego Padres (+2000)
The Pads made a SoCal splash by acquiring Manny Machado, but most pundits still did not expect the club to make much noise this season. Nevertheless, San Diego off to an encouraging 22-19 start.
Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes provide the big bats and have been excellent with runners in scoring position. Machado has added 8 home runs and 21 RBIs on the year. Chris Paddack has been solid for a young pitching rotation and owns a 3-1 record with a 1.55 ERA.
American League Pennant Futures and Team Analysis
Houston Astros ((+250) Odds-to-Win ALCS at BetOnline)
The Astros are on top of the AL with a 27-15 record. In just his 5th season leading the club, manager A.J. Hinch is looking to add another World Series title to the mantle.
An outfield duo of Michael Brantley and George Springer has powered the offense with 25 dingers and 67 RBIs. 3B Alex Bregman brings all kind of power and contact, nailing 13 homers and carrying a slugging percentage of .585.
Justin Verlander has been up to par with a 6-1 record and 2.51 ERA. Gerrit Cole leads the team with 86 strikeouts despite producing an inconsistent W-L record of 4-4.
The Astros are also blessed with the 4th-best fielding lineup in MLB.
New York Yankees (+350)
Aaron Boone has been overseeing a lineup decimated by injuries. At one point this spring, over half of the Pinstripes’ starting roster was unavailable to take the field. High-profile names such as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury, CC Sabathia, and Luis Severino have all been on the shelf.
Weirdly, such a scenario might help the Yankees win the pennant, considering that most, if not all, of the wounded superstars are expected to give it a go soon enough.
Consider how well the club is playing with a B-unit. The New York Yankees have put together a 24-16 record and are only ½ game back of 1st in the AL East. 3rd baseman Gio Urshela and fellow infielder D.J. LeMahieu have been clutch hitters.
Urshela leads the Bronx Bombers with a .341 batting average and LeMahieu tops the club with 45 hits. Catcher Gary Sanchez has produced a slugging percentage of .630.
On the mound, Domingo German has stepped-up his game, going 7-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
Boston Red Sox (+550)
The defending champs struggled out of the gate, going 6-13 to start the season. I remember writing at the time that it was no big deal to see that from a contender. It wasn’t.
Boston is bouncing back. The Red Sox appear to be recapturing their winning formula from 2018, prevailing in 11 of 13 recent ballgames games to eclipse the .500 mark.
There’s a decent balance of hitting and all-innings pitching that should keep Beantown in contention this year. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez is 4-2 and has struck out 46 batters, while Marcus Walden is a surging asset in the bullpen with a 5-0 record and 1.61 ERA.
Mitch Moreland has been the primary slugger with a team-high 12 homers and 29 RBIs. Infielder Rafael Devers has hit a consistent .336 at the plate.
Tampa Bay Rays (+650)
Another fine fielding team, the surprising Rays are contender in the AL East with a 24-15 mark. Tampa Bay exploded to a 14-4 start on the year but has cooled-off since then.
Kevin Cash’s team will be put to the test with upcoming series against the Yankees, Dodgers, Indians, Twins, and Red Sox.
Rising sensation Tyler Glasnow, carrying a 6-1 record and 1.86 ERA, will miss much of the brutal schedule as he is out at least a month with a forearm strain.
Cleveland Indians (+1000)
Terry Francona’s squad has been bitten by the injury bug, but has managed to stay afloat at 21-19 and 2nd place in the AL Central. The pitching rotation has been hit hardest with injuries to starters Mike Clevinger (back) and Corey Kluber (forearm).
Trevor Bauer has picked up some of the slack with a 4-2 record and 3.02 ERA.
Bats must do a more efficient job knocking in runs until the pitching rotation is back at full strength. CF Leonys Martin leads the team with 6 home runs, but Carlos Santana is making a tremendous contribution with a team-high 38 hits and 20 RBIs.
Minnesota Twins (+1000)
The Twins appear primed for a breakout season and hold a 4-game lead in the AL Central. Rocco Baldelli is a loose-and-easy manager (relatively speaking) whom the ballplayers seem to appreciate.
LF Eddie Rosario has been a monster at the plate with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs. Catcher Mitch Garver leads the team with a .333 average and has knocked 8 out of the park this year. Meanwhile, Jose Berrios, Martin Perez, and Jake Odorizzi have been superb on the mound to produce a 16-5 combined starting record.
But it’s anyone’s guess as to whether a hot start is a mirage in the Major Leagues. Let the weekly ebbs and flows determine the lines…and let common sense make the pick.
My 2019 Pennant Futures Picks for the NL and AL
The L.A. Dodgers are a safe pick to win the NLCS, but not just because of the scary offensive weapons or space-age pitching staff or high-rate management.
I’m liking the Dodgers because their spot in a relatively soft NL West keeps them safe from the kind of rivalry-emotion and intense series that will be faced by the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, and even the Pirates in a superheated NL Central division.
Less episodes means a smoother ride to a prime seeding and home field advantage in the playoffs.
In the American League, it’s all about long-term considerations. The Houston Astros aren’t the best club, they’re just the healthiest and hottest club.
Look for Cleveland and New York at budget prices until the pennant race settles down for the long haul.