All-Star Break Ushers In Updated AL Pennant Odds

Cleveland Indians

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 9:12 PM GMT

The 2016 All-Star game prompted sports books to update their postseason odds, including the wide-open AL Pennant race. Here's a look at odds, complete with our  top picks to claim the prize.

At the All-Star break, books list the Cleveland Indians as updated favorites at +275 MLB odds to win the AL Pennant. Owning a 52-36 record and a 6.5-game lead over the Detroit Tigers (+1600) in the Central, manager Terry Francona’s squad is one of MLB’s biggest surprises, opening at +1350 as the 10th choice back in February to reign supreme over the AL.

The Second favorite at +350 is last year’s AL West winners the Texas Rangers. Chalking up the AL’s best record at the break (54-36, .600), they barely edge out the high-flying Toronto Blue Jays (+550) on the board. The Jays, who knocked out the Rangers 3-2 in the Division Series last season, lead the majors in runs scored over the last calendar month, slugging in a whopping 6.5 per game.

Two of Toronto’s division rivals, the Boston Red Sox (+650) and the Baltimore Orioles (+700) round out the top-five betting choices. All three East clubs sit within two games of each other. Here is a look at updated AL Pennant odds from BetOnline for all the teams:

 

Team

AL Pennant Odds

Cleveland Indians

+275

Texas Rangers

+350

Toronto Blue Jays

+550

Boston Red Sox

+650

Baltimore Orioles

+700

Houston Astros

+700

Detroit Tigers

+1600

Seattle Mariners

+1800

Kansas City Royals

+2000

Chicago White Sox

+2500

New York Yankees

+3300

Los Angeles Angels

+25000

Oakland Athletics

+25000

Tampa Bay Rays

+25000

Minnesota Twins

+250000

 

Picks and Analysis
The AL pennant race is wide open with 11 of 15 teams owning a .500 record or better. The latter is a nice benchmark one can use to toss out unrealistic contenders. In at least the last 15 years, no club has reached the Fall Classic with a losing record at the All-Star break. That said, there is a lot of value floating on the board.

When placing futures bets at this point in the season, we look for clubs we believe can go all the way and win the World Series. It would not shock to see a team priced in the double digits, like last season’s champions the Royals (+2000), go deep into October, but there are two teams on our radar with a realistic shot to win it all: the Indians and Red Sox.  

Since Francona took control as skipper, the Indians have put together three consecutive winning seasons. Most projected this team to settle right around .500 in 2016, despite its pitching owning the best WAR metric (8.4) overall in 2015. Well, the staff is dominant again, allowing the fourth lowest batting average (.237) and sixth fewest runs (4.03) per game in the majors. Undervalued from the get-go is an understatement.

The problem most feared was the hitting. New president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti did not spring for a big bat in the offseason, outside of Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, failing to bolster a roster that knocked in the 18th fewest runs (4.16) in 2015. Moreover, their best hitter Michael Brantley, who has been limited to 11 games this season due to lingering soreness from shoulder surgery, started the season on the shelf. Nonetheless, the Tribe are needling opponents at the plate with a .284 secondary average (seventh in MLB), scoring 4.95 runs per contest (sixth). Now the big question is if the Dolan family, the team owners, will continue their nickel-and-dime approach at the trade deadline despite having yet another contender.

Unlike the Indians, the Red Sox are not surprising anyone. They were the oddsmakers’ favorites MLB pick to win the pennant (+475) before the season started, and have remained one of the top two choices since. It was never in doubt if Boston could score runs after slugging in the fourth most last season. In fact, they lead MLB at the break with 5.63 per game. Pitching, however, was a concern. New GM Dave Dombrowski, a World Series winner known for buying proven talent, brought in David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith and other solid arms to sure up one of the worst staffs from 2015. It is working for the most part. Although they give up 4.43 runs per game—not bad considering they play at the hitter-friendly Fenway Park—a lower team WHIP (1.34) added with the fifth-most strikeouts per nine innings (8.64) help the staff keep opponents away from big innings and in nearly every ball game.

Both the Indians and Red Sox trigger a few trends (that we also shared in our updated NL futures article) we like to see at this point in the season. Since 2004, the World Series winner entered the All-Star break with a .533 winning percentage or better. Moreover, they each rank in the top six in MLB at either runs scored or fewest runs allowed as a team by the break. It is valuable to see a team flashing brilliance either on the mound or at the plate at the midway point. All but one of the last 12 World Series winners ranked this high in one of these two categories. Along these same lines, 21 of the last 24 World Series participants ranked in the top four in their respective league in either one of these metrics. In runs scored, you have the Red Sox, Indians, Rangers, and Orioles leading the AL, while the Astros, Royals, Blue Jays and Indians are tops in fewest allowed. Cleveland and Boston are strong choices at a good price to not only represent the AL in the World Series but to win it all as well.

 

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