04/05/2012 05:37 PM
MLB Update: World Series Odds And Best Bets
As we get ready for the MLB season to officially commence on the US mainland, it's time to take one last look at the available World Series prices to see if there might be some value in that market.
Following are looks at a few sides perhaps worthy of investments for the Fall Classic. World Series prices in parentheses next tot he name of the team.
NATIONAL LEAGUE BEST BET: Arizona Diamondbacks (23/1)
We continue to be a bit flummoxed why the D-Backs are getting so little respect entering the 2012 campaign. Not only is their season “win” total hovering between 7-8 fewer than what they achieved when winning the NL West a year ago, they’re the consensus sixth-rated side (behind the Phils, Giants, Reds, Marlins and Braves) to win the NL pennant. Something isn’t registering.
Perhaps the masses need more convincing after recalling how the Diamondbacks fell apart in 2008, the year following their last playoff appearance. But manager Kirk Gibson eradicated a lot of those bad habits last year, as Arizona was far more disciplined at the plate, ran the bases much better and was improved defensively.
A capable staff has been augmented by the addition of another proven arm, ex-A’s RHP Trevor Cahill, who along with previous trade acquisitions Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy forms the nucleus of potential powerhouse rotation. Adding ex-Twin Jason Kubel’s bat to the outfield mix should be a plus.
About the only concern we see is the recovery of SS Stephen Drew from last July’s broken ankle; Drew opens the season on the DL and isn’t expected back in action until sometime in May. But remember that Arizona went 47-27 with Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald filling in for Drew down the stretch. The team is playoff experienced after last October’s near miss in the NLDS vs. the Brewers. And Arizona plays in the NL West, hardly the deepest division in the bigs. We suspect this Series price will be dropping precipitously over the course of the season, so grab it now.
ANOTHER TO WATCH: Miami Marlins (15/1)
We don’t think the Marlins should be priced more strongly than Arizona, but there’s still some value in Miami in the 15/1 range. We suspect the Phils are about to head into a steep decline in the NL East, and suggest that the Marlins are better set to emerge as the successor in the division than either the Nats or Braves, both with numerous question marks.
Keep an eye on the Marlins out of the gate; remember, that’s when we had the first hint back in 2005 that Ozzie Guillen was brewing something special with the White Sox in Chicago. The dynamics are not too dissimilar in South Florida, where Ozzie seems to be pushing all of the right buttons with Hanley Ramirez, now moved to 3B with ex-Met Jose Reyes taking over at SS. Under the right circumstances, Ramirez has MVP potential, and Guillen has made Ramirez a personal project this spring. The presence of Reyes and underrated CF Emilio Bonifacio at the top of the batting order could potentially cause angst for opposing pitchers and catchers and should set the table nicely for Ramirez and OF Giancarlo (formerly known as Mike) Stanton.
Ozzie was at his best on the South Side when able to mix and match his bullpen to the proper situations, and therein lies our only significant concern for the Marlins; does Guillen have enough depth in his bullpen, beyond new closer Heath Bell, to make it work? If so, the Marlins make the playoffs and threaten the World Series in their first spin at the new ballpark on the former Orange Bowl site.
AMERICAN LEAGUE BEST BET: New York Yankees (6/1)
We are breaking ranks here from our recent past when shying away from the Yankees with such predictions. But with the Red Sox in a period of adjustment, and the Rays and Blue Jays unlikely to overtake the Bronx Bombers over the course of the regular season, we are relatively sure about the Yanks at least making the playoffs once again, likely as the AL East winner. And we suggest that their prices for the World Series would be less appealing as we get deeper into the season.
Why so bullish on the Yankees? By addressing their concerns in the offseason when adding capable starting pitchers Michael Pineda (ex-Seattle) and Hiroki Kuroda (ex-Dodgers) to a rotation that already included CC Sabathia at the top, what was the greatest weakness for Jor Girardi a year ago might now be a strength. Pineda did experience some shoulder tightness at the end of spring and will open the season on the DL, but is expected to return sometime in April to a now-deep staff that also added Andy Pettitte out of retirement over the winter.
And we know New York will score runs; is Robinson Cano ready to become the next Yankee MVP? For once, the 6/1 or thereabouts looks a very decent value on the World Series price for the Bronx Bombers.
ANOTHER TO WATCH: Tampa Bay Rays (20/1)
The Rays might be hard-pressed to leapfrog the Yankees in the East, but the extra wild card slot means that Joe Maddon’s squad has at least increased its chances to qualify for the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons. With plenty of playoff seasoning under its belt, the Rays are certainly not going to be spooked by the prospects of October baseball, even if they will have to participate in one of the inane, one-game wild card playoff matchups to advance to the ALDS.
We like the Rays because of their starting pitching, arguably the deepest in the AL. So deep, in fact, that one of last year’s capable starters, Wade Davis, starts the season in the bullpen, and has prompted Maddon to consider using a 6-man rotation. We saw the Giants ride to a World Series crown two years ago on the strength of this type of pitching, and suggest the Rays could do the same with James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and last year’s rookie sensation Matt Moore leading the way. Davis’ move to the bullpen provide Maddon more depth in his relief corps and another option if closer Kyle Farnsworth should falter.
Meanwhile, Maddon expects the additions of 1B (and former Ray) Carlos Peña from the Cubs and DH Luke Scott from the Orioles to provide the sort of pop the batting order lacked a year ago. Once again, the Rays figure to be in the mix.
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