MLB 2nd Half Odds: Back to Reality?

Clayton Kershaw pitching for LAD
Clayton Kershaw: Photo: Arturo Pardavila (Flickr )[http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0]

Remember when it seemed inevitable the Chicago Cubs would defend their World Series championship? Their rotation was godly, and they had a load of young players in the field who were entering their primes. Well, that was more than three months ago.

Now the Cubs trail the Brewers by 5.5 games in the NL Central and sit below .500 at the All-Star break. The team they beat in the World Series, the Cleveland Indians, just took the AL Central back from the Twins. And to continue with this bizarro-world, the Arizona Diamondbacks possess the third-best record in baseball.

It has been a wild ride to this point, but this point only marks the unofficial halfway mark of the season. With a whole second half to go, will the baseball world return to terra firma? (I.e. the Twins and Diamondbacks being bad.) Or is this new landscape the new normal?

With rookies like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger lighting the baseball world on fire, why not just sit back and enjoy the show? What’s that, you’re too impatient to wait? Unfortunately, we promised to keep the master to the second half a secret. But I suppose we’ll at least provide you with the odds? Good enough, right?

Here’s the odds for everything the second half of the MLB season has in store.

2017 WORLD SERIES FUTURES

For perspective, we have also included each team’s odds at the beginning of the season, taken from here.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 6/1 [12/1]
  • Houston Astros: 13/2 [15/1]
  • Boston Red Sox: 8/1 [10/1]
  • Washington Nationals: 17/2 [9/1]
  • Cleveland Indians: 10/1 [12/1]
  • Chicago Cubs: 13/1 [6/1]
  • New York Yankees: 19/1 [22/1]
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: 20/1 [75/1]
  • Colorado Rockies: 24/1 [50/1]
  • Milwaukee Brewers: 29/1 [110/1]
  • Kansas City Royals: 40/1 [30/1]
  • Minnesota Twins: 50/1 [90/1]
  • St. Louis Cardinals: 50/1 [22/1]
  • Tampa Bay Rays: 66/1 [60/1]
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 66/1 [18/1]
  • Texas Rangers: 75/1 [18/1]
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: 85/1 [35/1]
  • Baltimore Orioles: 100/1 [28/1]
  • Los Angeles Angels: 100/1 [75/1]
  • New York Mets: 125/1 [14/1]
  • Seattle Mariners: 125/1 [35/1]
  • Atlanta Braves: 250/1 [150/1]
  • Detroit Tigers: 250/1 [22/1]
  • Miami Marlins: 250/1 [100/1]
  • Chicago White Sox: 500/1 [70/1]
  • Cincinnati Reds: 500/1 [150/1]
  • Oakland Athletics: 500/1 [100/1]
  • San Diego Padres: 750/1 [120/1]
  • San Francisco Giants: 750/1 [16/1]
  • Philadelphia Phillies: 1,000/1 [90/1]

For the Dodgers, the All-Star break couldn’t have come at a worse time. Finding themselves trailing both the Diamondbacks and Rockies in the NL West at the end of May, LA went on a tear in the month of June, posting a 19-7 record. They carried the hot streak into July, too, finishing 7-1 before the break. The Dodgers’ run has given them a 7.5-game lead over the second-placed Diamondbacks, and they’ve jumped the Astros for the top record in the Majors (61-29).

No one is surprised by the season Clayton Kershaw is having, but the same cannot be said about Alex Wood. In 13 starts this season, the 26-year-old has a 1.79 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Add in Brandon McCarthy (3.12 ERA) and Rich Hill (3.69 ERA), and you’ve got yourself the best rotation in the bigs. Even if you’re lucky enough to knock a Dodger starter out early, good luck against the pen, which is second only to the Indians. Everything is in order for it to finally be the Dodgers’ year.

Of the teams who stand in the Dodgers’ way, the Astros appear the most dangerous. Their offense has scored 41 more runs than any other team in baseball, and their rotation has survived without Dallas Keuchel for the last five weeks. Houston will need to add a reliable reliever, though, before the trade deadline. Their bullpen ranks 13th in ERA (4.09).

The Nationals are even more desperate for help in the bullpen, as their relievers currently rank last with an awful 5.20 ERA. If they can bring in a couple reliable arms for the pen, their second-ranked offense and dominant starters will give the Dodgers a run.

Boston has the opposite concern. The Red Sox will need to add a little power to their lineup to make a real push. If they can hand things over to their pen with the lead, they’re going to win a lot more games in the second half.

All season long we have been saying, “wait for the Cubs to get hot.” Though there is still a whole second half to the season, Chicago hasn’t given us any reason to believe they can return to World Series form. Their pitching was absolutely incredible last season, and right now, none of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey have an ERA under 4.09.

2017 AWARD PROPS

Max Scherzer (Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en])

Odds to Win NL Cy Young Award

  • Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: 3/2
  • Max Scherzer, Nationals: 5/3
  • Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks: 12/1
  • FIELD: 20/1

Scherzer’s 2.10 ERA and 0.78 WHIP are both tops in the Majors. Kershaw shows up second in both, with a 2.18 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. However, we all know that voters love wins, for whatever reason, and that’s why the Dodgers’ ace has the slight advantage for the award. Kershaw’s near flawless 14-2 record stands out like an Aaron Judge home run over Scherzer’s 10-5 mark.

Odds to Win AL Cy Young Award

  • Chris Sale, Red Sox: 5/2
  • Jason Vargas, Royals: 7/2
  • Corey Kluber, Indians: 9/2
  • Ervin Santana, Twins: 5/1
  • FIELD: 6/1

There is one reason Chris Sale has never won a Cy Young: wins. His trade to the Bo-Sox, the best offense in baseball last year, established him as the Cy Young favorite from the outset, and he’s lived up to expectations. But Jason Vargas has other plans. The Royal leads the AL in ERA (2.62), and his record (12-3) is second-best in the majors to Kershaw. If the season ended today, it would be very difficult to justify giving the award to Sale. Looking at the two teams, though, Sale is in the better position to succeed over the second half of the season.

Odds to Win NL MVP

  • Bryce Harper, Nationals: 5/1
  • Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks: 11/2
  • Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: 6/1
  • Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 6/1
  • Corey Seager, Dodgers: 8/1
  • FIELD: 18/7

Right now, the top three batting averages in the NL (among qualified players) all belong to Nationals: Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman. Harper’s third on the list, but leads the odds for NL MVP; his 20 home runs and 65 RBIs are the most among the three, and are a lot sexier to the voters.

Trailing close behind Harper is Paul Goldschmidt, who’s batting .312 with 20 of his own home runs. If the Diamondbacks can hold on and claim the first Wild Card spot in the NL, there’ll be a serious case for the 29-year-old.

Though he doesn’t make the list, Cody Bellinger provides the FIELD with a lot of legitimacy. His presence has been the catalyst for the Dodgers’ offense taking off.

Odds to Win AL MVP

  • Aaron Judge, Yankees: 7/3
  • José Altuve, Astros: 4/1
  • Carlos Correa, Astros: 9/2
  • Mike Trout, Angels: 7/1
  • George Springer, Astros: 8/1
  • FIELD: 10/1

Even if the Astros run away with the American League, Jose Altuve just doesn’t have the home runs and RBIs that voters fall for. Not to mention, Houston has two other players who are also enjoying MVP-caliber years.

The entire season has been the Aaron Judge show, and there’s nothing to suggest that will change. The 285-pound mammoth of a human being is more than just a ball-crusher. Judge has also been extremely efficient at the plate, with a .329 average and an MLB-high .448 OBP. It’s the rookie’s year.

PLAYER PROPS

Aaron Judge (Arturo Pardavila (Flickr) [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0])

Odds to break Mark McGwire’s rookie HR record (49)

  • Aaron Judge, Yankees: 2/3
  • Cody Bellinger, Dodgers: 5/3

Over/Under home runs

  • Aaron Judge, Yankees: 52.5
  • Cody Bellinger, Dodgers: 44.5

Judge is on pace for 57 at the All-Star break; Bellinger is on pace for 51. Rookies, by definition, have never been in this spot before and aren’t familiar with the grind of a 162-game schedule that has you flying across the country more often than Phil Jackson when he hears there’s a point guard prospect who would be perfect for the triangle out in LA. You can’t expect either to keep up their current pace, especially Bellinger, who’s comparatively slight of frame at 6’4, 210 pounds.

Odds that Aaron Judge & Cody Bellinger lead the AL & NL in HRs: 7/2

Two rookies have never led both leagues in home runs, and the odds aren’t great that these two rookie phenoms will be the first.

It’s very possible teams start making a significant effort to pitch around Judge over the second half of the season. Of course, they may not have a choice if the rest of the Baby Bombers continue hitting at their pace. I’m more worried about Bellinger here, though. The Dodger is going to have to take down Giancarlo Stanton, which is a very tall order.

Odds to “break” Mark Reynolds’ single-season strikeout record

  • Miguel Sano, Twins (120): 4/3
  • Keon Broxton, Brewers (117): 5/3
  • Khris Davis, Athletics (117): 13/7
  • Joey Gallo, Rangers (112): 2/1
  • Aaron Judge, Yankees (109): 5/2

Reynolds’ set the record with 223 strikeouts back in 2009. All players’ current strikeout numbers (as of All-Star break) are in parenthesis. As you can see, Reynolds has a chance to remove his name from the top three by the end of this season.

In order for the Twins to make a run at the AL Central, they need Miguel Sano to keep swinging for the fences. Doesn’t the line go, “with great power comes great strikeout numbers?” Even at his current pace, though, he’ll still fall short a few whiffs.

Odds Tim Tebow gets an MLB at bat this season: 9/2

As much as I’d love to see it, Tebow shouldn’t make his MLB debut this season. But if the Mets are that far out of it, it would put some fans in the stands.

Over/under Kyle Schwarber’s 2017 batting average: .208

Since returning from the minors, Schwarber has been a little better, going 4/14 at the plate. He’s dug himself quite the hole to get out of, though, entering the break at .178.

Odds Joey Gallo ends the season with more home runs than singles: 1/1

The Ranger currently has 21 home runs and just 14 singles. If you think that’s outrageous, he also has more HRs (28) than singles (26) over his career. But everything we know about baseball suggests this has to change soon.

Odds Aaron Judge wins AL Triple Crown: 9/2

I know I have made it seem like Aaron Judge is capable of anything, but catching Jose Altuve in batting average is going to be too difficult. The Astro currently leads the majors with a .347 average at the plate. When Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012, he only needed a .330 average.

Odds Max Scherzer finishes season with an ERA under 2.00: 2/1

Odds Clayton Kershaw finishes season with ERA under 2.00: 7/3

Odds to be the next manager fired

  • Terry Collins, Mets: 5/2
  • John Gibbons, Blue Jays: 5/1
  • Brad Ausmus, Tigers: 6/1
  • Clint Hurdle, Pirates: 7/1
  • Bryan Price, Reds: 9/1

Terry Collins is not long for the Big Apple, one way or another. His contract is expiring; he doesn’t get on with the higher ups; and the Mets are Metting all over the place, sitting eight games under .500 at the All-Star break, and more than ten games out of a playoff spot. Might as well start the new era sooner rather than later.

The Blue Jays were arguably the biggest under-performers in the first half. The potential for Gibbons to get canned now is actually helped by the fact that they’re not entirely out of it, entering the break five games out of the playoffs. Instead of either blowing it up or trading for short-term assets at the deadline, ownership may think a managerial change could spur a playoff push.

Ausmus and the Tigers are another team that didn’t live up to expectations in the first half. They were supposed to be the team that challenged Cleveland in the AL Central. Instead they’re fourth in the division, eight back of the Tribe. He won’t be around in 2018, in all likelihood. An earlier axing is certainly plausible.

After a surprisingly hot start, Brian Price’s Reds have fallen off considerably. They weren’t expected to challenge, though, and the potential the team showed early in the season likely saved the oft-criticized manager for at least another year.

Over/Unders: Dates

Adrian Beltre gets career hit #3,000: August 2

Beltre is currently at 2,978 hits. Considering his .283 batting average, it should only take the Ranger about 17 more games to accomplish the feat.

Albert Pujols hits his 610th career home run: July 29

Albert Pujols hits his 613th career home run: August 8

Number 610 will move Pujols past Sammy Sosa (609) for eighth all-time; 613 will put him ahead of Jim Thome for seventh. The Angel currently sits at 604, and is starting to show some signs of slowing. However, a three-game series in the home-run-friendly Rogers Centre in Toronto at the end of the month could be enough to give Pujols the boost.

Odds to be traded by non-waiver trade deadline (July 31, 2017)

  • Pat Neshek, Phillies: 1/4
  • Brad Hand, Padres: 1/4
  • Sonny Gray, Athletics: 2/3
  • Johnny Cueto, Giants: 2/3
  • Jay Bruce, Mets: 3/4
  • Jose Quintana, White Sox: 1/1
  • Gerrit Cole, Pirates: 5/3
  • Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: 5/3
  • Justin Verlander, Tigers: 2/1
  • Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: 7/2
  • Jeff Samardzija, Giants: 6/1
  • Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 8/1
  • Justin Bour, Marlins: 9/1

At the top of the list are the good players with expiring contracts on terrible teams (Neshek, Bruce, Cole, Hand). Cueto fits that bill too since he’s expected to exercise his opt-out clause at season’s end. Guys with years left on their big ole contracts are closer to the bottom (Samardzija, Verlander, Cabrera). Donaldson is an interesting case. The Jays aren’t out of it — five games back of a Wild Card spot — but they’re not likely to make the playoffs. JD has one year of arbitration left before becoming a free-agent. Do they deal him now while his value is still pretty high, or hold on for another run in 2018 — and then risk losing him for nothing?

TEAM PROPS

Cubs celebrating their 2016 World Series (Arturo Pardavila III [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])

Odds the Cubs make the playoffs: 5/3

Unless the Rockies are unable to acquire some pitching before the deadline, it’s unlikely the Cubs will be able to grab a Wild Card spot. But they are still only 5.5 games back of the NL Central-lead, and the Brewers haven’t inspired any confidence in anyone since 2011.

Odds to win at least 100 games:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 2/3
  • Houston Astros: 3/4
  • Washington Nationals: 3/2
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: 5/3
  • Boston Red Sox: 7/3 

Odds to win at least 110 games

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 3/2
  • Houston Astros: 13/7

The Dodgers haven’t won 100 games in a season since 1974. They’re currently on pace to win nearly 110, and don’t possess any glaring holes. The Astros are hot on their tail, on track to post 109. And the return of Dallas Keuchel will only make them better.

The baseball season is far too long to sustain this pace, though. Injuries and slumps are too common.

Over/under number of NL teams that finish above .500: 5.5

Though only five teams currently sit above .500 in the NL, there are another handful within a few games. At least one of the Cubs or Cardinals will make a push in the second half. But it’s no guarantee that Milwaukee stays above .500.

Over/under number of AL teams that finish above .500: 7.5

What AL teams decide to do at the trade deadline will dictate which direction this prop goes. Currently there are seven teams above .500, but that includes the Twins and Royals. The former may still sell at the deadline, and the Royals have had to go on a tear to climb back into contention.

Seven teams currently sit within five games of the final Wild Card spot, which means there are a lot of optimistic clubs in the AL. You could see a number of them go for it, which could result in a log jam around the .500 mark.