Friday, March 20, 2015

How Have These Teams' World Series Odds Improved?

Earlier in the week, I wrote about some possibilities for gambling within baseball. Today, let's talk about gambling on baseball. Since Bovada first posted odds for the 2015 World Series winner on October 30, just days after the '14 Series ended, the Nationals and Dodgers have stood steady as the favorites. But a group of teams started off with lesser odds before charging up Bovada's list to nip at the heels of those well-heeled teams. We'll take a look at the reasons for those improved chances, then tomorrow we'll examine a group of teams who've seen their odds suffer considerably.

Here are the only four teams in MLB whose odds more than doubled since the fall. (All odds taken from oddsshark.com.)

San Diego Padres
October Odds: 66/1
March Odds: 14/1
What caused the improved odds?
The Padres jumped from the sixth-least-likely to the seventh-most-likely team to win it all, mostly due to a flurry of moves during and soon after the Winter Meetings in December. In a shocking rampage, the Padres traded for catcher Derek Norris, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, and mashing outfielders Will Myers, Matt Kemp, and Justin Upton. That's five-eighths of their everyday lineup, if you're interested in fractions. The Friars also added a bunch of relief pitchers and topped off their acquisition spree off by signing workhorse righty James Shields.

It's unclear whether the team can make it all work, since it still has clear weaknesses in the infield (I'm looking at you, Yangervis Solarte.) and questions at the back of the rotation (Whattup, Brandon Morrow?). The outfield defense also seems suspect as the team looks poised to try the rarely-attempted strategy of playing without an actual starting center fielder.

Chicago White Sox
October Odds: 40/1
March Odds: 16/1
What caused the improved odds?
I can't add much to Jonah Keri's recent detailed description of the good players the South Siders have added, so let's take a look at some of the human question marks they'll be employing. Conor Gillaspie, Emilio Bonifacio, and Tyler Flowers will all start in the infield for the White Sox, which should provide opposing teams with a bunch of automatic outs. Meanwhile, the current Baseball Prospectus Odds Report gives Chicago just a 2.1% chance of winning the World Series, meaning Bovada's odds-makers have given the team too much credit for the offseason. All of which is to say -- despite the additions of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, and Melky Cabrera, and Adam LaRoche -- the ChiSox shouldn't make plans for a World Series parade just yet. And speaking of Chicago...

Chicago Cubs

Photo via sportingnews.com
October Odds: 33/1
March Odds: 14/1
What caused the improved odds?
The Windy City's lovable underdog has become a golden retriever (i.e., everyone's favorite) this offseason. The Cubs did a lot during hot-stove season to excite the fans they have all over the country. After the team added Jon Lester to an up-and-coming group of position players, Vegas probably built some of that fan bias into the Cubs' odds. Still, North Side supporters should be thrilled about the team's trajectory.

As I noted earlier, Bovada last posted odds on March 10. Since then, a trio of highly-touted prospects blasted back-to-back-to-back homers and Handsome Kris Bryant set Mesa, Arizona on fire. As long as the "dead arm" that will sideline Lester on Saturday isn't something more serious, Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, and the Wrigley Faithful should have a beautiful summer.

Boston Red Sox
October Odds: 22/1
March Odds: 10/1
What caused the improved odds?
Yankees fans will be quick to point out that Boston's rotation still sucks. Putting that opinion aside, though, the Sox had a good offseason. They signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval back in November then recently inked Cuban prodigy Yoan Moncada. All those guys have Achilles heels (Ramirez: age/defense/attitude; Sandoval: fitness/fatness; Moncada: youth/unpredictability), but the signings definitely fired up bettors. (Moncada won't play in the majors this season, but I have to believe his signing contributed to the overall excitement about the Red Sox.) When those high-profile acquisitions are considered alongside likely improvement in the rotation (Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson), Boston's odds were bound to spike.

Other Odds Improvements:
Washington Nationals -- 15/2 to 7/1
Seattle Mariners -- 18/1 to 16/1
Cleveland Indians -- 25/1 to 20/1
Toronto Blue Jays -- 33/1 to 22/1
New York Mets -- 40/1 to 28/1
Miami Marlins -- 50/1 to 33/1
Houston Astros -- 100/1 to 50/1



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