The Atlanta Braves have dominated most every headline this baseball season, and their World Series title odds have followed suit, going from +850 (fifth-best) during the preseason, to +650 in early May, to +450 in mid-June, to +310 today.
They’re regarded as the overwhelming favorite, ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers (+450), Houston Astros (+550) and Texas Rangers (+800). FanGraphs’ odds concur, projecting the Braves to finish six games better in terms of win/loss record than the No. 2 Dodgers, with easily best 25.4% odds of winning the whole shebang.
That said, it’s not all Braves, all the time, when it comes to rest-of-year betting opportunities. Yes, there are worthy dice-rolls to take on the World Series champion front — the Milwaukee Brewers (+3500, 3.3% championship odds), Minnesota Twins (+2800, 4.0%), Philadelphia Phillies (+2200, 4.4%), San Diego Padres (+5000, 2.0%) and San Francisco Giants (+3000, 2.3%) all have at best +2000 odds but a minimum 2% chance of winning it all — but it’s some of the other futures categories that have presented opportunities for the risk-takers.
The National League’s MVP race, which at this point a month ago appeared to be a Ronald Acuna Jr. runaway, looks like it might have as many as three legitimate contenders. Scorching-hot Braves teammate Matt Olson is on a 58-homer, 144-RBI pace, thresholds that have been met only nine times previously in baseball history, while the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman is on track to set personal bests in batting average, hits, doubles, total bases, runs and stolen bases. Interestingly, Acuna remains the favorite in that competition, -750 to Freeman’s +600 and Olson’s +1700.
The NL’s Cy Young race is very much up in the air, with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen (+175) regarded the favorite, but only narrowly ahead of the Padres’ Blake Snell (+300), Giants pitching WAR leader Logan Webb (+300), the Braves’ Spencer Strider (+600) and the Chicago Cubs’ Justin Steele (+700). There are some pretty hefty names right behind them on the odds sheet, though, including the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler, Brewers’ Corbin Burnes and Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
In the American League, it’s the Rookie of the Year race that looks the most competitive. Rangers third baseman Josh Jung’s fractured left thumb, which might cost him the remainder of the regular season, has suffered in the odds, dropping to fifth-best and +1600. That has allowed the Baltimore Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson (-210) to swoop in as the new favorite, though the Boston Red Sox’s Masataka Yoshida (+350) and Triston Casas (+400) and the Cleveland Guardians’ Tanner Bibee (+1200) are well within striking distance.
By Tristan H. Cockcroft
Where are the best betting values in mid August? Tristan H. Cockcroft, Eric Karabell, David Schoenfield and Todd Zola offer their picks.
To win the World Series odds
Note: All odds are from Caesars Sportsbook as of Aug. 17.
Texas Rangers (+800): The Rangers have scored nearly as many runs as the all-powerful Braves and right now I would have more confidence in their rotation than Atlanta’s, especially with Scherzer pitching again like an ace. Aroldis Chapman has also been absolutely dominating since coming over from the Royals, with 31 strikeouts in 16 innings, helping to solidify the bullpen. Oh, and they’re a good defensive team. Getting through the AL will be tough but the Rangers have a dynamic and deep roster and players like Scherzer and Corey Seager who have shined before in the postseason. — Schoenfield
I’m with Eric that the Brewers have a Phillies-like look to them (see below), at least as things stand today while looking forward to prospective playoffs, but I’m going back to my preseason sleeper-turned-moderate favorite, the Rangers. The Max Scherzer acquisition — not to mention Jordan Montgomery — appears to have bolstered the rotation, the bullpen has been quite good this month, the defense is sound all around and there’s more balance in the lineup than I expected. These are pretty good odds for a team that’s a surefire playoff qualifier and possible division winner with a first-round bye. — Cockcroft
Long shots to watch
Minnesota Twins (+2800): The playoffs are all about strong pitching and hitters scoring enough to win. Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Kenta Maeda and Bailey Ober can match up against most of the playoff rotations with Joe Ryan a wild card. The bullpen is suspect, but Griffin Jax is emerging as a solid setup man to complement Jhoan Duran. The Twins might not even be favored in the wild-card round, but their rotation is built for a playoff run. — Zola
Milwaukee Brewers (+3500): Milwaukee’s big three of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are healthy and potentially dominant, and I can’t imagine they would be much fun to face in a short series in October, especially with Devin Williams lurking in the bullpen. It reminds me of last season’s Phillies. I think the Phillies can represent the NL yet again, with their aces and bullpen, but the odds on the Brewers are sweeter. — Karabell
San Diego Padres (+5000): It remains hard to believe the Padres, with this lineup, with this pitching, cannot fix their season, but an NL wild-card spot remains in play for them when they start winning consistently. The Padres remain a dangerous team if they can make it to October. — Karabell
Here I will second Eric’s pick, because the Padres still look awfully good on paper and all you need to do is qualify for the playoffs for that to translate into October wins (see: Padres-New York Mets 2022 Wild Card Series). Would you believe that FanGraphs projects the Padres for the second-best rest of season record — not National League, that’s across the majors? For this price, I’m a taker. — Cockcroft
National League Most Valuable Player
Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers (+600): Ronald Acuna Jr. should win this easily if he keeps doing what he’s doing, but there is a pathway to Freeman winning if the Dodgers catch the Braves, and if Acuna and Matt Olson — who could hit 60 home runs — split the vote. It seems unlikely it would sway enough voters, but Freeman could catch Luis Arraez for the NL batting title and then it might become interesting. — Karabell
Again, I second Eric, in part because the odds for this award should be closer than they are currently. By the way, in the past five seasons, Freeman has batted .324/.421/.533 with a major league-leading 113 runs created in the month of September (and regular-season October), a historically strong finisher. — Cockcroft
Long shots to watch
Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers (+3500): I get that he’s probably fourth right now and his offensive stats don’t quite match up with Acuna, Freeman or Olson, but he has nearly caught Acuna in both Baseball-Reference WAR (6.1 to 6.0) and FanGraphs WAR (6.2 to 6.0) and could end up leading the NL in both — and if that happens, he has a chance, given how much voters weigh WAR these days. And it’s not like he hasn’t hit: He’s on his way to 40 home runs while hitting close to .300. Oh, and he filled in at both second base (34 starts) and shortstop (12 starts) and played well at both positions. — Schoenfield
American League Most Valuable Player
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels: He’s got this wrapped up, no? Ohtani has a legitimate chance at a 50-homer, 20-steal, 200-strikeout (as a pitcher) season — those first two hitting stats have been accomplished only four times in the same season in history. Unreal. — Cockcroft
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National League Cy Young
Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves (+600): His is not an impressive ERA, but nobody in the NL is within range of his dominant strikeout total. Strider could run off a string of wins and overshadow Gallen and Webb with better ERA figures. This race is wide open and Strider has intriguing odds. — Karabell
Justin Steele, Chicago Cubs (+750): Note to Eric: Strider’s current ERA would be highest ever for a Cy Young winner. Strider needs to roll off a bunch of zeroes to have a chance, even with the strikeouts, so I like Steele’s odds here. He has a chance to lead the league in ERA and wins — and while wins aren’t the deciding factor they once were, they could factor in as tiebreaker in this crowded field. Steele could go 17-3 and lead in ERA and that looks pretty good. — Schoenfield
Long shots to watch
Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (+2000): His odds are this poor for an award that’s this wide open? Hmm. Count me in, as Wheeler’s numbers place him well within striking distance, he’s riding the majors’ lengthiest active streak (excluding pitchers on the injured list) of quality starts (7), and he was lights-out for the Phillies in each of the past two Septembers. — Cockcroft
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (+7500): Compiling enough innings down the stretch is a major roadblock, but if the favorites stumble, there is a pathway for Kershaw to get some legacy-type votes Kershaw sports the lowest ERA of pitchers throwing at least 100 innings and his 11 wins are just two fewer than the league lead. His case would be stronger before voters wised up and looked beyond ERA and wins, but it was two years ago when Corbin Burnes ERA over 167 innings won him the award over hurlers with comparable numbers spanning 30 or more additional innings. — Zola
American League Cy Young
Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays (+500): Unlike with MVP, voters generally do not care if the Cy Young winner makes the playoffs, and things aren’t looking so good for Cole in that respect, but he has the lead in innings pitched, which does matter. Gausman has the edge in strikeouts and if their respective ERAs get closer, this could be a close race. Gausman’s odds are worth investing in. — Karabell
Long shots to watch
George Kirby, Seattle Mariners (+4000): Gerrit Cole is the clear betting favorite, but, really, nobody has separated themselves as the No. 2 guy – yet compare Kirby’s odds to Gausman’s. Kirby leads the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio and trails only Nathan Eovaldi in WHIP (barely) and Eovaldi is about to fall off the leaderboards due to his injury. Cole needs to fade a bit and Kirby needs to finish strong, but he’d be the non-Cole pitcher I’d wager on. — Schoenfield
National League Rookie of the Year
Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks: I hate taking such an overwhelming favorite, but there’s a reason he’s just that. Carroll’s season could end today and he’d still finish with 21 home runs, 37 stolen bases and 134 OPS+. He’d join Tommie Agee (1966), Mitchell Page (1977) and Mike Trout (2012) as the only rookies to ever go at least 20/30/125 in those categories, and both Agee and Trout secured the hardware; Page finished a close second to Eddie Murray. — Cockcroft
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American League Rookie of the Year
Longshots to watch
Tanner Bibee, Cleveland Guardians (+1200): Bibee has won his past seven decisions over the past two months, and lowered his ERA into range of what would be the league leaderboard if he qualified, which he should soon do. If Bibee continues to win games and keep his ERA on the good side of 3, he could win this award. — Karabell
Third time’s the charm as far as me agreeing with Eric. Seriously, how is Bibee not gaining more traction in this race? He already has 14 starts this season of at least five innings pitched and two runs or fewer allowed; only seven other pitchers have had more. I know voters tend to gravitate towards hitters in all but the Cy Young races, but Bibee’s importance to the Guardians down the stretch could go a long way towards making a convincing argument. — Cockcroft