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2018 World Series Odds: Top Five MLB Betting Favorites

It’s been a while since baseball mattered this much. America’s national pastime switched to football sometime in the early 1970s, then basketball started taking a bigger slice of the sports pie. But times have changed; more people than ever are betting on baseball, and if the 2018 World Series odds are any indication, this is going to be an incredibly competitive and entertaining season. Here are the top five favorites on the MLB odds list at Bovada as we go to press.
 

Houston Astros 
MLB Odds: +500

The Astros (101-61 last year) are built to last. GM Jeff Luhnow has worked his Moneyball magic since joining the team in late 2011, patiently waiting through three 100-loss seasons to build up a roster of young talent – and only then opening up the purse-strings to land the established stars they needed to get over the top. Justin Verlander (1.17 WHIP) was the most important of these acquisitions, joining Houston at last year’s trade deadline and leading them to their first-ever World Series win.

Beating the MLB baseball odds will be more difficult now that the cat is out of the bag. But the Astros kept their core players together during a whirlwind offseason, and those players led the majors last year both on the mound (24.9 WAR) and at the plate (30.3 WAR). Verlander will start Opening Day on Thursday, March 29 (3:30 PM ET, ESPN) against the Texas Rangers, with reigning American League MVP Jose Altuve (.957 OPS) at second base and World Series MVP George Springer (.889 OPS) in center field.
 

Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB Odds: +550

After spending most of the 2017 season in first place, the Dodgers (104-58) started running out of steam during the second half, but they rallied in the playoffs and nearly won it all before falling to Houston in seven dramatic games. Then PBO Andrew Friedman cleaned house during the offseason, dumping underperforming veterans like 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.642 OPS) and 2B Chase Utley (.729 OPS) from the largest payroll in the majors.

Friedman and the Dodgers have used that money wisely. They’ve won the National League West each of the last five seasons, and they’re –260 favorites on the MLB odds board to do it again in 2018. Losing SP Yu Darvish (1.16 WHIP) to free agency was a blow, but Darvish was a late-season pick-up for LA, and they can always afford to bring in similar talent at this year’s deadline.
 

New York Yankees
MLB Odds: +600

It’s not always easy to make money betting on the Yankees. But there was a small window in late 2016 and early 2017, after GM Brian Cashman finally pulled the plug on veterans like Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, handing the keys of the franchise over to rising stars like RF Aaron Judge (1.049 OPS) and catcher Gary Sanchez (.876 OPS). The “Baby Bombers” were one of last year’s breakthrough teams, but by the time the regular season was over, they were back in the red at 91-71.

The Yankees aren’t resting on their laurels. They pulled off the biggest move of the offseason, trading 2B Starlin Castro (.792 OPS) and prospects to the Miami Marlins in exchange for reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton (1.007 OPS), who will take over as designated hitter while Judge remains in right field. However, Ronald Torreyes (.689 OPS) is being asked to plug the hole at second base – is he ready for the task? Judge could be in for some painful regression after posting a .357 BABIP last year.
 

Cleveland Indians
MLB Odds: +650

The Tribe (102-60) were a hot item on the MLB betting lines in 2017. They were also +250 favorites to win the World Series heading into the postseason, but they couldn’t get past the Yankees in the AL Division Series. Ultimately, Cleveland finished fifth out of these five teams at 48.7 WAR, and they’re heading for a downgrade after losing 1B Carlos Santana (.818 OPS) and relievers Bryan Shaw (1.21 WHIP) and Joe Smith (1.04 WHIP) to free agency – with Smith joining the Astros on a two-year deal.

PBO Chris Antonetti had some work to do this offseason to get this team over the hump. Mission accomplished? The addition of All-Star 1B Yonder Alonso (.866 OPS) could help, unless last year was a fluke – Alonso hit just eight of his career-high 28 home runs during the second half, although getting traded to the Seattle Mariners and playing at Safeco Field (0.925 park factor for home runs) may have had something to do with it. Alonso won’t find Jacobs Field (0.974 park factor) much more welcoming.
 

Chicago Cubs
MLB Odds: +750

Everything went south for the Cubs (92-70) after they won the 2016 World Series. But here they are back in the top tier of contenders, with PBO Theo Epstein once again expected to sprinkle his Moneyball dust over renovated Wrigley Field. Improving the Cubs’ pitching staff was a top priority; Darvish was signed to a big six-year, $126-million contract, while Jake Arrieta (1.22 WHIP) was allowed to walk. Epstein also raided the Dodgers for reliever Brandon Morrow (0.92 WHIP), and signed reliever Steve Cishek (0.90 WHIP) to further shore up their shaky bullpen.

Like all the other teams on this list, the Cubs are favored over the field to win their division. The MLB futures market has Chicago pegged at –245 to win the NL Central for the third straight season, and with their talent level, their payroll and their weakened opposition, the Cubs will almost certainly make it four in a row. But this is a team that finished with a plus-127 run differential last year, light years behind Cleveland (plus-254), New York (plus-198) and Houston (plus-196). Will they have to wait another 100 years to win the World Series again?

 

*Odds as of March 16, 2018