The 2018 Major League Baseball season is quickly coming to a conclusion, but that does not mean that the division races are a lock. Virtually every division in baseball is up for grabs, with the exception of the AL Central, giving you a golden opportunity to get in on the likelihood of a team winning its division this season.
Why stop there? With the right information, you can make an informed decision on who will go all the way, either winning the championship series in their league or going all the way to the World Series. For those looking for a little inside knowledge on who will be the winners this year, here is what you may need to know.
Starting with the American League, one team seems to be a lock to reach the postseason, the Cleveland Indians. They hold an insurmountable lead over the Minnesota Twins and have one of the most potent offenses in baseball, as they are top five in batting average and home runs. The pitching has not been bad either, coming in just outside the top 10. The odds on the Indians winning the division is at -125000, which is understandable considering they seem to be a lock.
The AL East is a little more difficult to call, with the Boston Red Sox holding a healthy lead over the New York Yankees and a huge lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. Boston has been the top team in baseball in many insiders’ eyes for the majority of the season, currently ranked first in batting, and top 10 in home runs, while also posting a top five ERA. With a solid lineup, one through nine, outstanding starting pitching, and a deep bullpen, this team is built for the long haul and is why oddsmakers give them the best chance of winning the division (-4000).
The New York Yankees come in at +1200 to win the division and are still not a long shot. As a team, they lead the Majors in home runs. They are top 10 in ERA at and have the depth in the starting staff to compete with Boston, but their bullpen is not nearly as deep with Aroldis Chapman out. Tampa Bay (+250000) has pushed themselves into the conversation thanks to an eight-game winning streak, but this team is not deep enough to compete with either Boston or New York.
The AL West should be a fun one, as the Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, and Seattle Mariners all have a shot at winning this division. Oakland trails Houston by just a few games with Seattle just a couple behind them. What makes Houston so formidable is that pitching staff, ranked first in ERA at 3.12. Right now, no one can match the starting pitching of the Astros, as Verlander, Cole, Keuchel, and McCullers are a combined 45-29, and is why oddsmakers put their odds of winning the division at -400.
The Oakland Athletics come in at +260, which is a fair chance of winning the division. However, statistically, they do not measure up to Houston, but rank around the top 10 in ERA and in the top half in batting average. The one area where they have seen a great deal of success is in home runs ranked second. The A’s will have to outslug teams to win this division.
Seattle comes in at +4000, and their chances are dwindling. This is a team with a mediocre pitching staff and not as much power as the others this season. They do have a team batting average in the top 10, but that is simply not enough to help keep them in the division race.
In the National League, every one of these divisions is up for grabs, especially out West. In the East, Atlanta leads Philadelphia by a few games and Washington (66-66) by several. Atlanta is the presumptive favorite to win the division, as oddsmakers have placed them at -400. This is a team built on timely hitting with a top five batting average and solid pitching. The one Achilles’ heel to this team has been their bullpen, which has blown 15 saves this season.
Philadelphia comes in at +290 and is hoping the acquisition of José Bautista improves their chances. The Phillies have struggled mightily offensively this season, as they rank in the bottom five in batting average and are middle of the pack in home runs. Bautista will not be a difference maker, however, hitting just .204 with nine homers in 83 games for New York. Washington may be given a +1800 chance of still winning this division, but they look to have thrown in the towel with the trade of Daniel Murphy.
In the Central, the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and Milwaukee Brewers all have a shot at winning this division. Chicago leads St. Louis by a few games and Milwaukee by a little more, and this is why the odds place them at -700 to be the division winner. In reality, the Cubs’ numbers are really not better than St. Louis, but what makes them the presumptive favorites to win this division is the acquisition of Murphy and Cole Hamels. Hamels is 4-0 since being acquired and Murphy is one of the best hitters in the National League.
St. Louis (+650) is top 10 in both batting average and ERA. This team is solid but did not make a key acquisition to help improve their squad as Chicago did. That will come back to haunt them. No one should count out Milwaukee (+1000), as they hit for good power, but have had some recent pitching problems.
The NL West is a battle between three teams as well, with the Arizona Diamondbacks leading the Colorado Rockies by a narrow margin and the Los Angeles Dodgers are just a little more off the pace. Arizona is winning solely because of their pitching staff, but oddsmakers are not sold on them. Their chances of winning the division come in at +150, but the Dodgers are at just +165 and the Rockies at +200.
Like Arizona, the Dodgers are riding their pitching staff and their power. They are top five in both ERA and home runs. This is not a good hitting team from a batting average standpoint, but they get on base and score runs by drawing walks and hitting for power. Colorado is proving to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the division without a lot of respect for their offense. Plus, they have proven to be formidable on the road this season, hosting a 37-30 record.
The oddsmakers are confident in the five teams likely to make the playoffs in the American League, as the Boston Red Sox come in at +200, the Houston Astros at +200, the New York Yankees at +375, the Cleveland Indians at +500, and the Oakland Athletics at +550.
The choice of the Red Sox and Astros is a clear no-brainer. Through August 27, Houston had the top starting staff in baseball with a combined record of 59-32 and a 3.16 ERA. The Boston staff had a 62-32 record with a 3.65 ERA. Their earned run average only trailed that of the Cleveland Indians starting staff. Houston also had the number one bullpen in baseball with a 3.02 ERA. Boston is ranked sixth at 3.35.
The Indians had the fourth best ERA in baseball from their starting staff, at 3.44 and had a combined record of 63-36. However, their bullpen has been mediocre at best, posting a 4.83 ERA and blowing 14 saves the season.
The Yankees have been one of the best hitting teams since the All-Star break, hitting 51 home runs, third in baseball, but they have only hit .253 as a team, 16th overall.
Surprisingly, it has been Oakland that hasn’t been getting much respect. They have the number five bullpen in baseball, with a 3.35 ERA, and are hitting .265 since the All-Star break, sixth best in baseball. Plus, they have the most home runs since the All-Star break with 56. Their starting staff has a 4.08 ERA and that seems to have deterred many from thinking they will go further.
In the National League, the Cubs (+300) are given the best chance of going on to the World Series. Arizona (+400) comes in at second, the Dodgers (+425) third, followed by the Rockies (+550), Cardinals (+700), Braves (+800), and Brewers (+900).
What is surprising is the position of the Braves. With an above average pitching staff and lineup, they would seem to be a smart bet for someone who’s thinking they could go with an underdog all the way to the World Series. Atlanta has the fifth best starting staff in baseball and is eighth and hitting since the All-Star break (.264).
It seems that the bullpen can make a big difference come playoff time, and this looks to be the reason why oddsmakers have ranked the Diamondbacks and Cubs so high. Arizona has the second-best bullpen ERA at 3.12 while the Cubs come in at fourth at 3.22. In fact, six of the probable 10 teams to make the playoffs form the top six in bullpen ERA. Arizona is second in hitting since the All-Star break at .270.
The Dodgers have the second-best ERA amongst starting staff’s at 3.18, with St. Louis following close behind at 3.38. Atlanta is at 3.45, ranked fifth, while Arizona is ninth at 3.84. For those looking for some other categories to view a team in a positive light, the Brewers are first in the National League in stolen bases with 100. The Cubs lead the National League in runs scored with 633, with the Dodgers coming in second at 623.
World Series Winner
It’s not surprising to see who is considered to be the favorite to win the World Series this season. Both Boston and Houston come in at +400, with Chicago third at +700 and New York fourth at +750. Arizona comes in at +900, Los Angeles Dodgers at +950, and Cleveland at +1000.
Where You Can Make a Smart Bet
The one real dark horse that you should look for is the Atlanta Braves. Not only do they come in at +800 to win the National League, but also come in at +1800 to win the World Series. Their statistics are far better than anyone is giving credit.
The same can be said of the Oakland Athletics. This is a team coming in at +1100 to win the World Series, but they have played exceptionally well since the All-Star break and can match anybody with their bullpen. Plus, they have two outstanding starters that can take them a long way in the playoffs.
Because of their bullpen, no one should get caught up on the Los Angeles Dodgers. They are 13th in ERA at 3.92 and it was this group that cost the team a potential World Series last year. This area does not seem to have been addressed by the team, and you would not be wise to believe this team is advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs.
That’s a lot of information that has been covered, but you should have a clear picture of who are the smart picks to win their division and advance all the way to the World Series. Now it’s time to place your bet.