It's great to be a baseball fan and resident of the state of California these days, high taxes and cost of living aside. The Golden State (not Warriors) has four World Series contenders, with the A's entering the break as +450 favorites on MLB odds.
All A's for Athletics So Far
Oakland, which is +255 on MLB odds to win the AL pennant, has the best record in baseball at 59-36, but sometimes records can be misleading. What isn't is run differential, and the A's are blowing everyone out of the water in that regard with a +145 differential. No. 2 in that category are the L.A. Angels, who are just 1.5 games behind the A's in the American League West. Of course the A's already made the hugely aggressive move of trading for Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija (an NL All-Star but who can't play in Tuesday's All-Star Game) and Jason Hammel for a package built around super-prospect Addison Russell. Samardzija is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in two starts for Oakland and Hammel is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
The A's have run into the Detroit Tigers the past two postseasons, with Justin Verlander dominating Oakland in winning Game 5 in both of them. Is Samardzija up to the task of matching Verlander (assuming Verlander fixes his recent struggles)? "Shark" has pitched just one postseason inning in his career. I'm still not sold on Oakland's lineup, either. When Coco Crisp is your leading hitter at .291, you need more. Guys like Brandon Moss, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson are good players but are they difference-makers? That hasn't been proven when it counts yet.
The Tigers are +310 second-favorites to win the AL pennant and +575 to win the World Series. The title window could be closing soon for owner Mike Ilitch's club. Verlander has looked scary bad at times and his 4.88 ERA is his worst since becoming a full-time starter. That five-year, $140 million extension the Tigers gave him last year looks awful right now. The Tigers are likely to lose Max Scherzer to free agency this winter because they probably can't afford him, Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. Leading hitter Victor Martinez also can become a free agent. I do believe the Tigers will make at least one deal before the deadline, likely for bullpen help. Closer Joe Nathan has a 5.61 ERA and five blown saves but has been better of late with four straight scoreless innings. There's talk of the Tigers trading for San Diego's Joaquin Benoit, a former Tiger who is a great set-up man but also can close if need be. Detroit is the biggest division favorite by far in the majors at -800 to win the AL Central.
The Dodgers are the +260 favorites to win the NL pennant and +650 to win the World Series. Could you really bet against L.A. in any meaningful game when Clayton Kershaw starts? Plus playing in the AL park during the Fall Classic would be a great thing for the Dodgers because they already don't have enough room in the lineup for their four outfielders: Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. So one of those could DH those games. You can never rule out the Dodgers from making a splash before the trade deadline because they aren't afraid to spend money. L.A. might need a starting pitcher with Josh Beckett now hurt and Dan Haren slumping. David Price and Cole Hamels have been rumored as potential targets, but GM Ned Colletti said he doesn't expect to trade for an "elite pitcher."
A Dodgers-A's World Series matchup is at +1220 as an MLB betting pick.
Washington is the second favorite to win the NL pennant at +430. The Nats are stacked with starting pitching but do they have enough offense? It's laughable now that Bryce Harper was a spring NL MVP favorite. He's hitting just .244 with two home runs and has become injury prone. Harper might be the most overrated player in baseball. The Nationals/Expos franchise is one of just two current teams to never play in a World Series. The other is Seattle. If you are wondering, a Nationals-Mariners World Series matchup is priced at +8700.
MLB free picks: L.A. might not have an NFL team to cheer for in October but it will own the sports world for a few weeks with a Freeway Series between the Dodgers and Angels. I believe the Halos will also do something before the deadline. Garrett Richards has emerged as an ace and they have the deepest lineup in the majors led by the incomparable Mike Trout, the AL MVP favorite. A Dodgers-Angels World Series matchup would pay off at a cool +2375, which is a very attractive betting pick.