LAS VEGAS — Similar to the other sports, baseball has had an interesting offseason coming off a condensed 2020 regular season. In fact, it’s amazing that the NFL has been the only sport to conduct its regular season unscathed (albeit with just 16 games per team). Baseball has had a lot of player movement, and we’re supposed to go back to a 162-game schedule — with a deadened ball.
This leads me to my first bit of gambling advice. A lot of people are saying to bet Unders early in the season, but if I see oddsmakers shading the totals low, I’m going to jump all over the Overs.
For starters, count me as skeptical that MLB will actually do anything to limit scoring. That’s just not something any sports league does, so I’m not buying it. Even if the ball is deadened, with the way today’s players swing for the fences, I doubt we’re going to see a drop in scoring. So consider joining me on the Overs before the oddsmakers and the rest of the betting public react. And if we’re wrong, we’ll know after the first few days and can adjust.
Let’s tour the divisions to try to find some good bets for the 2021 MLB season. All odds from BetMGM.
The Padres made a big offseason splash by acquiring Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to add a much stronger starting staff to an already explosive offense. I’ve been high on the Padres the past few years, and I equate this to sometimes being early on a horse and maybe betting it too early before it reaches its full potential. This could very well be the year the Padres do that. The problem with betting the Padres to win the World Series (9/1) or the NL pennant (4/1) or even the NL West (2/1) is that they have to battle the defending-champion Dodgers. I’m still shopping around and will decide later whether to get involved with the Padres in any of those markets, but I’m making my biggest wager on Over 94.5 wins. The Dodgers are at 102.5, and I’m not making the same mistake of fading them like I did with Under 39 last summer in the abbreviated 60-game season. This theme of liking a team in a division with a heavy favorite will be repeated later.
This division has been wide open in recent years. The Cardinals traded for Nolan Arenado to solidify their role as the favorites at +110, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers (3/1), Reds (+325) or even Cubs (4/1) were to win the division title. As a diehard Cubs fan, I might take a flier on them at the 8/1 available in the market because I was never too much of a Darvish fan, and even though I’ll miss Kyle Schwarber, Joc Pederson should fit well in that lineup. I think the best bet in the division is the Cubs Over 78.5 wins, though I also like the Brewers Over 83.5.
If anyone has a strong opinion on this division, I’d love to hear it. I’ve gone back and forth on which team has the best chance to win the division among the Braves (+130), Mets (3/2), Nationals (13/2), Phillies (8/1) and Marlins (16/1). The Mets should be the most improved, but oddsmakers already have accounted for that and any betting value is gone. I was continually surprised by how much the Marlins overachieved last season and even made the playoffs, but I’m not sure they can sustain that over a 162-game schedule. I think I’ll pass on this division.
The A’s also overachieved last season, and I’m willing to fade them by going Under 87.5 with their season win total. That also leads us to the most bettable chalky division winner in the Astros (+120). The Dodgers and Yankees are odds-on favorites in their divisions, but I see them having more legitimate contenders to overcome, while the Astros should coast to the AL West title.
This is the last year for the “Indians,” as they’ll play one last season before dropping the nickname, but they’re not expected to go out on top. In fact, let’s go Under 81.5. We don’t see them getting over .500, and they should finish well back of the White Sox (-110) and Twins (+140). The White Sox have been on a lot of bettors’ radar the past few seasons and might be tempting at 4/1 to win the AL or 10/1 to win the World Series. The oddsmakers are already on to them, but with Lance Lynn added to the rotation with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, the White Sox might actually have the staff to make a postseason run.
The Yankees are the prohibitive favorites at -200, but I’ve been waiting for the Blue Jays to break through for a couple of years. The addition of George Springer from Houston and Marcus Semien from Oakland helps an already potent lineup, and we just have to wait to see if the Jays can outslug the Yankees. Similar to the Padres-Dodgers situation, I’m not sure whether I’ll wager anything on the Blue Jays to win the World Series (25/1), AL pennant (9/1) or even the AL East (7/2), but I’ll load up on the Over 86.5 wins.