Old habits die hard. Nearly 13 weeks into the 2013 MLB betting season, I'm finally looking at the AL West in the standings to find my beloved Houston Astros and no longer confused to see a designated hitter in their lineup.
We've reached the end of the trail in our midseason MLB futures odds update, saving both the best and worst for last on many fronts. And if you think I'm talking about the Astros as the worst, think again.
The Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics are unquestionably the best of the division, both in the standings and at baseball betting windows. Texas has a narrow half-game lead over Oakland as that duo continues to battle Boston for the best record in the American League. On the MLB futures odds board, however, the Rangers and Athletics are battling Detroit's chalk. The AL West leaders are both 11/2 to win the Junior Circuit crown, just behind the Tigers at 13/4.
The Rangers and A's were supposed to chase the Los Angeles Angels for division supremacy when the season opened. The Angels were 1/2 picks in the AL West, Texas (5/2) and Oakland (11/2) to their rear. But for the second straight year, the Halos have failed to live up to expectations, and they earn my vote for worst in the division.
Anaheim's hard-ballers have seen their AL favorite status on Opening Day slide well back in the pack. A 3/1 choice April 1 to take the flag, the Angels are now 16/1 selections.
Can Halos Make It A 3-Team Race Out West?
If the Angels are looking for inspiration to turn their season around, they only need to glance up the California coast to Oakland. The A's started last July in third place of the AL West, 13 games behind the front-running Rangers and half that distance from the 2nd-place Angels.
Since then, no team has won more games than Oakland (12/1 to win WS). The Athletics closed the 2012 regular season 57-26 to just edge Texas for the division crown, and are 103-60 (.631) once you throw in their first 80 games of 2013. Still, Oakland can't get any respect.
The Angels (33/1 to win WS) will need a similar run to reach the 90-win plateau this time. The offensive potential is definitely there, but does Mike Scioscia have enough pitching to save his job in Anaheim? Only two other staffs -- Baltimore and Houston -- have higher ERA's, and Jered Weaver has to step things up as the ace to take pressure off the likes of CJ Wilson and Jason Vargas.
Texas (10/1 to win WS) has in many ways gotten better by subtraction. Losing Wilson to the Angels before 2012 was supposed to sink the Rangers, and seeing Josh Hamilton joining CJ in Anaheim this past winter was also predicted to be a huge loss. Scoring is down for Ron Washington's gang, more than half a run less than 2012, but the Rangers have some money to play with this July in the trade market, and they're about to get a fresh arm for the bullpen in the form of Joakim Soria.
Lest I Forget, Seattle & Houston Also Reside In the AL West
A thorough examination of the division also must include a few notes about the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros. Neither is any threat to make the postseason, but for the record Seattle is a 100/1 choice to win the AL and 200/1 to win the World Series, and Houston is returning 500/1 and 1000/1 respectively on those two wagers.
That doesn't mean neither team presents any danger to other AL teams along the way. That's especially true in the case of how the Astros have performed against the Angels so far, winning seven of the nine collisions. The Mariners, meanwhile, seem to have Oakland's number with eight dubyas in 13 tries. Neither the 'Stros, nor the M's can beat the Rangers, and following those matchups the rest of the way will be interesting to say the least.
If you haven't read them already, follow the links below to the MLB odds updates for the other five MLB divisions.
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