Before the season began, we broke down our best bets to win each American League division. Less than two months later, the odds have already significantly changed for some teams after blistering starts or surprising cold spells.
Here are our favorite values after the first few dozen games:
|New York Yankees||-120|
|Boston Red Sox||+300|
|Toronto Blue Jays||+550|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+600|
I was intrigued by the Red Sox to win this division at 30-1, but a strong start from their talented lineup slashed that price to 3-1, despite Boston sitting just three games ahead of the Yankees and Rays in the standings.
Tyler Glasnow is a star headlining a rotating cast of filthy arms, but the Rays’ bats rank dead last in expected batting average (.220) and lead the league in whiff rate (30.6%), which are indicators that the offense may not improve significantly. And though I liked the Blue Jays entering the year at a shorter price, injuries have hampered an already uncertain pitching staff.
Boston’s lineup has posted the best numbers in the bigs, but the Yankees’ isn’t far behind, and New York’s stellar bullpen has helped take the pressure off non-Gerrit Cole starters. When the Bronx Bombers eventually retake the lead in the division, this short price will likely look silly in hindsight.
Value: Yankees (-120)
|Chicago White Sox||-125|
|Kansas City Royals||+500|
For a couple of weeks, it looked like the weight of expectations might hinder the White Sox, who got off to a 6-8 start. They then won 13 of their next 18 games, discovered a handful of unlikely stars, and stole the early divisional lead from the rival Indians.
As a result, Chicago leads all AL teams with a 58.5% chance of winning its division, according to Fangraphs, which translates to roughly -140 odds. If you believe in the early breakouts of Yermin Mercedes, Carlos Rodon, and Dylan Cease, that number may be even higher, even with Luis Robert‘s recent injury.
Cleveland’s rotation still has the highest upside, but its lineup has been no-hit twice and can’t find consistent production outside of Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes. The Twins are an absolute mess amid a 12-20 start, and the Royals have already wilted after a stunning run to open the year. Stick with the White Sox at an even better price than before the season.
Value: White Sox (-125)
|Los Angeles Angels||+700|
It’s been a wild ride to get there, but the Athletics sit atop the division with a 2.5-game lead over the Astros and Mariners. Still, advanced stats suggest Oakland’s early division lead isn’t built to last.
Houston’s hitters have lived up to expectations thus far, ranking in the top two in expected batting average (.272) and xwOBA (.339) behind a league-low 19% strikeout rate and strong line-drive rate (25.3%). The issue has been on the mound, where a poor ground-ball rate and lack of aggression early in counts has plagued the Astros’ rotation.
Those issues can be corrected, unlike the Athletics’ lack of star power, the Angels‘ injury woes and lack of depth, and the Mariners’ general dearth of MLB talent. Seattle may be worth a shot if it calls up a majority of its top prospects, but Houston is still the safest bet to win its fourth division title in five years.
Pick: Astros +120
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He’s an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He’s also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.