Slowly but surely Baseball is getting closer and closer! With no games to watch and the hot stove cooling down, around this time I usually get interested in who the odds on favorites are in the World Series, and who I would bet on if I had money to tie up for 7 months on some gambling. Here is Bovada's current odds for who will it all in 2014:
|Los Angeles Dodgers||13/2||13.33|
|New York Yankees||10/1||9.1|
|Boston Red Sox||12/1||7.7|
|St. Louis Cardinals||12/1||7.7|
|Los Angeles Angels||16/1||5.88|
|San Francisco Giants||16/1||5.88|
|Toronto Blue Jays||20/1||4.77|
|Tampa Bay Rays||22/1||4,34|
|Kansas City Royals||33/1||2.94|
|Chicago White Sox||40/1||2.44|
|San Diego Padres||50/1||1.96|
|New York Mets||66/1||1.51|
As you can see, I added a column for the break even percentage needed to justify a bet on a team, so that you can easily see that for the Cardinals for instance need to have a probability of at least 7.7% to justify betting on them. If you add up all the percentages, it comes just shy of 130%, meaning if you bet on every team you'd have to hope for there to be at least 1.3 World Series in order to make your money back. Now, with that high of juice you would think it would be hard to find any good bets, but in my opinion Bovada has set up some pretty bad odds on some teams that allow you to still find some good value on other teams. This tends to reflect the fans of a team more so than the team's skill itself. It's hard to find value on big market teams because so many fans of the team are going to bet on the team anyhow and the odd setters take that into account. So let's analyze the odds shall we?
First up is the Dodgers, at 13/2, meaning you have to believe they have at least 13.3% chance of winning the WS to justify betting on them. But, as usual, the teams with the shortest odds have very little room for error when considering the crap shoot of the playoffs. If you assume the Dodgers win the NL West 100% of the time (bad assumption) and then give them an even chance of winning each series, that put's them at a 12.5%. And while the Dodgers walked away with the division pretty easily last year and they're certainly favorites to win it this year, it's no sure thing. When looking at Fangraph's depth charts, the Dodgers are in the lead in the NL West but there are teams that have a good chance to over perform their projections enough to beat them:
So despite the Dodger's star power, they still need to play those 162 games to win that division. It really shouldn't be considered all that surprising to see the Dodgers not win the division.
The Tigers are a compelling option at 17/2 or 10.5%. They have similar threats in the Royals and Indians, who are 3 and 5 projected team WAR behind them, but the better odds compared to the Dodgers make it a better bet overall. However, I would still pass on betting on the Tigers.
The Yankees at 10/1 is a complete joke. Looking again at Fangraphs' depth charts, they are projected to be the 4th best team in their division, and it's difficult to see them being better than 3rd unless the Rays deal Price and get no MLB talent in return.
The Red Sox at 12/1 is reasonable, but doesn't offer much in terms of value as they play in such a competitive division. They are currently projected to be the best team in baseball even with losing Ellsbury and Drew, and it's hard to argue with that. I'd say 12/1 is about an even bet, and thus wouldn't bet on it.
The Cardinals, also at 12/1, are the first team I'd bet on, and not just because I'm obviously a Cardinals fan. They are projected for almost 5 more wins than the Pirates and a little more than 10 more wins than the Reds. The Dodgers have 3 teams with smaller gaps than the one between the us and the Pirates that thus so far the Cardinals seem to have the best shot to win their respective division. Given that they need a 7.7% chance to be worthwhile, and assuming a 12.5% chance to win the WS if they make it to the NLDS, they need a 61.6% chance to make it to the NLDS, either by winning the division or winning a wild card spot and then the one game playoff. The Cardinals look like a solid value.
Compare that to the Nationals, who also are offered at 12/1. They're a win behinds the Braves in projected WAR, and I can't really see any other team than the those two winning the NL East so I would put them a few percentage points less than 50% at winning their division. Between that and winning the Wild Card game to enter the NLDS, they probably get pretty close to that same 61.6% threshold of making the NLDS to make it a worthwhile bet. But I don't see enough value their to bet on them. I would make the Nationals a hard pass at that price.
The Rangers are a strong team, but also play in quite a tough division. At 14/1, they have 42.4 projected WAR compared to the A's at 40.7, Angels at 40.6, and Mariners at 37.1. That means that, like the Dodgers, the Rangers have three teams within 5 wins of them and thus not that great of a chance of coming away with the division, even though they may be the best team in that division. There should also be some pretty stiff competition for the AL Wild Card spots thanks to an also crowded AL East. With that type of uncertainty, it's hard to take the Rangers at those odds. Using that same 12.5% chance of wining the World Series if they make it to the NLDS with their 6.67% break even point, that puts them at needing a 53.4% chance of getting to the NLDS. I would put the Rangers a small bit lower than that due to the competition. The Angels and Giants, both at 16/1 are in a similar but weaker position and I wouldn't bet on them either. They're on the outside looking in and the odds don't price that in quite enough for me.
The Reds at 18/1 are a sorry bet, considering they're projected as the third best team in their division and 10th best team in the National League. I'm having a hard to time deciding which bet is worse, the Yankees or the Reds.
Finally, with the Braves at 20/1, I see odds good enough to bet on a non-Cardinals team. They have slightly better than a 50% chance of winning their division, and then of course if they don't they'd be strong contenders for a Wild Card spot. With a 4.77% Break even percentage and the assumption of even odds in each playoff series, they need just 38.2% chance to make it to the NLDS. I have a hard time believing they have less than 60% chance of making the NLDS, so that makes them the best value yet.
The A's, also at 20/1, also look like a good value. They're the second most likely team to win their division only because of how good their division is. They also need 38.2% chance to make the ALDS, so between winning the division or winning the Wild Cards game the A's at 20/1 is a good value, though not as good as the Braves.
The Blue Jays are also 20/1, but as a projected third place team in their division, that's not long enough to justify a bet in my opinion.
Staying in the AL East, the Rays at 22/1 look like it has some value. They are projected as the third best team in the AL and second best in the AL East, and with a break even percentage of just 4.34%, they would have to make it to the ALDS 34.7% of the time. Even if you project them with just say 15% chance of winning their division, that still leaves a high likelihood of wining a Wild Card. If you bump them up to 20% which is a reasonable assumption, it becomes an easy bet. I'd bet on the Rays, but it's probably one of the smaller edges I've picked so far because of the division they play in.
The Pirates at 25/1 are tempting. I wouldn't bet on them as it would make me feel icky, but at the same time being objective those seem like fair odds at first look. They're projected as the 6th best team in the NL, so it wouldn't take much over performing their projection to get a Wild Card. Ultimately, even if I wasn't a Cardinals fan I wouldn't bet on the Pirates, but it's close. Had they retained Burnett, the story would probably be different (assuming they didn't change the odds to reflect that fact, which is a bad assumption).
The Orioles at 33/1 is a sucker bet. They're running 5th in a five horse race in the AL, so even though they have long odds it's easily not worth it. Worth mentioning: the Rays have almost 9 more projected wins than the Orioles despite them being relatively close in betting odds.
The Royals and Indians are also given 33/1 odds, and both look like enticing bets. The Royals are sandwiched between the Rangers and A's in projected WAR, which puts them at the least squarely in the Wild Card hunt. They're 3 projected wins lower than the Tigers so you can consider them as having a chance to win their division as well, or at least enough of a chance to justify betting at 33/1. The Indians, at 2.5 WAR lower, also have a chance, but it's murkier. I'd take the Royals, but not the Indians.
The Phillies are joke even at 33/1, for reasons I'll assume you already know.
The Mariners are the last team at the apparently popular 33/1 point, which is a 2.94 BE%. However, being a clearly fourth place team in tough division makes it pretty tough to like the odds.
The Diamondback are a team I like at 40/1. As the Dodgers were over rated by the odds, other NL West teams got under rated. They're 4 projected wins behind the Dodgers so they have a shot at the division and they're also projected to be the 5th best NL team. They're projected to be a bit more likely than the Pirates to make the NLDS and are given much better odds so I'd take this one.
Hilariously, the Cubs and White Sox are also at 40/1. While I am a fan of both team's rebuilding efforts, it would be miraculous to see either team make the playoffs this year, let alone winning the World Series.
The only other team I would take is the Rockies. They are given 66/1 odds despite having the fourth best projected WAR among NL teams. The Rockies need just 1.51% chance to win the World Series, and they just have to be better than that. They're just 3.7 projected WAR off the Dodgers, and again going back to assuming even chances in each playoff series they need 12.1% chance to make the NLDS. Those are just too good of odds to pass up
So to review, the teams I would take are:
The Cardinals at 12/1
The Braves at 20/1
The A's at 20/1
The Rays at 22/1
The Royals at 33/1
The Diamond Backs at 44/1
The Rockies at 66/1
You can definitely see some similarities between a lot of these teams. Neither of these teams can be considered large market teams with butt loads of fans willing to bet on them every year. I imagine that affected the odds somewhat. Besides the Cardinals, none of these teams really have much hype. The Braves odds suffer from Nationals hype, the A's suffer from Rangers and Angels hype, The Rays suffer from hype from every other team in their division, the Royals suffer from Tiger's hype, and the Diamondbacks and Rockies suffer from Dodgers hype.
It seems the odds don't place enough emphasis on the randomness that can occur throughout 162 game season. You'd think that odd makers would be the best at taking everything possible into account, but looking at this you get the idea that fangraphs writers would do a better job of setting World Series odds. Basically, deciding who wins the World Series before the season is much more of a crap shoot then the odds makers are considering in my opinion.
Thought and comments? Any teams you'd take that I didn't? Any teams you wouldn't take that I did?