I’ve always believed that betting on futures in baseball is the most difficult of the five major sports leagues in the US. Unlike the other sports, determining a favorite in baseball before the season starts is like basing it on the flashiness of a team’s roster and their offseason spending habits. Go back to last season and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Remember when the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers were deemed head and shoulders above the rest? Conversely, how many people had the San Francisco Giants and better yet, the Kansas City Royals making it to the World Series?
How about the supposedly revamped Toronto Blue Jays from two seasons back? Go back a few years and you’ll remember that the Miami Marlins – the Marlins! – were actually once preseason favorites.
There’s so many moving parts in baseball that betting on a favorite this early has become a tricky proposition. It’s a big reason why the favorite to win the World Series receives significantly higher odds than favorites in other sports leagues.
Right now, the Washington Nationals sit on that said spot…and it’s been priced at 7/1 odds. Depending on what sportsbook you use, you’ll see that the two LA teams – the Dodgers and the Angels – are not that far behind, getting anywhere from 7/1 to 10/1 odds.
Oh, and after these three teams? It’s the Tigers again at 12/1 odds.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bet on any of these four teams, but recent history will tell you that putting money down on favorites has been a losing proposition. You’re better of identifying a team flying under the radar that has the requisite roster balance that can get into the postseason.
You know the deal with roster balance: efficient offense, stout pitching, overall consistency, and a good manager.
The Giants and the Royals proved as much last year, although you can make a case that Kansas City was one or two Ned Yost meltdowns away from the Royals not even making out of the regular season.
The key with betting on baseball is to look at teams that aren’t getting as much attention, even if they should. That’s the trick. The Cardinals and the Red Sox are both sitting at 14/1 odds, and yet, it’s harder to make a case for the Red Sox because of how many new guys they have on their team.
On the other hand, the Cards are the Cards and they’re arguably one of the best teams at integrating their farm system into the big leagues. That’s important in the grand scheme of things.
Then you have some surprises like the Chicago Cubs sitting at 16/1 odds, the same odds that the Giants and the Royals have. How’d that happen, you ask? Look at how the team is assembled. Better yet, look at who its new manager is. Yep. that’s Joe Madden, everybody. That’s probably a big reason why the Tampa Bay Rays have turned into a middling team based on their 50/1 odds.
I’m not going to make a pick on this because I know how this routine goes. If there ever was a sport where holding off on a futures bet until the midway point of the season is the smart move, it’s baseball. Just remember that if you do follow this strategy, you need to understand where they were at the start of the season to where they are half-way through it.
You’d be surprised at how messed up the preseason odds have become.
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