Injuries can always change the landscape of a pennant race, but before the start of the season is a good time to dive into betting odds. The American League seems like a two-horse race (with possible dark horses in Minnesota and Tampa Bay.
Odds to win the ALCS
White Sox +1600
Red Sox +1900
New York Yankees (+175)
The reason the Yankees are the favorites is simple. They have the best team on paper and are better than last year’s ALCS losing team because of the addition of Gerrit Cole. That move also simultaneously made the Astros worse, which gives the nod to the Yankees.
But as likely as New York is to win, they may not be the best play at +175. That’s not a lot of return on this kind of futures bet.
Houston Astros (+300)
Even in losing Cole the Astros still have great starting pitching at the top with both Justin Verlander and Zack Grienke. But Verlander is now 37 and just threw a combined 257 innings in the regular and postseason. Grienke is 36 and threw for more than 220 innings last year.
If those two can still hold up, and this lineup can perform under the glare of the sign-stealing scandal, the Astros are a cinch to win the A.L. West and compete with the Yankees. But if Father Time shows up, or if the controversy proves to be too much a distraction, this team becomes a very bad bet.
Minnesota Twins (+900)
Out of nowhere the Twins saw their fortunes improve by 23 games last season. They are without a doubt the class of a pretty mediocre to bad A.L. Central. But they are not in New York’s class, as we saw in last season’s playoff sweep that ended Minnesota’s run.
This team is good. This team is fun. But to get to the mountain top they have to get past the Yankees – a team they are just 2-16 against all-time in the playoffs.
Don’t be swayed by the +900. The Twins are not a good bet.
Tampa Bay Rays (+1000)
This team was a game away from beating the Astros in the playoffs last year, if not for the play of Gerrit Cole. They still have to face him – and now in their own division – but they have a better team than they did a year ago.
They are only going to get to the postseason as a wildcard team, but they have the top line starting pitching that can be successful in October. Last year’s World Series champion began as a wildcard. Why not the Rays this year? At +1000 it’s definitely worth a look.
Oakland Athletics (+1300)
No one wins 97 games a season more quietly than the A’s. And if they can figure out a way to get past the wildcard game, they could do some damage.
Oakland will once again have an elite starting rotation, and if given a chance in a short playoff series it could be one of the surprises of 2020. At +1300 for the A.L. pennant, there is definite value in the A’s.