On the previous pages, you read about how I don’t really like the pennant futures market. There are a lot of things to talk about with the NL Pennant futures market that I think are really interesting. If you can pinpoint the right team to bet on, I think you can definitely make some money with these options this year.
To recap if you didn’t read the AL Pennant write-up first, World Series, division futures, and season win totals feel more like full-season investments to me. Over 162 games, a lot of what is supposed to happen will transpire. You can hedge a World Series future right away if you pick a playoff team. The margin for hedging is a lot smaller with pennant futures.
The MLB Playoffs have had a lot less variance in recent years than they had been having. You’ll still get some, but usually the better team holds up and we’ve certainly seen the best team win the World Series the last few years.
In order to have profit opportunities with the pennant futures market, you either need a long shot or have the winner pegged. I’m not going into the Tournament of Variance holding Dodgers +175, even if the Dodgers are the likeliest team to not only win the National League, but win the World Series as well.
After we take a look at the odds, we’ll also talk about why I’m not picking any of the top four teams.
2021 NL Pennant Futures
So, we have the Dodgers at +175, the Padres at +390, the Braves at +500, and the Mets at +525. What are we missing? The NL Central! Whichever team emerges from that season-long slumber party and pillow fight will automatically get into a best-of-five series. That team will be an underdog, but will also get to avoid the one-game playoff for the Wild Card.
My best guess is that two of those four teams with the shortest prices will play each other in the Wild Card Game. Your futures bet might hinge on Yu Darvish vs. Max Fried, Jacob deGrom vs. Trevor Bauer, or some similar matchup. Maybe the frontline starters aren’t even available for the Wild Card Game and the Mets need to start Taijuan Walker or Marcus Stroman. Maybe the Padres are down a couple starters due to injury and Adrian Morejon gets the first crack. Or the Dodgers have to send Dustin May.
Based on the division odds and the win totals, the most likely Wild Card matchup is Padres vs. Mets. Right away, a +390 or a +525 is gone. The Dodgers would be a big favorite over anybody in the Wild Card Game, but what if the Padres win the West and the Dodgers are forced into this game.
In a one-game sample, anything can happen. Back in the 2019 season, 18 favorites lost at -300 or higher out of 104 games. They also won 86 games, but they lost 18 and that is what matters in a one-game sample.
Furthermore, the winner of the Wild Card Game probably runs into the Dodgers or Padres. Whichever team didn’t win the West will probably have the best record in the West based on how everything is shaking out. Congratulations on surviving the Wild Card Game!
What that means from a futures standpoint is that you may have a bet amount held for six months and it comes down to one game as to whether or not you are live deeper into the playoffs.
NL Central Division
Or you can try and pick the winner of the NL Central and give yourself at least three games and maybe even five for something good to happen. In terms of World Series or division futures markets, I’m not super keen on the Cardinals, but they are +1050 as the likeliest winner of the NL Central. They’ll avoid the Dodgers, Padres, or the team with the best record in the NLDS. They’ll have a chance.
This is how you need to think about pennant futures in my opinion. With World Series markets, I’m just looking to get a team to the dance. With the pennant markets, it isn’t enough to get to the dance. You need to have a chance to take somebody home after the dance, if you catch my drift.
With that in mind, pick your favorite NL Central team and that is the team that has the most value in the pennant futures market. At least they’ll get there with a reasonable price for hedging opportunities.
Tracking the Odds to Win the National League Pennant
On the National League side, there might as well be a Yes/No prop. Will the Dodgers or the Padres win the National League? Yes or no. The Dodgers are priced at just +175, as they are likely to win the NL West again and could very well be on a crash course to see the Padres in the NLCS with a trip to the World Series on the line.
The Padres are +385 with a lot of big splashes during the winter, including the additions of Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. Not to be outdone, the Dodgers signed Trevor Bauer in early February. It is literally and figuratively an arms race in the NL West this season and those two teams are deserving favorites on the betting board.
There is another really interesting race in the NL East. The reigning two-time champion Atlanta Braves haven’t done much this offseason. The New York Mets have been all over the news. The Mets lost GM Jared Porter in very public fashion after it came to light that he behaved inappropriately with a female reporter. That was on the heels of a blockbuster trade to acquire Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. That deal took the Mets down from +900 to +525.
The Braves are still getting a lot of respect in the futures market in spite of a quiet offseason. They added Charlie Morton, but mostly kept the rest of the team in tact. You could argue that they simply didn’t need to do a whole lot to stay right where they’ve been. They are +450 in the marketplace.
The National League Central could be won by a team that wins 85 games. The St. Louis Cardinals are most likely to at least do that with their acquisition of Nolan Arenado. They have the shortest NL Pennant odds in the division at +1000, but you can see the disrespect for the division with that 10/1 price.
You can also see how top-heavy the National League looks to be this season.