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Cubs Rise, Ohtani-less Angels Plummet in New 2018 World Series Odds

Shohei Ohtani at the plate against Cleveland.
Shohei Ohtani could be done for the season due to a UCL injury, devastating the Angels' World Series hopes. Image by MLB.com (YouTube).
  • Boasting the best run-differential in the NL, the Cubs are back among the World Series favorites after a slow start.
  • The Angels, on the other hand, have sunk in the wake of Shohei Ohtani’s UCL injury, which may require Tommy John surgery.

All baseball season, online betting sites like BetOnline and Bovada offer ever-changing World Series futures. Our World Series Odds Tracker monitors the fluctuations to keep you up to date on which teams are trending up, which teams are trending down, and where bettors can find the best value. Here, we’re highlighting the most significant movement. 

Cubs Are NL Central Favorites Again

Heavy NL Central favorites in the preseason, at the time of the last update (June 1st), the Cubs had fallen to +1600, while the Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers were at +930. Back then, Milwaukee had a four-game lead in the division, the best record in the NL, and an utterly dominant bullpen.

The last two weeks have flipped the script. Now the Cubs are +800, while the Brewers have fallen to +1400. They are separated by just half a game in the standings, Chicago has continued to own the head-to-head (8-2 this season), and the Cubs even pulled off a game-tying rally against previously untouchable reliever Josh Hader during a 7-2 extra-innings win on June 11th.

The Cubs’ roster is far from perfect, especially the starting rotation. Not only has Yu Darvish landed on the DL, but his postseason struggles have continued into his first season with Chicago (1-3, 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP). Further down the rotation, Tyler Chatwood has massive control problems (3.98 ERA, 1.75 WHIP; 58 BB in 63.1 IP) and Jose Quintana can’t pitch at Wrigley (6.00 ERA in six home starts vs 2.68 ERA in seven road starts).

But the Cubs still deserve to be sizable favorite over the Brewers.

Even with underwhelming starting pitching, Chicago has the best run differential in the NL by a wide margin.

Even with underwhelming starting pitching, Chicago has the best run differential in the NL by a wide margin, sitting at +90, which is 23 runs better than the second-place Braves (+67). Every other part of the team has been solid: their bullpen has the third-best ERA in baseball (2.69 ERA), while their lineup leads the majors in on-base percentage (.340) and sits fourth in OPS (.758).

National League Run-Differential Leaders

Team Runs Scored Runs Allowed Run Differential
Chicago Cubs 318 228 +90
Atlanta Braves 332 265 +67
LA Dodgers 324 269 +55
Washington Nationals 274 224 +50
Arizona Diamondbacks 291 246 +45
Milwaukee Brewers 290 249 +41
St. Louis Cardinals 279 259 +20

When you add in the likelihood that Quintana’s and Darvish’s numbers progress closer to their career averages, and the potential for the front-office to make a move for a starter if they don’t, the sum of all the parts is a deserving favorite.

GTBets is the best option for betting on the Cubs at the moment. While most sportsbooks have Chicago at +800, GT Bets still has the Cubbies at +1000.

Angels Falling in AL West Without Ohtani

The Angels flew out of the gate this year. On April 17th, they were 13-4, sitting first in the AL West, and had +1000 World Series odds, up from +2200 at the start of April. Their record and their odds have steadily declined since.

On June 1st, they had fallen 5.5 games back in the division and had +2500 average odds.

Then things went from bad to worse.

On June 6th, star two-way player Shohei Ohtani was forced from his start with what was originally thought to be a lingering blister issue but turned out to be a much more serious UCL strain.

Ohtani will be re-evaluated in three weeks. Best case scenario: he battles through the strain as a slightly diminished version of himself, a la Masahiro Tanaka. Worst case scenario: he needs Tommy John surgery and is out for the rest of this season and next.

The Angels are 2-3 since Ohtani went down and have dropped two straight to the West-leading Mariners, despite Mike Trout clubbing four homers against Seattle. They now sit 6.5 back in the division and have seen their odds drop all the way to +3100.

Just like the Cubs’ rise, the Angels drop is justified. FanGraphs now gives them just a 19.9% chance of reaching the playoffs (which includes the Wild Card game), while Baseball Prospectus is even more pessimistic at 17.4%. While that’s the sixth-best probability in the AL, it’s miles behind the favorites.

American League Playoff Probabilities

AL Leaders Record (Winning %) FanGraphs Playoff Probability  Baseball Prospectus Playoff Probability
New York Yankees 43-19 (.694) 99.8% 99.7%
Boston Red Sox 46-22 (.676) 99.4% 98.5%
Seattle Mariners 43-24 (.642) 68.6% 74.2%
Houston Astros 43-25 (.632) 99.8% 98.7%
Los Angeles Angels 37-31 (.544) 19.9% 17.4%
 Cleveland Indians 35-30 (.538) 94.7% 93.0%
Oakland Athletics 34-33 (.507) 6.1% 5.7%

Ohtani’s absence will be felt doubly as he had established himself as a key contributor on the mound and at the plate.

As a starter, he was 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 11.13 K/9, and his fastball was touching 100 MPH. He was giving the Angels’ staff what it had been missing in recent years: a starter with the potential to dominate.

He was batting .289/.372/.535 with six homers and eight doubles in just 114 at-bats, and removing his left-handed bat from the right-heavy LA order has a disproportionate impact. The Angels are averaging 4.48 runs per game on the whole this season. That number jumps to 5.27 in the 34 games that Ohtani has had at least one plate appearance. In short, LA’s offense has been almost one run better per game with Ohtani in the lineup.

LA’s offense has been almost one run better per game with Ohtani in the lineup.

The potential that he’s out for the season makes it hard to recommend betting on the Angels at this time, even if the Mariners, who have a 21-9 record in one-run games, are expected to regress.

That said, if you know something about his health that we don’t and want to get LA at long odds, you can find them at +3300 at  TopBet,  Bovada, and  BetOnline.

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Sascha was a hockey player in his youth, a lawyer in his capricious mid-20s, and has been SBD's lead oddsmaker/number cruncher since 2014. He writes about everything you can possibly put odds on. He's happiest when those things are football, baseball, hockey and basketball (in that order).