As the calendar turns the page to June, the first two months of the 2011 MLB regular season have helped us separate the contenders from the pretenders in the National League. There really have not been too many surprises so far with the exception of Arizona, which currently leads San Francisco by half a game in the NL West.
All three division races remain tight so the trick is to try and extract value from the future odds on the teams that have the best chance to be on top at the end of the season. Bodog.com still has Philadelphia as the odds-on-favorite at 3/2 to win the NL and for good reason. While the Phillies’ starting rotation has not completely dominated the league as some thought might happen, they have been good enough to lead the team to the best record in baseball at 34-20. The biggest benefit the Phab Phour have provided is a well-rested bullpen, but Philadelphia’s lack of consistent run support remains an issue as it is ranked seventh in the NL in runs scored with 225. None the less, the Phillies should remain the team to beat all season long.
San Francisco’s chances to repeat as NL champs took a major hit when catcher Buster Posey broke his ankle in a play at the plate. The Giants are still right on the heels of the Diamondbacks at 29-24, but are 2-3 since Posey went down. There is enough talent on this team to still be the second favorite to win the NL at 13/2 but it is hard to extract any value out of the odds given that San Francisco is ranked 15th in league in runs scored with 184. Pitching has been solid with a 3.29 team ERA, but you just get the feeling that the Giants will be battling just to stay in the division race all season long.
Despite losing their ‘ace’ Adam Wainwright before the first pitch of the regular season was ever thrown, St. Louis has been able to carve out a 2 ½-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central with a record of 32-23. The Cardinals are the third favorite to win the pennant at 8/1 and have been able to rely on their bats to carry them so far with a NL-best .282 team batting average. They are second in the league in runs scored with 271 led by Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Albert Pujols who each have over 30 RBI. The value definitely exists in St. Louis’s current odds as it is one of the few teams in the league that can compete with Philadelphia over the long haul.
The two teams that offer some value at 10/1 are Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Braves are 4 ½ games back in the East and still battling consistency issues at the plate, but they boast the No.1 team ERA in the NL at 2.97. The Reds look much like last year’s team with 4.36 team ERA, but a .262 team batting average and the most runs scored in the NL with 273.
Looking down the list a bit you have Florida at 12/1 which is just three games in back of the Phillies and the Diamondbacks at 20/1 which have won nine of their last 10. With the mercury just starting to heat up on a regular basis throughout the league, it is hard to get too excited about these two upstarts, but they definitely bear watching over the course of the summer.