We hear a lot about value betting, a tricky term if ever there was one in the world of sports wagering. Each and every bettor has his or her own criteria for what defines value, and that's certainly no different when it comes to MLB futures odds.
Ultimately, only one in 30 teams has any value on the World Series odds board and only two provide value for league pennants, the futures we have been working with for the most part this offseason. Now that odds for division winners are making their way out, we have six more value bets to consider for our preseason MLB Picks.
Last year on the MLB futures odds front, chalk was the value wager in four of the six divisions as the New York Yankees (-150 to win AL East in 2012), Detroit Tigers (-650), Cincinnati Reds (-150) and San Francisco Giants (+125) claimed the division titles as the preseason favorites. Many will argue that a -650 futures play is never a good bet; I agree that laying -650 isn't much fun, but fun is not part of the definition of a 'value bet.'
The value last year at the division level was with the Oakland Athletics (+2000) and Washington Nationals (+450). San Francisco (+1000) and Detroit (+375) were cashed at the league level, with the Giants (+1800) paying off very nicely for bettors who picked 'em up just as the season got underway.
Is there another 18/1 winner for 2013?
Find out which sportsbooks are offering the best MLB Futures odds for your picks this year?
Survey says, "Yes! Cardinals Win Series"
If the World Series winner is going to be a repeat $18.00 winner, then allow me to be the first to congratulate the St. Louis Cardinals on their 2013 Championship. That's according to the latest odds to win the National League at The Greek, and the Redbirds do make for a tempting wager.
St. Louis was a 25/1 pick when we previewed the National League a few weeks back, and has since lost starting pitcher Chris Carpenter to a potentially career-ending injury. The Cards didn't have the tough old veteran to start 2012 with either, and were a win away from reaching the Series with three to play in the NLCS vs. the Giants last October. Mike Matheny's crew may not be a good bet to win the NL Central, but is a solid choice to claim another NL wild card.
Atlanta and Philadelphia are a couple more NL entries that are division underdogs yet worth a look to win it all. They were going off at +1500 and +1650 respectively at The Greek to win the World Series after beginning as 14/1 choices at Bovada last November.
The Braves and Phillies are contending with the Nationals in the NL East, and that is going to be a tough bunch to topple off the division summit. They're still good choices to win the October tournament if they can just get there. Atlanta has both Upton Brothers after separate offseason deals, plus the game's best closer in Craig Kimbrel; Philadelphia could have the best 3-deep rotation in baseball, and we've seen manager Charlie Manuel work his magic before.
American League Wide Open As Detroit Aims For Repeat
The Greek started the Tigers at -300 to win the AL Central, and as much as I hate to promote a three-dollar bet, that might be the best ROI in baseball right now. That division is ripe for the pickin' by Jim Leyland and Detroit, even with the unproven back of the bullpen.
Equally chalky are the Los Angeles Angels at -200 to win the AL West, even heavier favorites now than a year ago when they wasted a lot of dollars early on and never caught up. This division has two contenders that certainly fit the value definition as the A's are +1600 to win the AL pennant while Texas sits +750. Oakland is +3500 to win a Series Championship with the Rangers at +1500.
Like magic? No team was more magical in 2012 than the Baltimore Orioles. Buck Showalter has a very talented pitching corps and rising stars on offense. The O's are +850 to win the AL East, +2500 for the AL crown and +5000 for a fourth World Series title.
Be sure to check back this weekend when we complete our look at the divisions with previews of the AL Central and NL Central. You can see the other four divisions by clicking on the following links: