Pegged as the teams to beat on the baseball futures before the season started, the Boston Red Sox and vastly disappointing Chicago Cubs are still among the favorites to meet in the Fall Classic.
Thanks to realignment a few years back, what was once a very contentious and testy division rivalry could be our World Series matchup. At least that’s what current MLB futures odds are telling us with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros favored to hoist NL and AL pennants, respectively.
BetOnline presently has the Dodgers as 4/1 favorites to eventually take home their seventh championship, the Astros directly behind at 5/1 to win their first. The two used to pitted against one another as NL West foes (1969-94), and the rivalry grew in the 70s and 80s before Houston was first shifted to the NL Central before being pushed into the American League.
They were also among the preseason favorites back in March, but two different clubs were at the top of the list when we appeared destined to see the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs in the World Series.
Starting Pitching Has Been Cubs’ Biggest Problem
Even if the Cubs go on a binge in the second half and make it to the playoffs, at least one of my futures bets seems a sure thing. Expecting at least a small hangover from the 2016 World Series title, I played 'under' 96½ for the Chicago win total; the Cubs are 42-43 as of Friday, meaning they will have to go 55-23 (.705) the rest of the way to beat the number.
The fallout from the recent Miguel Montero incident led Theo Epstein to fall back on the old cliché: “We win as a team and we lose as a team.” But most of the losing – and a big reason why the Cubs are down 18.4 units for anyone following them on the MLB odds – has been the starting pitching. Jon Lester has been OK, but the trio of Kyle Hendricks (currently on DL), Jake Arrieta and John Lackey have just 20 quality starts out of a combined 45 assignments, and the rotation as a whole has a higher ERA (4.63) than Colorado starters (4.56) pitching their home games in a very offensive park.
The offense isn’t without its share of the blame, Chicago averaging 4.59 runs per game, which puts the Cubs in the second half of the NL. There’s no question that the roster has enough talent to get things turned around, but the Cubs have to come out of the break and immediately making up for their slow start.
If Power Picks Up, Red Sox Will Be Tough To Beat
On top of the AL East and playing solid baseball since mid-May, the Red Sox are in much better shape to hold up their end of the bargain from the preseason futures. Since sitting level at 21-21 on May 20, Boston is 28-16 since as of Friday and getting it done with all-around assets that have the Sox in the top 4 of the AL in scoring (4.88 rpg), starters ERA (4.28) and bullpen ERA (3.00).
Home runs are down, the Red Sox ranking last in the AL with 87 round-trippers, but they are making up for that by slashing doubles and with extra speed on the basepaths. That speed also translates over to the defensive side of the ball, where Boston has improved from 2016.
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