After what was nearly an absurdly successful but nevertheless a very entertaining 2008 baseball gambling adventure, the anticipation is high for the discussion to begin this year. Abandoning my and BC Bub's plan to do an in-depth review of each team because we don't have the time or energy, we will focus on a few teams and bets that we believe are the best.
I struggled with the organization and timing of the gabling discussion because, as you'll soon see, there is a related issue to this post that I'd like to discuss separately. The timing here corresponds well with the start of the spring training schedule tomorrow.
I like to start at the top and work down. Rather than looking at which teams stand the best chance to win their divisions or beat their over/unders
, I like to find the best odds for the World Series champion. So, let's take a look (warning, the result will surprise you
Which team currently is the most underrated and offers the best return/chance of making the postseason with a 1/8 chance of winning the World Series? In my opinion, it is the Milwaukee Brewers. Sportsbook
.com currently has the Brewers at 50:1 to win it all. No, that's not as good as the Rays last year, but we're never going to see something like that again. The Brewers are the best bet out there. Let's take a look at why and some of the other options if you don't like the Brewers.
This is a two-step process. First, we need to step outside of our typical reasoning and acquaint ourselves with what the national perception is of each team. Then, we have to determine how good each team is, playing close attention to breakout potential and the strength of inter-divisional and league competition. As always, while I believe Vegas lines are generally very good, I think they're greatly skewed when it comes to baseball futures. The number one reason is still the misunderstanding of the postseason. The postseason is a complete crapshoot
. Every team that makes the postseason has a 1/8 shot of winning the World Series. So, our analysis focuses solely on how likely a team is to make the postseason and what odds is it getting.
So, why the Brewers? The first step: the country cannot get over the loss of Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia
. Plain and simple. Well, that and the national obsession with the Cubs, Mets
. The thought is that the Brewers barely made the playoffs with those two guys, so how can they make it without them? They're big losses, no doubt, but can the Brewers overcome them? The answer is yes.
The second step: the Brewers are still a decent team which has substantial breakout potential. The return of Yovani Gallardo
, who I called the most valuable player on the team before last year's opener, is huge. His potential is enormous and his likelihood of succeeding this year is very high. The Brewers signed Bradon Looper
. That helps. The Brewers have a lot of young players. Young players progress more than they regress, and the star potential is still there for at least 5 young hitters and two starting pitchers - Parra
But the Brewers also have the opportunity for extreme additions by subtraction at at least two, possibly three positions. At third base, the potential is there for the Brewers if Mat Gamel
(top-100 overall prospect) breaks out and can play defense. But, even if he doesn't and the Brewers play anyone other than Bill Hall, there's a substantial improvement. At pitcher, if Jeff Suppan
is released, the Brewers improve dramatically by starting, well, anyone else. And perhaps even at catcher, where Mike Rivera or another top-100 prospect, Angel Salome, could surprise. We just don't know what to expect from those guys. But, when you're taking a chance on an underdog, you have to bet on a team that has the potential to be very good, not one that you know will be .500. The wildcard
here: Ken Macha
. Does he recognize sunk costs? There's a good chance he does. Let's not forget that there was a drastic change in managers.
One last item of concern. The Brewers' bullpen. Is it good? I don't know. Bullpens are wildly underpredictable for every team every season. The reason the Rays went to the World Series is because they went from the worst bullpen in the league to the best in one season. Can the Brewers bullpen jump dramatically? The whole thing is revamped, and there are a ton of high ceiling pitchers in there. If the Brewers bullpen excells, I would bet on them making the postseason. The potential is there.
Now, let's be realistic. Do I think the Brewers will win the World Series? No. But I do think they're the second best team in their division and probably the 5th
best team in the NL
. I think their ceiling is almost as high as any other team in the NL
. So, the reason I'm taking them is because they've got 50:1 odds.
Baseball Prospectus predicts that the Brewers have a 33.3% chance of making the playoffs. So, with those odds, they have a 1/24 chance of winning the World Series. 50:1 is clearly a bargain.
There are a couple other bets out there that I can throw on to the table for discussion, but none that I like as much as the Brewers (all lines are according to Sportsbook.com):
1) Arizona Diamondbacks at 20:1. The favorite in the NL
West. A team that may have 3 of the top 10 pitchers in the NL
and a young lineup which could explode.
2) Kansas City Royals at 100:1. Young team in a division with absolutely no runaway winner. Basically the same idea as the 1987 and 1991 Twins. It doesn't matter that there are 5 better teams in the AL East. Those aren't in the Central.
3) Texas Rangers at 60:1. My initial instinct was the A's, but their line has moved all the way to 25:1. The Angels are awfully overrated, and the Rangers have probably the best farm system in baseball. While I think they're a year or more away, you never know with prospects. And like the AL Central, the AL West is weak.
4) Toronto Blue Jays at 75:1. This is a good team stuck in a bad place. But 75:1 seems awfully high.
Sorry for the long post, but I've been very quiet lately.
Labels: Gambling, Preseason MLB Predictions