In a typical baseball season, making futures bets means there are always a number of variables to take into consideration. Many bettors prefer to wait until the early part of the season plays out or after the trade deadline before making a futures bet, even if it means they are getting their teams at compromised odds.
With the unique rules in place for the upcoming MLB season, it is fair to say bettors have more variables than ever to sift through for their futures bets. COVID-19 continues to be a problem in our society and has the potential to throw a lot of curveballs (no pun intended) in an already shortened season. On the other hand, bettors may feel more comfortable with less games to sift through.
For those unfamiliar with this season’s format, all teams will play 60 games. 40 of those games will come against divisional opponents, while the remaining 20 are against crossover divisions. Thus, the only interleague games will be between the two leagues’ East, Central, and West divisions.
With the backdrop set, we take a look at the best bet to win the National League pennant. And you can find full consensus odds to win the NL Championship here.
Odds to Win the 2020 National League Pennant (odds courtesy of BetMGM)
|Los Angeles Dodgers +145||Atlanta Braves +700||Washington Nationals +1000|
|Chicago Cubs +1200||Cincinnati Reds +1200||New York Mets +1200|
|Philadelphia Phillies +1200||St. Louis Cardinals +1200||Milwaukee Brewers +2000|
|Arizona Diamondbacks +2500||San Diego Padres +2500||Pittsburgh Pirates +8000|
|San Francisco Giants +8000||Colorado Rockies +10000||Miami Marlins +25000|
The Los Angeles Dodgers have every reason to be overwhelming favorites to win the NL pennant in 2020. The Dodgers have won 90+ games and subsequently made the playoffs each of the last seven years. They have arguably the easiest path to the playoffs, as the NL West division does not appear as balanced and loaded as the NL East and NL Central. In addition, the rich got richer as former MVP Mookie Betts will be inserted at the top of an already stacked lineup that led the National League in runs scored and home runs last year.
However, the argument can be made that no team deserves to be such an overwhelming favorite in such an unusual season. At any given time, a team’s star player can come down with COVID-19 and miss much of the regular season. Or, more and more players may opt-out of playing this season altogether.
The Dodgers have already been hit hard by the news of players opting out. Newly acquired David Price was going to be relied on for his postseason experience. He was to be slotted seamlessly at the top of a rotation that also featured aces Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler but instead is sitting the season out due to concerns about the pandemic.
Los Angeles certainly has the pitching depth to overcome the absence of Price. They will turn to Julio Urias, Alex Wood and Dustin May to round out their rotation. If any of these pitchers were to go down, the Dodgers also have Ross Stripling and Jimmy Nelson who have starting experience.
If this season were to be played under “normal” circumstances, the Dodgers talent would certainly see them rise to the top over 162 games. However, with so much uncertainty entering 2020 their odds are too short even though they are the league’s best team on paper.
How About the Atlanta Braves?
I so desperately want to pick the Atlanta Braves. Though the NL East will be competitive, they have enough talent on their roster to edge out the Nationals, Mets, and Phillies. In a condensed season with 60 games and just six off days mixed in, the advantage goes to younger teams.
The Braves are loaded with young talent, as players like Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies should have no problem playing every day. In addition, their starting pitching rivals that of the Dodgers and Atlanta may even have the edge in the bullpen. The Braves have five pitchers with experience closing games. This is a real advantage considering how teams may utilize their bullpens more in a shorter season.
However, I cannot bring myself to pick Atlanta because of how hard the pandemic has hit them already. Freddie Freeman tested positive for the virus recently, and was not bashful about describing how much it affected him. In part because of his testimony, veteran Nick Markakis already chose to opt-out of playing in 2020.
It will be a while before Freeman can rejoin the team and fully engage in full baseball activities. Freeman is so important to what the Braves do offensively that the risk of him not being 100% for the entire season is too daunting. In addition, the more he talks to his teammates about how the coronavirus affected him, the more players may follow Markakis out the door eventually.
The Braves are deserving of being the second-favorite but come with too many risks for my liking.
If Not the Dodgers or Braves, then Who?
Everyone remembers the Washington Nationals riding their strong rotation to last year’s World Series. But raise your hand if you remember that they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS to get there.
Every year it seems the Cardinals fly under-the-radar. In a year dominated by juiced balls and the home run, the Cardinals played an effective means of “small ball” to find success last year. The Cardinals have a roster filled with consummate professionals and veteran leaders. Isn’t that exactly the thing you need to get through an unusual and difficult season?
The Cardinals are a team that is helped by the universal DH rule, as 34-year old Matt Carpenter is likely to assume that role most days. That paves the way for more playing time for Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman at second and third base respectively.
St. Louis has one of the deepest rotations in the National League, headlined by 2019 breakout star Jack Flaherty. The Cardinals were fifth in the MLB and second in the National League with a 3.82 team ERA last year. They allowed the third-least home runs per nine innings which is a real luxury in the new “launch angle” era. Their bullpen is lights out as well, as their 3.88 bullpen ERA was the league’s sixth-best last year.
More important than any of these stats, the Cardinals appear unscathed by COVID-19 at the moment. St. Louis had two players test positive, but have had no impact players opt out yet.
The St. Louis Cardinals franchise is always one that can be trusted to do things the right way. Their players should be cautious enough to avoid being hit hard by COVID-19, thus giving them an advantage in winning what amounts to a “war of attrition.”
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