Baseball is almost here, meaning that it's time to check out a few MLB Pennant Futures. Who are the best bets, based on odds, currently in the sportsbook? Keep reading to find that out although before reading, we probably should ponder why the Toronto Blue Jays, yes that team from Canada with the cool uniforms, is such a prohibitive favorite.
Toronto sits in the sportsbook at +325. The Jays are favored over both the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers at +350. It takes a lot of money, or thought in the case of odds makers, to move a team from what probably should have been a +1500 underdog to a +325 favorite.
But the move on the Blue Jays makes sense…at least on paper. Toronto added R.A. Dickey, the 2012 Cy Young winning knuckleballer who went 20 and 6 last season, Josh Johnson, who was the Miami Marlins ace, and Mark Buehrle who can shut batters down and doesn't walk a lot of guys. So, the Blue Jays look tough but, there's always a but, Dickey is 38 and knuckleballers can get cold after a hot season, Johnson had a 2.96 ERA at home in Miami but a close to 5.00 ERA on the road, and Buehrle might simply not be as magnificent as he used to. Buehrle is 33.
Trying to buy a pennant doesn't always work. Just check what's happened to the Philadelphia Phillies to get a good idea of that, and it sort of feels like Toronto is trying to buy the pennant. I'll pass at +325 and I suggest that you do the same.
On to a quick look at the Top 3 picks in the MLB Pennant Futures for both the American League and National League!
Top Choice: Oakland Athletics +1200
The A's were supposed to lose 100 games last season. Instead, they ended up winning 94 and taking home the AL West over both the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers. The starting rotation will be just fine even with Bartolo Colon missing the first 5 games of the season due to a 50 game suspension. Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are all viable starters while Tom Milone could be terrific if he can find a way to get his WHIP to under 1.27.
The batting lineup is strong. Yoenis Cespedes has a shot at the league MVP if he stays healthy. He batted .292 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs last season. Josh Reddick hit 32 home runs and Oakland adds Hiroyuki Nakajima, who batted .311 with the Saitama Seibu Lions in Japan. At +1200 overlaid Baseball betting odds, Oakland is without a doubt the pick in the American League.
Second Choice: Los Angeles Angels +350
This is the season where the Angels could really shine. Albert Pujols by now should have a bead on most of the pitchers in the American League. Expect Pujols to post mind blowing numbers this season. Yes, even better than the .285 average, 30 home runs and 105 RBIs that he posted in 2012.
Josh Hamilton, whom the Angels signed away from AL West rival Texas, might love Los Angeles for the simple fact that he won't be the biggest star, by a long shot, in the city. Kobe and the Lakers run Los Angeles. Then, there are the Dodgers and, contrary to popular opinion, Anaheim is practically a nation away from Los Angeles. Heck, Pasadena and Glendale are a nation away from Hollywood La-La Land. The move to big, bad Los Angeles might be exactly what Hamilton needs.
We can't forget about Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. Trout is a future Hall-of-Famer if he stays healthy and Trumbo is a monster at the plate. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are two legitimate aces, but it's Tommy Hanson who could make or break this squad. Hanson, while in the National League, went 10 and 1 during June and July last season.
Third Choice: Detroit Tigers +350
The starting rotation, anchored by the brilliant Justin Verlander, will be tough. It's the bullpen where the Tigers need to improve. If the bullpen can set up 22-year-old rookie closer Bruce Rondon, then the Tigers should be better, if that's possible, then they were in 2012 when they made it all the way to the World Series.
The batting lineup should be as strong as ever. So, it really comes down to setting up Rondon for the game winning close. If they can do that, Detroit could find themselves with their second straight MLB Pennant.
Top Choice: Washington Nationals +375
So far, no word yet on limiting Stephen Strasburg's innings this
season. The fantastic pitcher didn't get a chance to throw in
the National League Playoffs in 2012 because Washington management
wanted to protect their star.
No matter what happens to Strasburg, the Nationals got a lot tougher to deal with in the NL after they signed Dan Haren, who when healthy is an ace, to the starting rotation and Rafael Soriano, who racked up 42 saves in the American League last season, to be their closer. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman remain in the starting rotation. Pitching will not be an issue for the Nationals.
Washington added .283 average batter Denard Span to an already daunting lineup and manager Davey Johnson is as good as it gets. These guys are tops again.
Second Choice: Los Angeles Dodgers +375
Believe it or not, Josh Beckett's ERA with the Dodgers was a decent 2.93. That makes him a solid #3 in the starting rotation behind Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw, who's only 24 years old, and Zack Greinke, who could return to that amazing 2009 season. The Dodgers have two legitimate closers in Kelsey Jansen and Brandon League. Right now, League is the starting closer, but Jansen's numbers from 2012, 2.35 ERA, 25 saves, 99 strikeouts and a .85 WHIP, could make him the guy as soon as late May or early June.
Matt Kemp lost 51 of 162 games in 2012. He still managed to post a .303 average, hit 23 home runs, and bat in 69 runs. That's sort of incredible. Kemp is surrounded by top notch guys like Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez. If Gonzo starts hitting the way that he can and Kemp stays healthy throughout the season, manager Don Mattingly could be staring at a National League Pennant come September.
Third Choice: San Francisco Giants +650
The champs still have the best starting rotation in baseball with Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito. The bullpen is fantastic and Sergio Romo is a ridiculous 29 year old closer. With pitchers like that, the Giants can average less than 4 runs per game, which is what they normally do each season, and still manage to win a pennant and World Series.
They aren't offering as good of odds to win the National League as they did at the beginning of last season, but they're still an overlay at +650. It's tough to repeat, but nobody has as good of a pitching staff as the G-Men.