Many people put an asterisk on the World Series that the Los Angeles Dodgers won to end a drought that felt like it took an eternity to eradicate. The Dodgers spent and spent and spent, including the purchase of Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays, the team that that Dodgers would ultimately beat in six games.
The Dodgers won that World Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. That was their adopted home for the NLCS and the World Series. The Rays, meanwhile, tried to follow in the footsteps of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada during the NHL’s playoff bubble.
There are no asterisks for me from the 2020 MLB Playoffs. Not a single one. The playoffs were expanded to include six teams from each league and a Wild Card Round that was a best-of-three series. The players sacrificed a lot to make the 2020 season a reality and in a 60-game sprint, there was a playoff element to each and every game, let alone what happened when the postseason actually started.
As we look at the odds for the 2021 World Series, things look quite a bit different. Things are not different at the top, where the Dodgers are the favorite and the New York Yankees are the second favorite. The order was flipped going into last season in most places, but that was thought to be the most likely World Series matchup.
This season, the San Diego Padres, who were upwards of 50 or 60/1 going into the 2020 campaign, are the third favorite. The Chicago White Sox, who were a buzz team going into the season, are listed as the second-likeliest team from the AL to win the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Let’s take a look at the odds and then talk about some strategy.
2021 MLB World Series Odds – Updated 02/26/21
|Los Angeles Dodgers||+480||+350|
|New York Yankees||+525||+550|
|San Diego Padres||+1300||+800|
|Chicago White Sox||+1500||+850|
|New York Mets||+3300||+1000|
|St. Louis Cardinals||+3300||+2000|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+1200||+2000|
|Toronto Blue Jays||+4000||+2500|
|Los Angeles Angels||+4000||+4000|
|Boston Red Sox||+5000||+5000|
|San Francisco Giants||+7000||+7000|
|Kansas City Royals||+10000||+10000|
I don’t bet on the short prices for the World Series. Could any one of the six teams listed at 10/1 or lower win the World Series? Absolutely. And one of them probably will.
Baseball can be a fickle and funny game. Lately, we’ve seen the best teams conquer all in the postseason. I’ve been referring to the MLB Playoffs as the Tournament of Variance for a long time because anything can happen in small samples. The teams that maximize their opportunities with runners in scoring position are most likely to win and those that prevent the opposition from doing that also have a very good chance.
Because of the playoff run environment, where most of the best pitching staffs are present, power is a really big separator. Teams that hit the long ball are well-positioned to make deep runs. It should come as no surprise that the top six teams on the odds board could very well finish 1 through 6 in categories like SLG, wOBA, and wRC+ for this season.
I’m not looking to pick the winner of the World Series with a futures position. I’d love to do exactly that, but the goal of any futures bet to me is to look to lock up some kind of profit. One team out of 30 will win it all. Ten teams out of 30 will make the playoffs and we can basically eliminate 15 of them right away.
What I typically like to do is start at least 15/1. I want a team that will get into the playoffs with odds big enough to give me some hedging margin. Let’s say I have a one-unit bet on a team at 15/1. They win the division and go into the playoffs against the team with the second or third-best record. I have room flexibility. Make sure you shop around for the best odds to get as much flexibility as possible.
Maybe I don’t like the matchup and feel like my team will lose. I can bet the series price of the other team and lock up a profit. Sportsbooks also update series odds with each game, so maybe I let it ride and my team wins the first game of the ALDS or the NLDS. Then I can decide if I think they can win two of the next four and let it ride or bet the other side.
I have options. If you bet the Dodgers or the Yankees, your options are really limited. You don’t really have enough hedging margin until the World Series at best.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs were two of my picks at 30/1. As we know, the season was wiped out, but my thoughts process was that the Rays would have one of the five best records in the AL and get into the playoffs. They’d also probably be a favorite in the Wild Card Game.
The Cubs were in the worst division in baseball, the NL Central, with a +3000 price while other teams in the division were +2500 or +2800. It just made sense to give the Cubs a look because they could win that division and get a guaranteed series.
Using that same mindset, I have two World Series futures for your consideration:
Houston Astros (+2500)
The Astros fall under the same category here as the Cubs. In my opinion, they should be favored to win the AL West. If they do that, they bypass the Wild Card Game and get into the ALDS. They’d probably avoid the Yankees in that scenario, as New York should have the best record. I would absolutely take my chances on Houston against Minnesota or Chicago in that scenario.
The Astros limped through the regular season last year. Then they won the Wild Card Round, beat the Oakland A’s, and erased a 3-0 deficit against the Tampa Bay Rays to force a decisive Game 7 in the ALCS. Not much has changed for the Astros. They lost George Springer, but should get Yordan Alvarez’s bat back in the lineup.
Justin Verlander is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but their young rotation held up extremely well last year and they develop arms about as well as anybody.
There is no clear-cut favorite to me in the AL West. The Astros are better than the Angels, though Los Angeles at +4400 is one that I am thinking about as well. I also believe that the Astros are better than the A’s.
I think there has been too much of an overreaction to Houston’s 29-31 showing last season and not enough attention paid to how they played when they were supposed to care and what they’ve done the last several seasons.
Milwaukee Brewers (+4400)
This falls under the same thought process as the Cubs from last season, too. The Brewers are not that much worse than the Cardinals, Reds, or Cubs. In fact, I’d probably say they’re the second-best team in the NL Central. They’re 44/1 with the chance to win the division and get into the NLDS, where they will likely avoid both the Dodgers and Padres. The loser of that division race goes into the Wild Card Game and the winner of that division probably has the best record in the National League.
Do the Brewers stand a great chance against the Braves or Mets? No. Probably not. But think about this. The Phillies have a season win total around 81.5. They are +4000 in a division where they have a very small chance of having the best record. The Indians are +4000 in a division where their win total also suggests mediocrity and they’re clearly behind the White Sox and the Twins. The Brewers are in a bad division where none of the teams are separated by that much.
I don’t even necessarily love the Brewers this season like I have in past years, but this price doesn’t jive with the win totals or the division futures here. If the Brewers do get there, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are dangerous enough at the front of the rotation and the bullpen is very, very good. They’re not drawing dead against the Braves or Mets, at least not in my opinion.
- The Dodgers have now appeared in 21 World Series. They have won only 7 of them.
- The New York Yankees have made 40 World Series appearances. They have won it 27 times.
- The St. Louis Cardinals own the second-most World Series titles with 11 including seven championships since 1996.
- San Diego, Tampa Bay, Texas, Milwaukee, and Colorado have never won a World Series despite getting there at least once.
- Seattle is the only current MLB team to never make a World Series appearance.
How To Bet World Series Futures
You have to think of World Series futures as an investment. The best-case scenario is that you pick the team that takes down the title. The more likely scenario is that you do not because there are 10 teams that make the playoffs and you have to pick the one team that will record the final out and celebrate on the pitcher’s mound.
With any long-term futures bet, the goal is to turn a profit. That is why you want to consider several different factors before you bet on the World Series. The first and most important is that you need to pick a team that has a great shot at making the playoffs. Consider the strength of the division, as teams will play 76 of the 162 games against division opponents. Try to pick a division winner because the runner-up will have to play in the Wild Card Game and anything can happen in a one-game playoff.
You can look at the World Series futures and see prices like 4/1 or 5/1 on the top teams and think that it is a good value, but you have to remember something very important. The bigger the price, the more flexibility you have from a hedging standpoint. With a 4/1 or 5/1 team, you basically have to have that team make it to the Finals before you can hedge against that price.
Depending on when you bet World Series futures, you could be having your money held for upwards of six or seven months. You want something to show for that time. Betting on the favorites could be your preferred course of action, but you really need that favorite to make a deep playoff run. If you bet on a longer shot team, you just need them to get into the playoffs and then you can determine the best way to secure a profit.
The odds matter. Be sure to shop around for the best prices on every team that you are interested in. Don’t take +1000 when +1200 is out there. Don’t take +2000 when +2500 is out there. Every odds increase matters, both in terms of your payout and your flexibility for hedging.