A look at MLB futures betting

Ah, futures betting. One of the most unknown gambles that a fan can make. Pretty much, in a futures bet, you’re betting on a team to win the World Series (or pennant, or division…whatever you choose) before the season starts, using a given set of odds that fluctuate as the season goes on. If you really want, you can make a futures bet in September…but a month and a half ahead of time isn’t that much fun, now is it? Once the first futures lines are released in the offseason, betting action and spring events can make the odds rise and fall. Below are the odds at midnight on February 20th, when most (if not all) teams have just had their pitchers and catchers report for camp. Posted odds are from Bovada.lv, which is the new outlet for Bodog in the United States.

Phillies 6:1 Angels 13:2 Yankees 7:1 Tigers 8:1 Rangers 10:1
Red Sox 12:1 Marlins 15:1 Giants 16:1 Reds 22:1 Cardinals 22:1
Rays 22:1 Diamondbacks 25:1 Braves 25:1 Nationals 28:1 Rockies 35:1
Brewers 35:1 Cubs 40:1 Dodgers 40:1 Blue Jays 40:1 White Sox 60:1
Indians 65:1 Twins 65:1 Athletics 65:1 Royals 75:1 Mets 75:1
Pirates 75:1 Padres 90:1 Mariners 90:1 Orioles 150:1 Astros 150:1

What does these odds means? In layman’s terms, it’s pretty easy. Take the Tigers, at 8:1. You’d wager $100 (or any amount) to win $800 (or the amount corresponding to your initial wager at the 8:1 ratio). If you see the odds in the other order (for instance, 1:2), you’d have to wager $200 to win $100. Get it? Good.

Now, when looking at futures wagers, smart gamblers look for the best bets. In other words, what teams do you have a really good feeling about, and have high odds on them? And by the same token, what teams aren’t you very high on that have really low odds on?

Looking at the above list, a few teams jump out at me in each category.

I think the Reds, Braves, and Diamondbacks are very undervalued at their current odds. The Reds made some really great moves this offseason, and improved their team a ton. They’re tied with the defending champion Cardinals for the best odds in the NL Central, and I’d argue that they’re one of the three best teams in the National League. The Braves were one win away from being a playoff team last season, and return nearly the exact same team from a year ago, just with more experience and hopefully fewer injuries. As for the Diamondbacks, they’re a very young team that only got better this season, and are the defending NL West champions. They took the Brewers to the wire in the NLDS. They look like a really solid play to me.

Which teams do I feel are overvalued in these odds? Again, I’m going to stick in the National League with three teams: the Marlins, Giants, and Rockies. The Marlins added a bunch of marquee names to their team this year, but are they really better than the Phillies or Braves? Plus, there’s the immanent threat of a meltdown with Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Zambrano, and the position-shifting Hanley Ramirez in the house. As for the Giants and Rockies, both teams are clearly worse than the Diamondbacks. The Giants really didn’t do anything to improve, aside from having a full season of Buster Posey this year, and keeping Brandon Belt blocked for no conceivable reason. The Rockies picked up Michael Cuddyer and Jeremy Guthrie, but still have a Swiss cheese rotation that’s lacking a dominant arm to keep pace with the Lincecums, Kennedys, and Kershaws of the world.

How about a longshot bet to look at? I’ll define a longshot (for the purposes of this piece at least) as any team with worse than 40:1 odds to win. Looking at those teams, why not the Royals at 75:1? Sure they don’t have a dominant rotation, and are probably inferior to the Tigers across the board…but with a young, potential-laden team like this one, it’s completely possible for everything to come together at once and create a freight train. Look at the 2008 Rays. They were picked to finish at the bottom of the AL East, and ended up winning the pennant after a fantastic year. The AL Central is the Tigers and four other teams, and if one of the Tigers’ stars gets hurt, the Royals could easily take the division with some timely luck.

Gambling can be addictive, and if you’ve got a problem, I recommend that you stay far away from the sports books and the online sites. But if you’re in the mood to have a little bit of fun, and have some extra money to burn…why not throw $10 down on a couple of teams? Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and cash in.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Managing editor of Awful Announcing. News editor of The Comeback. Managing editor of The Outside Corner. You guessed it - not actually Frank Stallone.