The Midsummer Classic has been played, meaning we are through the 2019 MLB season’s halfway point. This creates a fitting opportunity to reevaluate betting futures, and the following sections will scrutinize respective odds to win the National League pennant. I’ll reveal the complete lines attached to each team while outlining favorites, challengers, and ultimately pinpointing the best wagering opportunities.
Here are the odds assigned to each team hoping to win the National League:
Los Angeles Dodgers +110
Atlanta Braves +300
Chicago Cubs +900
Philadelphia Phillies +1200
Milwaukee Brewers +1200
Washington Nationals +1200
St. Louis Cardinals +2000
Colorado Rockies +2500
Cincinnati Reds +3500
Pittsburgh Pirates +4500
San Diego Padres +4500
Arizona Diamondbacks +5000
New York Mets +12500
San Francisco Giants +75000
Miami Marlins +200000
What’s that? No love for the Marlins?!? In all seriousness, I’m looking to bet the top six teams on this list, as those are the clubs with a legitimate chance to win the NL. These odds are subject to change (sometimes dramatically) on any given day. That especially holds true entering the trade-heavy portion of the season.
It’s pretty much the Dodgers against the field as far as these odds are concerned. The NL representative from Los Angeles objectively profile as the best team in baseball, currently sporting the best record at 60-32 with a .652 winning percentage.
Health is the primary concern when it comes to the Dodgers, as there aren’t any other noticeable blemishes with this team. Their offense ranks first in WAR and third in wRC+. Their starting rotation ranks second in both xFIP (3.59) and ERA (3.06). The Dodgers also carry a top-10 bullpen in terms of ERA (4.05), SIERA (3.95), and WHIP (1.17). All of those rankings are among every major league team, not just the National League.
That’s basically a long-winded way of saying this is a complete team that can beat you in every facet of the game. However, I believe the near even odds at +110 accounts for that, and they may be overpriced considering the unpredictability that comes with the playoffs.
Okay, so who are the legitimate candidates to ruin the Dodgers’ bid for their third straight pennant? I’m glad you asked!
The Atlanta Braves are very tempting at +300. According to FanGraphs, they have a 72.3% chance of winning the NL East while holding a 96.6% probability of making the playoffs in some capacity. The Washington Nationals have picked up steam lately, but Atlanta still holds a six-game lead at the All-Star break.
What do we make of the NL Central? Entering the second half, the Cubs are favored to take the division with a 59.4% probability (according to FanGraphs) despite the Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals all checking in within three games. Of that group, the Cubs and Brewers have the most staying power, but that is baked into their current odds.
The Dodgers’ dominance has turned the rest of the NL West into long shots. Teams like Arizona, Colorado, and San Diego will need to somehow qualify for the wild card, win that game, and then extend an improbable run to the World Series. Making things even more difficult to predict, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those teams sold impact players at the trade deadline, further dampening their 2019 outlook.
The Best Value
As mentioned earlier, I’m not recommending the Dodgers with short odds. Sure, Los Angeles has all the pieces to win their third straight pennant, but there’s way too much unpredictability in the MLB playoffs to lay those odds.
So who finds themselves in a position to capitalize on that uncertainty?
I’m towards the Atlanta Braves (+300) and Milwaukee Brewers (+1200) as my favorite value picks to win the National League.
The Braves feed off their rationale listed earlier while currently having a stranglehold on the NL East. Even though this metric is fleeting at times, it’s comforting to see that Atlanta has one of the easiest remaining regular-season schedules (.497 opponent win %). On top of that, the “Baby Braves” are finally hitting their stride, and the addition of Dallas Keuchel could pay dividends in the postseason.
We aren’t even sure if the Brewers will make the playoffs, but that’s factored into these long odds. Although the NL Central is extremely competitive, Milwaukee certainly has the talent to make a second-half run extending into the postseason. The Brewers lost 15 of 23 games heading into the All-Star break, creating an interesting buy-low opportunity. Savvy bettors will look to take advantage.