We are still two months from the start of the season, but it is never too early to start looking for value when it comes to the World Series. Tying your money up in an investment that will not pay until October/November is one to be cautious of, but if done correctly then it can be a sensible investment. Before we start looking at this year’s odds let’s take some time to review the last five years and see where the eventual winners were projected in terms of odds.
- 2019: Washington Nationals – 18/1 (11th lowest odds)
- 2018: Boston Red Sox – 13/1 (7th lowest odds)
- 2017: Houston Astros – 15/1 (7th lowest odds)
- 2016: Chicago Cubs – 4/1 (Favorites)
- 2015: Kansas City Royals – 30/1 (Joint 16th lowest odds)
So, what can we learn from that small snapshot of the recent history of the MLB? Firstly, no team with odds outside the top-20, or a longer shot than 30/1, when it comes to preseason has won the World Series. Just once in those five years have the favorites won and being around the 10th lowest odds has seen three teams succeed. If we were to extend that back a couple more years, the winners from both 2014 and 2013 were 12th (San Francisco) and 13th (Boston Red Sox) favorites to win the whole thing at the start of the season. With that historical context in mind let’s take a look at this year’s odds.
New York Yankees: +400
It is no surprise that the arrival of Gerrit Cole has made the Yankees favorites for the World Series in 2020. The Yankees lineup is packed full of hitting talent, with plenty of experience to balance it out. The addition of Cole gives the Yankees that lock it down type ace they need to succeed in the postseason. However, when you look at Cole’s career it was beginning to somewhat spiral before his arrival in Houston. Will a change in situation mean that Cole struggles all over again in 2020? The good news is that if Cole struggles, all three of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino have the talent to be a playoff ace.
Combine a solid group of starting pitchers with a talented bullpen and a lineup loaded with ability and you have to consider putting down some money on the Yankees. At +400, the odds are sufficiently high enough where I am comfortable putting down two units on this team to be the cream of the crop in the AL. That is especially the case when you consider the chaos in Houston and Boston, who would arguably be the biggest challengers to the Yankees chances in 2020.
Los Angeles Dodgers: +600
Surely at some point the Dodgers have to be able to get over the line. In the last five years they have lost in the World Series twice and the NL Championship Series twice. Hyun-Jin Ryu is a free agent at the time of writing, but the rotation in Los Angeles is still loaded with talent. The Dodgers lineup has a wonderful mix of talent, experience and promising youthful options, which should ensure they are contenders when it comes to the sharp end of the season once again.
Additionally, I can see them having a relatively easy ride in their division, especially if the rumors are true and Nolan Arenado leaves the Rockies. The Arizona Diamondbacks will be competitive, but the other three teams in the division may all finish under .500. It is incredibly chalky but if I was picking the World Series matchup today it would absolutely be the Yankees and Dodgers and therefore, I want to corner the market by placing one unit on the Dodgers to win it all.
Houston Astros: +600
The Astros are extremely talented but how has the past few weeks disturbed the balance? On one hand the talk may motivate them to come out and dominate, but if all of the rumors are true and they have been using electronic methods to tip pitches we could see some of their hitters struggle badly under more scrutiny in 2020. They still have Justin Verlander, but the loss of Gerrit Cole has left a lot of question marks in that rotation. Zack Greinke’s velocity has been dipping and Lance McCullers health is always an issue. They have talent in the minor leagues, and they are not afraid of making a splash move to tip the over the edge down the stretch. There are simply too many question marks for me to feel comfortable putting any money on the Astros right now.
Atlanta Braves: +1200
This is an incredibly talented roster, but 2020 may just be a year too early for the Braves. Their lineup is strong but my concerns rest with the bullpen. Cole Hamels adds valuable experience, but his best days are behind him. Can Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried combine with Hamels to provide enough fire power for this team to win the World Series? I just think they need to make a splash move to get their rotation to a competitive level and these odds are too short for a team that is still a move away.
Washington Nationals: +1400
I am conflicted in a big way when it comes to the Nationals. Do I think their roster is all-around talented enough? Absolutely. However, no team has won back to back World Series since the Yankees won three in a row between 1998 and 2000. The way the Nationals season went also concerned me. They were slow out of the gate and needed a second half rally to even be in contention for the playoffs. They then had to win the Wildcard game as well, which could easily have gone the other way. The rotation has serious talent and depth and can hold their own with anyone. However, they are in perhaps the toughest division in baseball, and I do not like putting money down on a team who could be in the Wildcard game against this year. The Nationals are a team to watch if they do have a slow start, because if their odds rise, their rotation presents fantastic value.
Cleveland Indians: +2500
This pick will lose all value if Francisco Lindor leaves before the season. I think it is worth holding off betting the Indians until closer to opening day when we know his situation better. If Lindor is on this roster it is extremely talented. Hitting wise they need some guys to step up, but they feel so good about their rotation that they let Corey Kluber walk out of the door. If they can go into the playoffs with two or three of Carrasco, Bieber and Clevinger healthy they have as good as chance as anyone of going all the way. The chance of them bringing home glory makes them worth 0.5 of a unit.
Tampa Bay Rays: +2500
The Rays were superb last year, and they pushed the Houston Astros all the way in the playoffs. Their rotation and bullpen will always give them a chance. Their lineup is always the question mark but they have a way of getting more out of their players than people might expect. These odds just seem disproportionate for a team that won 96 games last year and has as good of a 1-2 punch in their rotation as anyone. I will take 0.5 of a unit on the Rays to upset the AL.
Arizona Diamondbacks: +6600
I always like to have a longshot regardless of what history tells us about longshots winning the World Series. Honestly, I was stunned that the Diamondbacks odds were this high. They won 85 games last year, ranked 10th in runs scored and had a record of 24-26 in one loss games. With a bit more luck they could easily have been a Wildcard team and their Pythagorean win-loss record had them winning 88 games. They have added Madison Bumgarner to replace Zack Greinke, and their lineup is solid if not spectacular. They will need their rotation to step up, but we have seen Robbie Ray and Luke Weaver put together quality outings, and Zac Gallen was an exciting discovery for the MLB last season. It may come to nothing, but the Diamondbacks are worth .25 to .5 of a unit depending how much you believe in them.
New York Yankees: 2 units @ +400
Los Angeles Dodgers: 1 unit @ +600
Cleveland Indians: 0.5 units @ +2500
Tampa Bay Rays: 0.5 units @ +2500
Arizona Diamondbacks: 0.25 units @ +6600