Even if you don’t want to bet into the division futures market, you can still use the odds to your advantage. You can get a look at how things are expected to shake out and get a feel for what the oddsmakers and the market believe about these teams.
In looking at the American League West Division, two things really stand out. The first is that the Houston Astros have their lowest price in a few years to win the division. The second is that the gap between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels does imply that the A’s are getting the respect that they very much deserve after back-to-back 97-win seasons.
Remember that the offseason can shape and mold a lot of narratives about these teams. The Astros lost Gerrit Cole, went under the Commissioner’s microscope for stealing signs, and have become Public Enemy #1 for anybody outside of Houston. And that includes MLB players from around the league.
The A’s did next to nothing of consequence in free agency or the trade market. In fact, it was the other California team that made the big splash by signing Anthony Rendon. And, yet, the A’s still have a much shorter price than the Angels do.
We also have one team sort of on the fringes and one team completely out of it, as the Texas Rangers will hope to rely on Lance Lynn, Mike Minor, and newbies Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson, and Jordan Lyles to make a push. The Seattle Mariners will not be making any push at all.
Here are the odds to win the AL West per 5Dimes Sportsbook as of February 20, 2020:
This is such a strange season for the Astros. They have already embraced the “us against the world” mentality and it seems to get stronger with each passing day. The Astros will get everybody’s best shot. In theory, they already should have been, given that they have won the AL Pennant two of the last three seasons, including a World Series win. All of their games are just going to take on a different feel.
I mentioned in the intro that it is nice to see the A’s get some respect, but they are also a team with 194 wins over the last two years still sitting at +450. If you really, truly believe that the Astros are going to regress a little bit, wouldn’t this be a little bit shorter? This line only implies about an 18.2% chance that the A’s win the West. Now, some might say that is too high, especially with the Astros only at about 70.6%.
If Jesus Luzardo and AJ Puk make a leap and guys like Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas stay healthy, the A’s have the chance to match up and maybe even surpass the Astros on the pitching side. Those are a lot of “ifs”. The Astros are still going to have the best offense in this division bar none.
The Angels are something of a wild card with Rendon in the mix and that Mike Trout guy, but the pitching just isn’t up to par with the Angels. They won’t contend for the AL West crown and neither will the Rangers, who have neither the offense nor the bullpen.
The way I see it, you have three choices. Take the Astros at the minus price. Take the A’s at the plus price with a lot of pitching questions. Stay away altogether. To me, the third option is the best, but if pressed into taking something, it would be the Astros to repeat as champs. That offense is simply too good.