The second half of the baseball season begins this weekend, and the first half of the year has done little to help us figure out the pecking order in the MLB. For the playoffs, you can pencil in the Cardinals and Dodgers for a spot in the NL, and the Royals should end with at least another Wild Card in the AL: after that, well, as they say “that’s why they play the game.”
With so much still left to be decided, and a lull in the sporting world this week, we figured now’s a good time to sit back and handicap the remaining races for the right to play October baseball. No doubt the odds will shift once the trade market opens up and the Phillies drop that deuce Jonthan Papelbon is asking for. For now though, we’ll examine the odds as currently constituted in search of the best value for baseball’s second half, starting with the American League.
Odds to win the AL East:
The tightest race in baseball deserves the tightest odds. Just two weeks ago, the Sox looked like certain sellers, but now only 6.5 games back at the midway point, their odds are on par with the Rays. The Yankees lead the odds, not only because they sit 3.5 games clear of second, but also because everyone knows they’ll be active on the trade market; money is no object for a team whose motto is perpetually “win now.”
The Jays are an intriguing team; they boast the best run differential in the AL by a wide margin (+82), but a failure to win close games has them one game below .500. Everybody and their sister knows they are trying to acquire more arms. Unless they can pull off a deal, they’ll continue to be a middling team. The O’s are in a similar boat; they have enough talent to win if they add another starting pitcher.
Keep your ear close to the ground and, if either of those teams lands a guy like Johnny Cueto, jump on them before the odds move.
Odds to win the AL Central:
The return of Justin Verlander hasn’t been the spark that the Tigers were expecting. Despite looking good on paper, their rotation is near the bottom of the league for starter’s ERA at 4.48.
With the bats in this order, it’d be easy to think they could climb out of a nine-game hole. But Kansas City just keeps on rolling, dating back to last All-Star Break. Since then, they’ve gone 93-61 in the regular season and 11-4 in the postseason, and they aren’t showing any signs of stopping.
Minnesota has been a nice surprise, but expecting this roster to continue to overachieve for another half a season is asking too much. Adding rental players at the deadline isn’t something this young team should be looking to do this season. Unless the Tigers add significant help at the deadline, the Royals should win their first division crown since 1985.
Odds to win the AL West:
Along with the Twins, the Astros are one of the surprises of the MLB season. But they’re less likely than the Twins to regress in the second half of the season. With a plate approach that is best described as “all or nothing,” the Astros have smacked the most dingers in the league (124) to help them to a healthy +50 run differential.
While they’ve had a ton of guys try their hand at starting pitcher, ace Dallas Kuechel has been a lynchpin. Sporting a bullpen ERA that ranks top-five in the league, the Astros (currently a half game back of the Angels) should be in the thick of things until the bitter end.
The other three teams in the West are within nine games of LA, but have significant roster holes holding them back. Some of them (cough cough Seattle) should accept the role of seller on what should be a busy marketplace.
Odds to finish in the Wild Card spots:
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])
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