In just a few days, the MLB season will be over and the MLB postseason will begin. There's still time to get your bets in on a few scenarios, including the winner of both the ALCS and NLCS, as well as the eventual World Series winner ...
... But before you place those bets, here are a few things worth considering.
Bullpens are the key
Forget everything you know about the teams entering the MLB postseason. Ok, not everything, just the things having to do with starting pitching and offense. The Astros, Yankees, and Indians lead the American League in runs scored per game. In the National League, it's the Rockies, Cubs, and Nationals.
But most of that will be neutralized in the postseason because starting rotations get shortened to the top four best pitchers on each team, and managers are much quicker to turn to their bullpens in these games.
Runs are at a premium in the postseason. Never forget that.
The team that will go deepest in the postseason is usually the team that has the best and deepest bullpen.
In the American League, that's the Yankees and Indians, practically neck-and-neck, but with the Yankees having the edge.
In the National League, that's the Nationals, with a rather sharp drop-off to the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
Hedging your bets
Predicting which teams might actually win the World Series is only half of the strategy, though. The other half is recognizing what kinds of payouts can be had on each team and realizing that there's an opportunity here to place multiple bets on multiple teams and still make money. It all depends on the lowest payout you're willing to bet.
For instance, the Dodgers are the lowest priced team, at somewhere around +290, which is nearly three times the payout on your bet, but not quite. It's more than twice the payout, however, so you can safely bet a second team and still make money if one of those teams win.
The Indians are the second-lowest priced team, at roughly +380 on most MLB betting odds boards, which is more than three times your bet. If you exclude the Dodgers (because of their lower price), you can safely pick two other teams in addition to the Indians and still make money if one of those three teams wins.
For example, if you bet $100 each on the Dodgers at +290, the Indians at +380, you've invested $200. If the Dodgers win, you lost the $100 on the Indians but gained $290 on the Dodgers, so you've made money in the end.
If you skip the Dodgers for you MLB picks and bet $100 each on the Indians at +380, the Astros at +470, and -why not? - the Yankees at +1400, you've invested $300 for the chance to make (at a minimum) $80 on your bet if any of those teams win.
The risk of betting multiple teams is that you put more money on the table for every team you bet, but the gain is that you increase your chances of one of your teams winning, and ultimately coming out ahead on your investment.
Ignore the streaks
The Dodgers went on a bizarre 11-game losing streak at the end of this season. The Indians famously went on a record-breaking 22-game winning streak. Undoubtedly, these are the things that affect the betting markets, as people believe that the Indians are "getting hot" going into the postseason, while the Dodgers are "getting cold" headed into October.
None of this matters.
Streaks happen in baseball all the time, and they happen for many different reasons: strength of schedule, injuries, the normal ebb and flow of player performance, and plain old luck.
In the postseason, everything is reset to zero. The best play the best, the top offenses against the cream of the starting rotation's crop, the deepest bullpens against top-scoring offenses, random luck against season-long performances. In a short series, anything can happen. The sample sizes are too small to let the percentages play themselves out. The Yankees have as much chance of winning the trophy as the consensus-favorite Dodgers.
So who do you bet?
Not the Dodgers.
Yes, they might well win it all, but they offer the lowest payout, and their bullpen isn't as deep as other teams. For my money, the Yankees are the sleeper success, with the Indians and Nationals as the more common-sense favorites.
Take those three, and at a minimum, you've got a modest payout, with a maximum payout on the Yankees close to 1400%.
My money's on the Indians. But my hopes and dreams are on the Yankees.
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