Best bets heading into MLB's second halfESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)
With half of the season out of the way, opinions -- and odds -- have changed. Coming out of the All-Star break, which teams and players are worth a wager going into the second half of the season?
Dave Schoenfield, Buster Olney, Jeff Passan, Jesse Rogers and betting analysts Joe Fortenbaugh, Doug Kezirian offer their best bets.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Boston Red Sox to win World Series (12-1)Schoenfield: Those odds put the Red Sox as the No. 6 betting favorite, and holding off the tough Rays to win the AL East and avoiding the wild-card game will be vital, but there's a lot to like here. The lineup has been great and I can see the Red Sox adding another bat -- Anthony Rizzo would be a perfect fit at first base. They're getting Chris Sale back, and that's adding a potential ace to the rotation. The bullpen has been excellent, with five relievers with sub-3.00 ERAs, and you can ride that group in October. The outfield defense is very good with Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe, a reminder of how good the Boston outfield D was when they won the title in 2018. And they have a manager in Alex Cora who has won it before.
Olney: I like the Red Sox World Series bet at 12-1. I wouldn't pick them at this moment to win, but it does feel like with the American League lacking a dominant team -- and with Boston destined to get pre-deadline help, from the return of Sale to the possible acquisition of high-end relief help -- they may be the AL favorites going into the postseason.
Chicago White Sox to win World Series (8-1)Rogers: If starting pitching wins championships, the White Sox have as good a chance as any -- and that's without knowing what flamethrower Michael Kopech's role will be. Can any other team boast six legit starters? Two of them made the All-Star team. And bet them now before GM Rick Hahn adds to the roster, which he undoubtedly will before July 30. Their odds will continue to go down as they inevitably get closer to locking up the AL central. How many near, sure thing playoff teams can you get at +800 at the All-Star break? Take the White Sox.
New York Yankees to make playoffs (+145)Olney: It feels like the Yankees' bet on making the playoffs has some good value at +145. As of today, they intend to buy before the deadline, and like the Red Sox, they figure to get better before July 30. And despite that debacle defeat on Sunday, they have played better. There is a theory that some of their hitters are better suited for a baseball world in which there is a foreign-substance crackdown.
Yankees to miss playoffs (-175)Fortenbaugh: Some would say the Yankees have underachieved to this point. I would argue just the opposite, as New York is three games over .500 despite a +1 run differential. If anything, this club has overachieved! The Red Sox, Rays, White Sox, Astros, A's and Mariners all have a better winning percentage entering the second half of the season, while the Blue Jays and Indians have the same winning percentage as the Bombers. Remember, only five teams in each league qualify for the MLB postseason this year. Gerrit Cole has been wildly inconsistent since the foreign substances crackdown, and I'm not so sure Aaron Boone's message is being heard in the clubhouse these days.
Oakland A's to win AL West (+375)Kezirian: The Houston Astros are a formidable leader and will likely win the division, but these odds feel a touch high. The +375 translates to 21%, and being just 3.5 games back, I think Oakland's chances are better. Houston is leading the American League in runs scored, home runs, OBP and OPS, while the A's are stuck in the middle or bottom tier in most categories. I think the lineup has a decent chance to improve, particularly with positive regression from Matt Chapman and a likelihood of adding a bat before the trade deadline. Perhaps Houston is that loaded offensively and will continue to mash, but I am unsure I trust the starting pitching. Do we expect Lance McCullers to maintain his sub-3.00 ERA? Zack Greinke is no sure thing either. The season ends with six of Oakland's final nine games against Houston, so we just need to be within a couple games between now and then.
Kyle Gibson to win AL Cy Young (20-1)Kezirian: Obviously, no one would have considered this wager entering the season, particularly at 20-1 odds. But here we are at the break and the righty ranks second in ERA and seventh in WHIP. The 33-year-old has never posted stats nearly this impressive and could easily fade in the second half, particularly without a high number of strikeouts. But what if he doesn't? These odds on a guy right there in the conversation seem high, while other contenders -- Cole, Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon -- all have 4-1 odds or shorter. Plus, we have seen surprise Cy Young winners in recent years; Rick Porcello and Dallas Keuchel come to mind, so Gibson would not be that crazy. He got rocked by Detroit in his most recent start, so hopefully the rest will allow to recharge the batteries.
Nick Castellanos (40-1) and Jesse Winker (50-1) to win NL MVPKezirian: Playing on the same team may hurt their chances with the potential of stealing votes from one another, but I have to get involved with guys flirting with triple crown numbers. Castellanos leads the N.L. in batting average and ranks in the top 15 in both homers and RBI. Winker has similar rankings. We would need Cincinnati to make the playoffs, and the Reds currently sit four games back in the division and 3.5 back in the wild card. Additionally, Jacob deGrom is the current favorite, and I doubt he gets there. Not only would he need the Mets to win the division, but I actually think Shohei Ohtani being the -300 AL MVP favorite hurts deGrom's chances. I doubt voters can justify backing a pitcher in both leagues when Ohtani is so impressive with the bat. Perhaps I am assuming too much, but I think a batter with huge numbers could get the nod over deGrom. However, he does pitch in a major market. Fernando Tatis is right there in the mix, but 40-1 and 50-1 are lucrative odds at this point.
San Francisco Giants to win the NL +650
Passan: So, wait. The Giants headed into the All-Star break with the best record in all of baseball, and for that, they have the -- rubs eyes -- fifth-best odds to win the NL pennant? They're paying more than three times the Dodgers. They're paying more than 25% more than the Mets, who, if they were in the NL West, would be nine games back and have a worse run differential by more than 100 runs. The disrespect for San Francisco has been fairly evident all season among the non-believers, and William Hill likes the Dodgers, Padres, Mets and Brewers to win the NLCS better than the Giants. Take them, and I'll take the team that's been best in the league for months.