Shane Lambert looks at some of the divisional odds in baseball and likes 600/1 Milwauklee and 40/1 Colorado against the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.
When it comes to baseball futures, the ante-post markets are different from a lot of other sports because of the number of games that are played. The Major League Baseball season is 162 games long and at present most teams are ONLY approaching the 40-game mark. While there are important trends that are not to be ignored from those games, it's also important to keep an open mind when it comes to the seemingly crummy teams.
Let's look back at some recent history to see if the teams that are doing poorly at this point in the season are actually write-offs. Looking back a year ago, we would find that on May 18th, 2015 the Toronto Blue Jays were a last-place team in the AL East. However, they would win that division by season's end, thanks largely to improvements via transactions.
On May 18th, 2015 the Texas Rangers were also looking crummy at 16-22 and in second-last place in the AL West. However, the Rangers also won their division at the end of the regular season.
Looking back at 2014, the Pirates were 18-25 on May 18th but they ended up making the playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers were 23-22 at the same time and ended up 94-68 and winners of the NL West. Furthermore, St. Louis were four games back of the Central Division lead, but ended up winning it by two games.
If you looked back at 2013, 2012, and 2011 you would find teams that had no momentum in mid-May but that turned things around. What that shows is that among the teams that have struggled in 2016 so far, there's probably a diamond or two in the rough.
At present I still think the best lines out there right now involve the Philadelphia Phillies. For instance they are 50/1 with Coral despite being just a half-game off the pace to win their division. Whatever should come, a team a half-game out on May 18th is not a 50/1 longshot to win their division with true odds. You could also get them at 50/1 to win the NLCS with William Hill, keeping in mind that there's a Wild Card game route to the championship should they not win their division. That is a bet against the Chicago Cubs, a .730 team at this point, but baseball is a game with a lot of parity and big favourites are usually over-rated.
In regard to the Cubs and their division, there's nothing wrong with looking at some of the super-longshots in baseball and getting something on them. It might seem laughable to bet the Milwaukee Brewers right now, but only as laughable as some other bets from the past that ended up winning. Teams fire managers, they make trades, and players get better over the season. Conversely the seemingly best teams could suffer injuries to their best players and regress back toward the pack because of that.
Of course, plenty of the bad teams will stay bad right through the whole season so sorting out the fluff from the substance is the key. To that end, when it comes to betting the longshots you have to watch them to see which ones have a pulse that picks up. The Brew Crew are playing better in May then they played in April and they actually beat the Cubs on Tuesday. At 600/1 to win their division, that's good enough for me on Milwaukee.
Conversely Washington played excellent to start the season, but they have started to slide more recently. That has to remind baseball fans of last season where they really faded during the middle months. Currently, the Nats are second favourites to win the NLCS at 6/1 with bet365. But how about the Colorado Rockies instead at 40/1 with Paddy Power? The Rockies have won five straight and are just 1.5 games out of first place.
Sticking with the long odds at this point is safe in baseball futures. You don't have to bet much, the bets can win, and when they bust you can get away from them due to the low commitment.
0.25 points win on Milwaukee Brewers at 600/1 to win the NL Central with Netbet
1 point win on Colorado Rockies to win the NLCS at 40s with Paddy Power