On the eve of MLB’s Opening Day, Sports Handle took a shot at ferreting out a handful of futures bets that seemed like good values. With just five weeks left in the season, some of those sports betting events have already been decided, while others are headed in a distinct direction.
How’d we do?
For the purposes of evaluating these bet proposals, let’s imagine we had wagered $20 on each one to come up with the likely bankroll at the end of this exercise. (We’ll also remove the vig on our -110 bets to make them even-money, largely to simplify the calculations.)
On to the prognostications, followed by their impact on the all-important bankroll:
World Series winner
Milwaukee Brewers (+1600 at multiple books)
Yeah, so we’re not off to a great start here.
Back on April 6, we wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the Brewers don’t make a six-team playoff format with this much pitching. They stand a good chance of grabbing the No. 2 seed. After that, the Brewers just need somebody to knock off the Dodgers, then to beat that team, and this will be a golden ticket.”
The idea, at the time, was that — at 16/1 — the Brewers reaching the World Series would offer a great hedging opportunity.
But there’s a problem: If the season ended today, the Brew Crew wouldn’t even be in the postseason. With 36 games remaining, they’re 6 games behind the Cardinals for the NL Central lead (with a tougher schedule left) and they trail the Padres for the final wild card spot by 1.5 games.
The Brewers pulled off what looks like a shrewd move — trading Josh Hader to San Diego right before his performance cratered — and it has somehow backfired. The team is just 10-14 since the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Barring a change in trajectory, this ticket looks like a loser.
Likely bankroll: -$20
San Francisco Giants (+2800 at multiple books)
We wrote, “Was last season a fluke prompted by some late-career renaissances and a bit of good fortune? Maybe so, but you still get a lot of value here on an organization that runs as smoothly as any in MLB, with arguably the most advanced front office in baseball. And in Gabe Kapler, it has a manager who offers zero resistance to what President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi and his team churn out. Plus, if the Giants just make the playoffs, this will be a great ticket to hold. This club tends to know what it’s doing in October.”
This was looking like a pretty good wager up through June 18, when the Giants reached 10 games above .500 and were in the thick of the races. Since then, they are 24-38 and have been all but knocked out of contention, 7.5 games behind San Diego for the final wild card with 35 games left.
It appears the question we asked should have been answered in the affirmative. This ticket wasn’t a dog from the start, but it’s moving in that direction.
Likely bankroll: -$40
Atlanta Braves under 91.5 (at multiple books)
We wrote, “The hangover effect is real in baseball, especially for a young pitching staff like that of the Braves. Ace Max Fried, for example, is an uber-talented 27-year-old lefty who tied his career high for innings with 165⅔. That’s fine. Then, the postseason started and Fried pitched another 27⅔ innings of the most stressful pitching he has ever had to do. Typically, the effects show up the following year, and the shortened spring training put pitchers’ health under an even greater spotlight this year. This is a good Braves team, but with the Phillies and Mets showing serious signs of improvement, the books may have gotten carried away with the total here.”
Not only did the books not get carried away with the total, but it looks like the defending champs will blow right through this number after hitting another second-half groove. Atlanta just keeps cranking out homegrown talent and is on pace for 99 wins. The Braves would have to go 14-19 the remainder of the way for this one to cash, and there are no signs that is going to happen.
Likely bankroll: -$60
Baltimore Orioles over 61.5 (at PointsBet)
Phew. Just in time to save us the embarrassment of four straight losers.
We wrote, “People get way too caught up in Opening Day rosters, which often look nothing like the rosters of August and September. The Orioles have the consensus best farm system in baseball, which tends to happen when you lose this much. What’s new in 2022 is that the team’s top prospects are knocking on the door. Former No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman is positioned to arrive at some point in 2022, and outfielder Kyle Stowers may not be far behind. The beauty of having your best prospect (Rutschman) be a catcher is he’ll be there when the pitching prospects begin to arrive. Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, Kyle Bradish, and Kevin Smith will be pushing for time in the majors this season.”
Rutschman has, indeed, proven to be the pied piper of a talented crop of young players pushing into the big leagues, and the O’s already have blown through this total with 35 games to go! Heck, they’re in the thick of the playoff hunt, just 1.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the final wild card.
Likely bankroll: -$40
Los Angeles Angels win AL West (+400 at multiple books)
We wrote, “The AL West is more winnable than it might appear, with the Astros showing some signs of decline and the Mariners probably overrated at this point. If the Rangers are better after spending a bunch of money, the A’s are far worse after trading away most of their best players. Two of the more respected projections systems, PECOTA and ZiPS, have the Angels winning a lot more games than the Mariners and not too many fewer than the Astros. This is a high-ceiling, low-floor roster, so why not take your chances with, arguably, the two most talented players in any league?”
No reason to belabor this one. It’s been another dumpster fire in Anaheim, with manager Joe Maddon axed early and meddling owner Arte Moreno now looking to sell the team. It’s a sad truth that baseball’s two most dynamic talents, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, are stuck in such a dysfunctional organization.
Likely bankroll: -$60
Cardinals win NL Central (+275 at SuperBook)
We wrote, “While the Brewers might be better on paper, they’re not this much better in what amounts to a two-team race. The Cardinals could get a huge lift if young ace Jack Flaherty returns sometime around June 1, and they have a better lineup than the Brewers. Their middle-of-the-order of Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O’Neill, and Nolan Arenado stands out in a division lacking star hitters. The return of young pitchers Jordan Hicks and Dakota Hudson also should help, as should an infusion from Triple-A of top prospects Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, and Matthew Liberatore.”
Most of those things have come true and the Cardinals enjoy a 6-game lead with an easy road in their final 34 games. And just like that, we’re almost in the black!
Likely bankroll: -$5
Strikeout leader Dylan Cease (+1500 at DraftKings)
We wrote, “Of the top 10 pitchers in K/9 last year, Cease is both the youngest and the one showing the most improvement in his ability to get whiffs. The hard-throwing righty of the White Sox, who also has a big, sweeping curveball, has a classic strikeout pitcher repertoire and trailed only [Corbin] Burnes in the category last season. The White Sox are confident enough in Cease to have already named him their No. 2 starter, and the beauty of making this bet is you don’t really have to worry about his shaky control, as long as he sticks around long enough to get his double-digit strikeouts.”
This one is going to come down to the wire. Gerrit Cole currently leads the majors with 200 punchouts, but Cease is tied for second with Burnes at 190 and there are eight pitchers with at least 175.
The trajectory is a bit shaky — Cease averaged 1.49 K/inning in his first 81 innings and has averaged just 1.05 K/inning in his 66 innings since then. Still, at 15/1, this would be a ticket anybody would buy retroactively if they could.
Likely bankroll: -$25
Home run leader Rafael Devers (+4000 at the Superbook)
We wrote, “Devers is only 25, he’s showing remarkably improved plate discipline, and at Fenway he’s playing in the right ballpark given his opposite-field power. For him to lead the majors, he’ll have to prove last year was far from a flukish spike in power, but if you’re going to take that chance, always bet on the younger player.”
All of those things are true and yet Aaron Judge has simply run away with this competition. Devers has continued to mash (with an .894 OPS), but he certainly isn’t going to make up 24 homers on Judge in 34 remaining Red Sox games.
Likely bankroll: -$45
So, the results aren’t looking great. Then again, if Cease wins the strikeout title, we’re looking at +$255. Put it this way: If we could go back and risk losing $45 for a perfectly decent chance of winning $255, we’d do it.