The Kansas City Royals swept the Los Angeles Angels in last year’s ALDS. The MLB odds only like one of these two teams this year, and it’s not the Royals, who are +125 underdogs for Friday’s matchup.
Everybody had Royals Fever last year. You can probably blame Lorde for that, but the Kansas City Royals did their part, making it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series in their first playoff appearance since 1985. So what do the baseball odds think of the Royals’ chances this year? Not much: They’re 25-1 on the World Series futures market at Bovada.
Compare and contrast to the Los Angeles Angels of Los Angeles, who are 14-1 as we go to press. The Royals swept them in three games from last year’s AL Division Series, and the Angels batting order isn’t as potent this time around, but this is still projected to be a better team than Kansas City. The MLB Odds for Friday’s matchup (10:05 p.m. ET) have L.A. pegged as a –145 home favorite.
As heartwarming as the Royals (89-73, plus-3.17 betting units) were to most observers last October, they were the curse of baseball purists everywhere. 2014 was the third year for the new Wild Card system, with the one-game playoff between the two Wild Card teams from each league. That’s how the Royals got into the postseason last year. Same for the team they lost to in the World Series, the San Francisco Giants.
Kansas City is widely expected to fall back to Earth this year. Bovada opened with a win total of 80.5, which might be optimistic, given how the Royals lost No. 1 starter James Shields (3.59 FIP) to free agency in the offseason. RF Norichika Aoki (2.3 WAR) and DH Billy Butler (minus-0.6 WAR) also left for greener pastures, to be replaced by Alex Rios (0.1 WAR with Texas) and Kendrys Morales (minus-1.8 WAR with two teams).
Friday’s scheduled starter is Jason Vargas (3.84 FIP), who’s coming off arguably the best season of his career despite dropping 5.45 units last year on a team record of 14-16. Vargas had a pretty rough spring, though, so we’ll see if he can shake that off and avoid the regression monsters in 2015.
The Angels (98-64, plus-21.41 betting units) were the second most profitable team in the majors last year, but they’ve shed 6.0 WAR in projected value among their position players – worst in the American League, according to Neil Paine via FanGraphs. That includes 3.2 WAR from 2B Howie Kendrick, now with the L.A. Dodgers. He’s been replaced by former Royals prospect Johnny Giavotella, who’s off to a good start this year with four hits in nine plate appearances, but otherwise has a career OPS of .618.
The Angles pitching rotation looks a little creaky, too. Southpaw Hector Santiago (4.29 FIP) has made the team this year despite dropping 8.67 units in 2014 on a team record of 9-15. Santiago did get better as the season wore on, but he’s still got control issues at 4.24 career walks per nine innings, and Santiago only generated grounders on 30.7 percent of balls in play last year. Good thing Angel Stadium has a stingy .0837 park factor for home runs.
Rios might not be the same player he was when he played for the Toronto Blue Jays, or even the Chicago White Sox for that matter, but he’s made a pretty good first impression in Kansas City, going 5-of-12 in his first three games to help the Royals sweep the White Sox and pick up three quick betting units. Rios also has a 3-of-11 lifetime record against Santiago with two home runs and a 1.152 OPS. He’s 80% owned in Yahoo leagues, so he might still be available in your area. Being a right-handed hitter will help Rios avoid that nasty park factor, too.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Royals for your MLB picks