All types of futures odds are listed and discussed in the MLB Betting Guide, but I have to be honest, forthright, and upfront that pennant futures are not my favorite market. With division futures, you get a sample size of 162 games and what is supposed to happen or what is likely to happen generally does happen. With the World Series market, the odds are bigger and there are more opportunities to hedge.
Some might wonder why I wouldn’t just take something like Astros +2500 for the World Series and then double down on the Astros to win the AL Pennant at +1000. I don’t see the value or equity in doubling down with something like that.
Why not take the AL Pennant instead of the World Series? Because 25/1 is the type of price that yields a lot more flexibility than 10/1. Depending on a series price for the ALDS, I could start hedging a World Series ticket at 25/1 immediately. I couldn’t do that with 10/1 as easily.
In my mind, I look at a World Series future as a season-long investment. I look at a pennant future as a month-long investment in October. The MLB Playoffs have had a much lower degree of variance in recent seasons, as the best teams have mostly held up and advanced, but I boil a pennant future down into up to 12 or 13 games. A World Series, at least to me, feels like it encompasses the full regular season plus the duration of the playoffs.
With a World Series future, my goal is picking a team that will make the playoffs. With the pennant, my focus shifts from getting a team that makes the playoffs to getting a team that will win in the playoffs. With a smaller sample size of games in the playoffs and a higher-variance environment, I’m not looking to embrace a lot of that risk.
Hopefully that makes sense.
In any event, the pennant odds are very interesting. The Yankees lead the way, which is not interesting, but the White Sox, who just made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and the Twins, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2002, are the second and third choices.
2021 AL Pennant Futures
|New York Yankees||+275||+260|
|Chicago White Sox||+650||+380|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+575||+850|
|Toronto Blue Jays||+1700||+875|
|Los Angeles Angels||+2000||+2000|
|Boston Red Sox||+2200||+2300|
|Kansas City Royals||+5000||+5000|
AL Pennant Pick & Prediction
The White Sox are getting a ton of respect in all of the futures markets. Their potential is pretty clear, but it isn’t like there is that big of a gap between the White Sox and Twins and the Indians are not a doormat. I would shy away from the White Sox in all futures markets with how they are priced. I also won’t take the chalk Yankees, though they certainly should represent the AL.
Oakland A’s (+900) & Houston Astros (+1000)
There is one obvious direction to go in and that is the American League West. The Yankees are a heavy favorite to win the AL East and have the lowest odds to represent the Junior Circuit in the World Series. The White Sox and Twins will duke it out for AL Central supremacy. The Indians could make a run themselves.
In the AL West, though, you get the Oakland A’s at +900 and the Houston Astros at +1000. One of them is highly likely to win the division. That team gets to bypass the AL Wild Card Round. The loser between the Twins and White Sox likely has to go there and burn a starting pitcher in hopes of advancing to the best-of-five round against the team with the best record in the league.
The fact that the West winner gets a guaranteed five-game series has to make that your starting point. I do like Houston at 25/1 for the World Series and 10/1 is a fair price to bet on for the AL Pennant. I wouldn’t recommend doubling up. I’d bet one or the other and I think the World Series is the better option.
Otherwise, the Angels or the Indians at +2000 wouldn’t be the worst gambles in the world. If the A’s or Astros falter, the Angels, a team that has more upside than we’ve seen in recent seasons, would be the one to slide in there.
I would slightly prefer the Indians because games tighten up in the playoffs and pitching matters more. The Indians pitching staff is far stronger than what the Angels have to offer. I doubt the Indians have a top-five bullpen this year, but a top-10 group is a good baseline and they’ll have a top-five starting rotation again. If the offense is anything close to league average, they can make a push for the postseason and maybe even be live when they get there.
Given that the Rays are in the +350 range to win the division, I don’t see much equity in +850. The likelihood is that they’d finish behind the Yankees and then run into them if they survived the Wild Card Game.
A’s or Astros are the best looks here, followed by Indians and then Angels. Otherwise, I don’t think you are getting a ton of value. The Twins have to win a playoff series before I trust them in a market like this and the returns on the Yankees and White Sox just aren’t good enough.
Tracking the Odds to Win the American League Pennant
A changing of the guard could happen in the American League this season. The New York Yankees are regularly in playoff contention, but some new kids are on the block this season.
The Yankees have the shortest price at +260 and it has inched down a little bit throughout the offseason with the additions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, but fresh faces could also make an appearance for teams looking to end extended World Series appearance droughts.
The Chicago White Sox sit at +380 as the second favorite to win the AL and represent the Junior Circuit in the World Series. The White Sox haven’t made it to the World Series since winning it all in 2005. The White Sox actually just made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 last season in the 60-game sprint. They lost in the Wild Card Round to the Oakland Athletics.
The Minnesota Twins are priced as a legitimate contender, but they haven’t won a playoff series since 2002. The Twins have lost twice in the Wild Card Round and six times in the ALDS. In fact, the Twins haven’t won a single playoff game since 2004. It sure seems like a big ask for them to do it this season, even if the +750 price looks enticing.
Maybe it will be the Toronto Blue Jays, who are surging up the betting board at +875. George Springer has been added to a young and exciting offense. The Blue Jays lost in the ALCS in 2015 and 2016, so they were close, but came up just short. Those two playoff appearances were the first since winning back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993. Last year’s Blue Jays made a cameo appearance as a Wild Card, but bowed out without winning a postseason game. Toronto’s price has been about cut in half this winter.
The Houston Astros might be a sleeping giant going into the season at +900. They still have a great offense and will be looking for AL West revenge against the Oakland A’s, who are listed at +1000. The A’s actually beat the Astros for the division last season and then lost to them in the playoffs in a cruel twist of fate.
With the trade of Francisco Lindor, the Indians took a nosedive in the odds and are now priced well below the +1100 that they previously were. At +2000, the Indians would be considered a long shot to win the AL.