A 162-game MLB season is certainly a marathon and not a sprint.
After all, there’s one month down and five to go with plenty of those dog days ahead. That said, some teams have surged out of the gate unexpectedly, some expected contenders have stumbled out of that same gate and some teams are you know, who we though they were.
With that in mind, let’s check out some World Series odds you should buy or sell after the first month of the 2021 MLB season.
*Odds courtesy of Bovada
Milwaukee Brewers (+2000)
The Brewers were just short of the +2000 mark entering the 2021 season, and despite starting the season 17-12 in a share of first place with the St. Louis Cardinals, they’ve seen their World Series odds lengthen a hair.
Milwaukee has mostly all the tools you need to win a World Series: Excellent bullpen, a couple elite starters, fantastic defense.
As far as the bullpen goes, they’ve been a little slow out of the gate. The Brewers sit 20th with a 4.35 bullpen ERA on the season, but also 28th with a 4.95 FIP. Those numbers certainly are not elite, however closer Josh Hader has been flat-out dominant with a 0.84 ERA and 16.03 K/9 on the young season and while Devin Williams is working out of the kinks as a sophomore with walks and home runs an issue, he’s still punching out 12.66 batters per nine innings, ranks in the 92nd percentile in terms of whiff rate and 84th percentile in hard-hit rate against. I suggest he’ll be fine.
As for the starters, few have messed with the Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff combination. Both right-handers are the proud owners of sub-2.00 ERAs through a combined 11 starts while Burnes has yet to walk a single batter while striking out more than 40 in 29.1 innings of work.
Heck, even youngster Freddy Peralta has gotten involved as he has spun a 2.42 ERA/3.11 FIP with a 13.50 K/9 himself through 26 innings himself. Add in thee reliable 3.65 ERA/4.37 FIP from Adrian Houser and the brewers quietly have themselves a real nice rotation, especially at the top. I mean, who is going to want to face Burnes and Woodruff to start a best three-of-five divisional-round series?
As for the glove work, only the Nationals sport a superior Defensive Runs Saved numbers than the Brewers’ +16. Milwaukee also ranks fifth in terms of Ultimate Zone Rating, as per FanGraphs. With Lorenzo Cain returning after a 2020 opt out, Jackie Bradley Jr. added to the outfield and Kolten Wong handling second-base duties, you knew the defense was going to be good.
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) April 30, 2021
In fact, while Cain is at zero DRS so far this season, Wong is second on the team with a +2 mark and Bradley is at +1. The team’s leader is no other than catcher Omar Narvaez at +4, good for the top mark among MLB catchers and fifth-best in all of baseball.
They’ll need to get the sticks going. The Crew ranks 22nd with a .298 wOBA on the season. They missed Christian Yelich for about half the season so far as well as Cain who also spent time on the IL. The team demoted the scuffling Keston Hiura to the alternate training site in a corresponding move, but among regulars, only Narvaez, Wong, Yelich and Luis Urias are above league average in terms of their wRC+ figures being over 100.
Nonetheless, they’re going to give this NL Central title a real good run so hop on board before the odds shrink.
Boston Red Sox (+1600)
The Red Sox have shocked the baseball world en route to a 17-12 start out of the gate themselves. Their +20 run differential is the fourth-best mark in the American League as their expected record of 17-12 tells us they deserve every bit of their fate to this point.
The raked at the dish despite a down 2020 season, so it’s not a huge surprise that they rank third with a .330 wOBA on the season after they finished with a .333 mark a season ago, ninth-best in baseball. It was pitching that sank them, and everyone expected that to be the case again this season without much in terms of obvious, impactful reinforcements this winter.
Well, the Red Sox rank 12th with a 3.79 pitching staff as a whole, but also third with a 3.28 FIP. That’s a 3.98 ERA/3.30 FIP from their starters and 3.51 ERA/3.24 FIP from the bullpen. So far, they have silenced the pitching detractors in a big way across the one-month sample.
However, this isn’t going to last.
I mean, Eduardo Rodriguez’s velocity is all over the map as the team’s ace. Garrett Richards has been good but has serious durability issues given his lengthy injury history, Martin Perez is a career 4.71 ERA pitcher (where he is this season), Nick Pivetta’s 5.24 SIERA is towering over his 2.81 ERA as he’s danced around a brutal 5.96 ERA and Chris Sale isn’t back for a while.
Bullpens can be the most volatile aspect of a roster, so I’m not going to bash their heads in here. They’ve had the likes of Matt Barnes, Garrett Whitlock, Matt Andriese and Phillips Valdez step up in a big way, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen an unheralded group succeed.
Oh, and the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays remain in the AL East. It’s been a sleepy start for those three clubs, but despite all that Boston has done so well so far, they hold a 1.5 game lead over the Jays, a 2.5 mark over the Yankees and a 3.0 game lead over the Rays for AL East supremacy. There’s a pair of Wild Card spots to be had, but there’s also the White Sox, Royals (wow), Indians, A’s, Angels and Astros that will have a say in that fight.
The starting pitching is not going to be good enough to get the Red Sox into the dance not to mention the World Series. At this price, I can’t see any value in the Sox despite a red-hot month of April following an opening-series sweep at the hands of the Orioles.
Philadelphia Phillies (+5000)
The NL East features four likely contenders this season in the Braves, Mets, Phillies and Nationals. The NL East was the deepest division in the season circuit. Four monsters. Well, here’s how things have stacked up so far in the early going:
- Nationals (12-12, -14 RD)
- Phillies (14-15, -16 RD)
- Mets (11-12, -13 RD)
- Braves (12-16, -16 RD)
- Marlins (11-16, +4 RD)
Going by expected records based on those run differentials, it should be the Marlins in first at 14-13 on the season. The division everyone thought was perhaps the best in baseball is perhaps the worst in the early going. In other words, it would appear this puppy is up for grabs as we sit here in early May.
As for the Phillies, they’re getting MVP work out of Bryce Harper, who’s now the second-favorite to win his second such award at +600. Rhys Hoskins is mashing, as is J.T Realmuto. It hasn’t been a total team effort as the top four have done plenty of heavy lifting, but the bottom of the lineup has struggled as the Phillies sit with a .298 wOBA mark that’s tied with the aforementioned Brewers for 22nd in the league.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) May 3, 2021
They’re also getting yeoman’s work from their rotation, at least from Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin at the top as those three sport ERA figures between 3.11 and 3.49 with the latter two sporting identical 3.49 marks. The bullpen came out of the gate hot, but has since resembled last year’s group that ranked dead last in the league.
The point is this: whether you believe the Braves, Mets or Nationals are better, the Phillies’ 2021 World Series odds have actually lengthened from about +3200 to +5000 in a months’s span, and they’re in second place! No one in the division has a bullpen anyway, and while the Mets’ rotation is dominating behind Jacob deGrom and to a less-electric extent, Marcus Stroman, the Nationals three-headed monster looks more like David than Goliath so far this season.
They haven’t resembled a World Series contender, but they’re certainly a playoff contender at this point, one that could shock their way to a postseason run behind some elite bats and quality starting pitching at the top.
Chicago White Sox (+1100)
Don’t get me wrong, the White Sox are a very good club. They have the bats and pitching to win it all, I simply don’t like the price given how things are shaping up so far for this team.
With the news of Luis Robert’s torn hip flexor that will keep him out of the lineup for about four months, that’s now two young superstars out long-term as he joins Eloy Jimenez who tore a chest muscle leaping at the fence to make a catch in spring training. Fellow outfielder Adam Engel is also on the IL with a hamstring issue that doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
So, they’ll march forward with some sort of combination of Adam Eaton, Billy Hamilton, Leury Garcia and Andrew Vaughn in the outfield. The slight problem there is none of the four are hitting particularly well at all, and Vaughn is a first baseman by trade, blocked by the scuffling Jose Abreu at said position and needed in left given the gaping whole there left by Jimenez’s absence.
Robert was leading the club with a 1.1 fWAR before getting hurt. Next up is Yermin Mercedes at 1.0 thanks to a bloated .433 BABIP (identical to Robert’s). It’s a great story, but regression is going to hit hard.
Now, there’s a wealth of talent remaining. Abreu will get straightened out, Tim Anderson is being Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada owns a 127 wRC+ at the dish and is tied with Mercedes with a 1.0 fWAR. The Sox actually rank first in baseball with a 6.1 fWAR from their offense, but also sit with the highest BABIP at .322 and rank 25th with a .136 ISO.
The pitching is good. Lucas Giolito has taken his lumps as a sexy pre-season Cy Young pick, but he’ll be fine and Lance Lynn has been very good despite spending a 10-day trip on the IL. The White Sox rotation owns a fifth-ranked 3.13 ERA and the bullpen should be of no concern despite a 23rd-ranked 4.41 ERA at the moment. They also sport a 10th-ranked 3.81 FIP and fifth-ranked 3.65 xFIP with the best closer in the game over the last two seasons in tow along with a cast of fire-balling arms that have them tied for second with a 95 mph average fastball velocity.
Still, I’m not on board with the man running the show either in the form of Hall of Famer Tony La Russa. I’m not into stealing any journalist’s work, so check out what ESPN’s Jeff Passan had to say today about La Russa’s rocky start to his (second) White Sox tenure (point No. 8).
I don’t envision La Russa marching his troops to a World Series title, and given the way the season has gone so far in Chicago from multiple angles, I’m not on board at the short price of +1100 here.