The arrival of the summer months signifies a heat wave. Major league baseball is in full swing, and the playoff races are starting to take form! Oh ya, I guess the temperature outside changes a little too.
Fortunately, there has been no shortage of stories to keep us baseball fans occupied throughout the first couple months of the major league season. We’ve seen some phenomenal pitching performances, a whole lot of long-balls, some great diving catches, pitchers lobbying for a spot in the home run derby, and a couple haymakers.
Come mid-June, the phrase “it’s still early” starts losing its merit. Yes, there are 162 games in a season, but we’re closing in on the halfway point. What I’m trying to say is that what you’ve seen from your team to this point is more or less what they’re going to be come the season’s end. Poor records are no longer “slow starts;” teams at the top of the standings are no longer flashes in the pan.
With that being said, there are always a good handful of teams at this time who find themselves crammed in the middle of the pack, hovering around .500. Some are coming back down to earth (cough cough Philly); others are finally snapping out of their funk.
What we can say is the playoff races, as well as the individual awards races, are a lot more clear than they were a month into the season. Here is how each one is shaping up:
2016 MLB Odds and Props
Odds to win the 2016 World Series:
Chicago Cubs: 5/1
Washington Nationals: 15/2
Texas Rangers: 19/2
St. Louis Cardinals: 10/1
Boston Red Sox: 12/1
San Francisco Giants: 12/1
Toronto Blue Jays: 12/1
Baltimore Orioles: 15/1
Los Angeles Dodgers: 20/1
New York Mets: 25/1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 25/1
Cleveland Indians: 50/1
Kansas City Royals: 50/1
New York Yankees: 60/1
Miami Marlins: 75/1
Detroit Tigers: 80/1
Seattle Mariners: 80/1
Houston Astros: 85/1
Colorado Rockies: 100/1
Chicago White Sox: 125/1
Tampa Bay Rays: 150/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 200/1
Philadelphia Phillies: 200/1
Los Angeles Angels: 225/1
Arizona Diamondbacks: 250/1
Oakland Athletics: 250/1
Cincinnati Reds: 500/1
San Diego Padres: 500/1
Minnesota Twins: 700/1
Atlanta Braves: 750/1
The Cubs have leap-frogged the Nationals for the first spot, and their odds will only get better game-by-game, barring an injury to their entire pitching staff. The biggest problem the Cubs may face this season will be deciding which pitcher gets left out of their playoff rotation (good luck with that one). As I am sure we all have heard, the Cubs own the longest championship drought in North American sports, dating back to 1908. This year’s team is the best chance the Chicago Cubs have ever had of putting an end to the dreadful Curse of the Billy Goat.
Who knew that Rougned Odor cold-cocking “Joey Bats” would be the best thing for the Texas Rangers? Since the right-hook that rocked the shades right off Bautista’s face, the Rangers have gone 19-9 and sit alone atop of the American League (for now).
In spite of Texas’ current top seed, expect the leader of the AL East to be the favorite to represent the AL in the World Series, unless its Baltimore. The Orioles have clawed into the lead, but their starting rotation isn’t good enough (outside of Chris Tillman) to make any noise in the playoffs; they actually remind me a lot of the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays before the trade deadline.
Speaking of Canada’s team, the Jays are finally starting to live up to expectations. After a rough start, they have the chance to take the division lead in a series with the Orioles this weekend.
The Mets’ and Royals’ World Series odds have taken a bit of a hit since we checked in last, but no one’s odds have fallen like the Astros’. Houston was expected to battle the Rangers for the top spot in the AL West all year, but currently find themselves more than nine games back, and more than four back in the Wild Card race.
Odds to win American League MVP:
Manny Machado (Orioles): 9/2
Robinson Cano (Mariners): 7/1
Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox): 15/2
Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): 9/1
Mike Trout (Angels): 10/1
Just like the Orioles as a team, Machado is powering his way to the AL MVP. Ironically, his attempt to knock out the petulant Yordano Ventura is also earning him a great deal of respect. The incident will cost him at least a few games, but not enough to slow him down or bump him from the top of the odds.
Cano and Bogaerts replace the two Astros who originally made this list (Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa), and both are hot on Machado’s tail for the hardware. If Cano’s bat can keep the Mariners in the playoff hunt, especially while Felix Hernandez is out, expect the former Yankee to receive his fair-share of votes.
Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson’s odds have taken a hit, as the Angels are just that bad right now, and Donaldson found himself in quite the slump throughout the month of May. However, the reigning AL MVP has found his timing at the plate and is making opposing pitchers pay right now. Donaldson’s numbers still aren’t MVP-esque right now, but they will be soon if he stays hot.
Odds to win National League MVP:
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 4/1
Daniel Murphy (Nationals): 11/2
Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 7/1
Bryce Harper (Nationals): 22/3
Ben Zobrist (Cubs): 10/1
History would suggest that Clayton Kershaw is going to level off; his career numbers are great, but don’t support this mind-boggling pace. That said, if his numbers remain anywhere close to where they are today, Kershaw will not only be awarded the Cy Young, but also the NL MVP.
If I asked you at the beginning of the season which Washington National had the best chance to win the MVP, 99 of 100 would have said Bryce Harper; the other one would’ve admitted they don’t watch baseball. No one expected Daniel Murphy to carry over the success he had in the playoffs to this season, but he sure is proving us wrong.
Instead of Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo doing the major damage for the Cubs, it has actually been Ben Zobrist; yes, the man who hit .265 in his previous ten seasons. Zobrist is averaging .319 and has already driven in 38 runs for the league-leading Cubs. Don’t forget, he plays some pretty good defense at second base, too.
Odds to win American League Cy Young:
Chris Sale (White Sox): 5/2
Rich Hill (Athletics): 10/1
Danny Salazar (Indians): 12/1
Steven Wright (Red Sox): 12/1
Marco Estrada (Blue Jays): 15/1
Chris Sale remains the favorite for the AL Cy Young, despite a recent rough patch. Three of the other pitchers never would have made anyone’s pre-season odds list. Yet, here we are; it’s late June and Steven Wright is actually in the Cy Young discussion. If you are not as shocked as I, then you deserve an award, yourself, or maybe my job.
I’m leaving a lot out of room for the field because there are so many big-name pitchers capable of turning their seasons around quicker than an Aroldis Chapman fastball. (Dallas Keuchel, anyone?)
Odds to win National League Cy Young:
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 8/3
Jake Arrieta (Cubs): 9/2
Stephen Strasburg (Nationals): 9/1
Jon Lester (Cubs): 12/1
Noah Syndergaard (Mets): 12/1
It’s absolutely flabbergasting that a pitcher with a 0.65 WHIP, and a 1.52 ERA is not the most-talked about pitcher in the majors. Clayton Kershaw has become a victim of his own omnipresent success and everyone wants to focus on the “new guy,” Jake Arrieta. I just hope that baseball fans appreciate the prodigious talent that we are witnessing.
Madison Bumgarner was a tough name to leave off this list, but the NL is jammed full of pitching talent. I could have listed Kershaw as the favorite, and then filled out the rest with Cubs’ rotation, alone. Their starters have been phenomenal to a man; either Arrieta or Lester would be the front-runner in the AL.
However, this is a two-pony race at this point: Kershaw versus Arrieta.
Odds to lead MLB in home runs:
Mark Trumbo (Orioles): 13/3
Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 9/2
Todd Frazier (White Sox): 8/1
Robinson Cano (Mariners): 10/1
Chris Davis (Orioles): 12/1
I think we could just change this category to, “odds on who will get the most chicks,” right?
Putting my feeble attempts at humor aside, only Nolan Arenado and Chris Davis remain on this list from the odds given after the first month. Not to take anything away from the season Arenado is having, but the ball really carries in that Denver air. If Manny Machado were not hitting in front of Trumbo, I’d have Arenado as my clear favorite, since Trumbo has never hit more than 34 in a season.
Chris Davis’ name remains on this list, as the Orioles still have four more series against the Blue Jays this season. Can someone explain to me why they keep pitching to this guy?!
Odds to be the next manager fired:
Bryan Price (Reds): 4/1
Bob Melvin (Athletics): 9/2
Paul Molitor (Twins): 8/1
A.J. Hinch (Astros): 12/1
Chip Hale (Diamondbacks): 12/1
As you probably noticed, we had to phrase this a little differently than the first time, as the Braves made Fredi Gonzalez (our favorite to be fired first) the first managerial casualty of the season. (Well played, Mr. Dutch.)
We now turn our attention to which manager will be losing his job next, a topic that we take far too much pleasure in discussing, just for the record.
Although Paul Molitor’s Twins have the second-worst record in the majors, I don’t see the team axing him anytime soon. Molitor has only been on the job since 2015, and is highly regarded around the league; I think he used to play or something.
Instead, Bryan Price and Bob Melvin top the list. Firing Melvin, a two-time Manager of the Year winner, would be another classic case of “what’s he done lately?” It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to Melvin, either. Despite winning NL Manager of the Year in 2007 with the Diamondbacks, the team fired him only two years later.
Had John Gibbons’ Blue Jays not pulled out of their funk, he may have found himself in the same boat as Fredi Gonzalez already. Fortunately for Gibby, the bats seem to be waking up; maybe the skipper finally stopped stealing JoBu’s rum and cigars.
Walt Weiss escapes the list this time around; his Colorado Rockies are only a few games out of a Wild Card spot. I’m sure he thanks Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story every day.
Over/under on Cubs’ regular season win total:
The Chicago Cubs just continue to impress; not only is their starting rotation absolutely ridiculous, but they’ve also scored the third-most runs in the majors. I can’t see them breaking their own MLB record of 116 wins, but they could come close.
Odds the Houston Astros make the playoffs:
Unfortunately for Houston, they reside in the division with the best team in the American League, at least record-wise. The Rangers are breaking away from the rest of the AL West and are not looking back.
If the Astros are going to get in, the Wild Card is their best chance; but, looking at how the AL East is shaping up, odds are the division hogs both of the Wild Card spots. The Astros had better hope Dallas Keuchel returns to his Cy Young form if they want to push for a playoff berth.
Odds Kenta Maeda wins 20 games:
Winning 20 games in a season is no small feat for a pitcher. Only one man did it last year (Jake Arrieta), and only four have accomplished it in the last three seasons. Although Maeda has been quite impressive this season, he levelled off after his ridiculously hot start and is now only on pace to win about 14 games.
I could definitely see him surpassing that number, but 20 is a little too high, especially if one of the balls that keep getting lined back at him forces him to miss any time!
Over/under on Kenta Maeda regular season ERA:
Despite his odds of winning 20 games this season getting worse, his over/under for ERA drops. Maeda has pitched his way to a 2.75 ERA thus far, and is no stranger to putting up zeros.
(Photo credit: Mateocubs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)