With the 60-gmae 2020 MLB schedule finalized, oddsmakers are already busy crunching the numbers on World Series favorites, Cy Young contenders, MVP frontrunners, and even the individual games on Opening Day (July 23rd).
Though July 23rd is still weeks away, this MLB odds board is already displaying the marquee matchup of the day: the American League favorite New York Yankees visiting the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals. No starting pitchers have been announced, and they won’t be until much closer to the date, but most sportsbooks list the pitching matchup as Gerrit Cole (the AL Cy Young favorite) vs Max Scherzer (three-time Cy Young winner).
Most people agree that it would be harder to hand-pick a better matchup for Opening Day.
The other game that’s available for early betting is the National League favorite LA Dodgers hosting division rival San Francisco.
Yankees vs Nationals is expected to be a tight, low-scoring affair: New York is a modest -130 road favorite with Washington a +115 home underdog. The game total is at just 7.0 O/U, the lowest that MLB games get barring extenuating circumstances (like the wind howling in at Wrigley).
Giants vs Dodgers, on the other hand, has oddsmakers predicting blowout. With Johnny Cueto expected to face Clayton Kershaw on the mound, LAD is a -280 home favorite while San Fran is +250 on the moneyline. The total is at 8.0 runs.
Despite the Dodgers being the home team (meaning they wouldn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth if they are leading) and the total being relatively low, the Dodgers runline of -1.5 still has -135 odds (meaning bet $135 to win $100).
Its no secret why LA is a heavy favorite. For starters, Cueto only pitched 16 innings last year after coming back from Tommy John surgery. He looked excellent to start – pitching 10.0 scoreless innings over two starts – but those came against the light-hitting Pirates and Marlins. In his next two starts against the Braves and these same Dodgers, he was roughed up for nine earned runs in just 6.0 innings
Even in his last fully healthy season (2017) the now-34-year-old looked a bit past his prime, posting a 4.52 ERA and 1.446 WHIP, which do not compare favorably to his career averages (3.35 ERA, 1.191 WHIP).
On top of that, it was actually misleading to write “these same Dodgers” because the 2020 batting order is even more potent than the 2019 version thanks to the addition of 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts. FanGraphs projects their current lineup to score an NL-best 5.28 runs per game, just narrowly behind the Astros and Twins – who have the benefit of a DH – in the overall MLB ranks.
Here’s hoping Yankees/Nationals plays out as the thrilling pitchers-duel it sets up as, because the drama may be over early at Chavez Ravine.