Only four teams have made the World Series in the last three years. The Washington Nationals are the reigning champions. The Boston Red Sox won in 2018. The Houston Astros won in 2017. The Los Angeles Dodgers have tried and failed twice. That is t. That is the list of World Series participants in the last three Fall Classics. When we look at the construction of the league for 2020, it seems like we are pretty likely to get at least one of those four teams back in the battle for the Commissioner’s Trophy once again. With big favorites in both leagues, it may not be a great year for betting long shots, but think back as far as June. The Nationals were a rudderless mess with a 19-31 record. They won the World Series. It can happen. Crazy things can happen in Major League Baseball. That is a Nationals team that was +1600 coming into the season and much higher than that after the disastrous start. The chalk doesn’t always come through. Over 162 games, the best teams are very likely to be the best teams. Once we get to the tournament with rounds of five and seven games, things can be very, very different. For example, remember the 2014 season? Both World Series participants, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals, had under 90 wins. The last time that happened was the strike-shortened season of 1981. The last time it happened before that? How about 1918? Fluky things can certainly happen in October. That is why Dane Cook famously told us “There is only one October!” Here are the World Series futures odds per 5Dimes Sportsbook as of February 20, 2020:
New York Yankees +360
Los Angeles Dodgers +425
Houston Astros +850
Atlanta Braves +1400
Minnesota Twins +1500
Washington Nationals +1600
St. Louis Cardinals +1600
New York Mets +1800
Oakland Athletics +2500
Milwaukee Brewers +2500
Cincinnati Reds +2800
Cleveland Indians +3000
Philadelphia Phillies +3000
Chicago Cubs +3000
Chicago White Sox +3000
Tampa Bay Rays +3000
Los Angeles Angels +4250
Boston Red Sox +4500
Arizona Diamondbacks +4500
San Diego Padres +5500
Toronto Blue Jays +6600
Texas Rangers +10000
San Francisco Giants +20000
Colorado Rockies +20000
Pittsburgh Pirates +35000
Seattle Mariners +50000
Miami Marlins +100000
Detroit Tigers +100000
Kansas City Royals +100000
Baltimore Orioles +100000
Look, we all know that the most likely outcomes is Yankees vs. Dodgers. Maybe it holds up. Maybe the two short prices get there. Or maybe the Dodgers face the Astros again, at which point 49 states are rooting for the Dodgers. Maybe we don’t get any surprises. But when you have two short prices at +360 and +425, value is out there. Value is almost always out there as far as a championship goes, but especially in the unpredictable, high-variance world of Major League Baseball. Let’s go ahead and take a look at some of those: Tampa Bay Rays (+3000) – They may not hang banners for being the BaseRuns AL East Champion or the 3rd Order Win% AL East Champion, but those two things mean something to me. Are the Yankees better this season? Of course they are with Gerrit Cole, but Luis Severino has had a setback and James Paxton is also hurt. Even without those two developments, this price is absurd on Tampa Bay. Let’s aim low to start. The Rays are extremely likely to have one of the five best records in the AL, which means at least a puncher’s chance in the Wild Card Game. The Rays won that Wild Card Game last year and then took the Houston Astros to the brink and the series was very much hanging in the balance before Houston got off to a 4-0 lead in Game 5. Let’s aim higher. Is it that crazy to say that the Rays can win the AL East? I don’t think so. The Yankees look awesome on paper, but the injury bug has already arrived and plenty of the position players have been hurt recently. The Rays have the best pitching staff in the American League as far as I’m concerned. A 30/1 price is lunacy for this team, especially when they are going to make the playoffs far more often than they are not. Chicago Cubs (+3000) – The Cubs pitching staff would worry me greatly in the playoffs, but the NL Central is as open as a four-lane road in rural Illinois. There is no clear-cut favorite in the division. Frankly, the favorite is the Cardinals and I think they will stink. In a relative sense, of course, given that only winning like 82 or 83 games is bad for them. The Cubs have been negatively impacted in the court of public opinion by a 2-10 finish to last season when they seemed to quit on Joe “Old Man Yells at Cloud” Maddon. Imagine a 30/1 price for a team that has a great chance of winning the division and avoiding the Wild Card Game scenario. Imagine a team at 30/1 that is the second favorite to win the division, while the third favorite (Milwaukee) is 25/1 and the FOURTH favorite (Cincinnati) is 28/1. I don’t know what I’m missing here, but this price is out of whack. Minnesota Twins (+1500) - I like this one decidedly less than the other two, but it still warrants a mention. The Twins are going to win the AL Central more often than they won’t. That means a trip right to the ALDS. They will probably run into the Rays, Yankees, or Astros in that scenario because they won’t have the best record and the luxury of playing the Wild Card team, but the Twins are plenty capable of outscoring the Astros and could certainly hang with the Yankees or Rays. Their likelihood of winning the AL Central makes this one pretty interesting because you can hedge out very quickly if you want to. The Twins are going to be an underdog in just about every first-round scenario, but depending on the draw, you could have some good meat on the bone for a hedge. Let’s say you bet $100 to win $1500 on the Twins and they run into the Astros. Houston might be a -175 favorite? So $350 to win $200? $525 to win $300? Make a little bit for the time and effort. Maybe wait and see how Game 1 goes and get a reduced price. That is, if you are convinced that the Twins can’t win. If you think they can win, it’s $100. Let it ride. After all, you would need hedging margin for the second round if they got there. Either way, you are more likely than not to have a 15/1 ticket live going into the playoffs and you can decide what you want to do at that point.