Tuesday night in Toronto, the 2016 MLB playoffs begin with the Blue Jays hosting the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card Game. The winner moves on to play a best-of-five series against the Texas Rangers, and the victor of that series earns the right to face whoever emerges from the Division Series between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. Let’s take a closer look at the AL teams and see if we can find a reasonable price to win the World Series.
World Series Odds for American League Teams
Texas Rangers: 11/2
The Rangers are a tepid favorite to come out of the AL, but you still can get them at more than 5/1 to win the World Series. Their 95 regular season wins were one more than the Indians, and will enjoy home field advantage throughout the playoffs as a result – including the World Series, thanks to the AL winning the All Star Game. Their 53 victories at home tied Cleveland for the most in the Junior Circuit. Interestingly, Texas isn’t great at anything, though. Their bullpen is ordinary, starters are fine, they score a lot but would be in the second tier of high octane offenses, and they are an average defensive squad. The Rangers finished the year with a +8 run differential, worst among playoff teams, and about what you would expect from a club slightly over .500.
Boston Red Sox: 6/1
In contrast to Texas, the Red Sox scored 184 more runs than they allowed in the regular season, the second best mark in all of baseball, and tops in the AL by 83 runs. The Sox won a division that three playoff teams came out of, and had the best road record in the American League. Boston was the best offense in the sport by a wide margin during 2016, leading all of baseball in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Both their starters and bullpen had among the Top 10 ERA’s in MLB. The Sox tied for the second best fielding percentage in the sport during the regular year.
Cleveland Indians: 10/1
Sporting the second best run differential in the AL, Cleveland has a lot of positive numbers on their side. As a team they ranked among the top ten in the majors in runs, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, ERA, WHIP, and batting average against. The Indians have good starters, and better relievers. Manager Terry Francona has the experience as well, having won two World Series rings with the Red Sox.
Toronto Blue Jays: 25/2
As a Wild Card team, the Jays will need to beat Baltimore just to advance to the eight team bracket. However, the perception that Toronto is all big bats and not a lot of pitching is just wrong. This year the Blue Jays had the best ERA among starters in the American League. The Giants and Dodgers, both known for their top end pitchers, were significantly worse than the Blue Jays when it comes to the rotation. Toronto’s starters were the only AL group among the top six rotational ERA’s in baseball, finishing fourth, just behind the Nationals and Mets – all looking up at the mighty Cubs. The Jays were the eighth highest scoring team in the league, and hit the fourth most home runs. Conversely, the Blue Jays .248 batting average is in the bottom third of baseball, and the bullpen was inconsistent.
Baltimore Orioles: 25/1
Starting the playoffs in a win or go home game is not ideal for a team that went 39-42 outside of Camden Yards this year. The Orioles +29 run differential was the second worst among playoff qualifiers. Despite their starters compiling a 4.74 ERA, 24th best in MLB, if Baltimore can get to the sixth or seventh inning on Tuesday tied or in the lead, their bullpen is more than capable of closing a game out, being the best unit in the AL during the regular season. Not to mention, they are a very good defensive squad, too.On offense, Baltimore led all of baseball in home runs, but only scored the 12th most runs in baseball.
The American League is fairly open, and whoever comes out will have a significant advantage: games one, two, and if necessary six and seven of the World Series at home. While Toronto’s mix of very good pitching and strong hitting is intriguing, and certainly a value at 25/2, the Red Sox are incredible offensively, and solid everywhere else. If either David Price, who wasn’t in his regular ace form in 2016 and does not have a great history in the postseason, or Rick Porcello, one of a handful of legitimate Cy Young candidates this year, step forward and pitch like a true number one starter, Boston will win the AL, and at 6/1 present nice value with the World Series starting at Fenway Park.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)