2020 MLB Futures Betting
Using the best odds from DraftKings and FanDuel and the FanGraphs seasonal projections, we put together a “cheat sheet” for MLB Team Futures bets in the Divisional Winners and World Series Champions markets.
Unsurprisingly, the synthetic hold (more or less the discrepancy between the sportsbooks’ implied odds and the actual odds) of the World Series Market (19.2%) is much higher than that of the Divisional Market (9.1%). This makes sense given A) it’s easier for sportsbooks to hide their rake amount as the size of the multi-way market increases and B) the sportsbooks may want less culpability on longer odds.
Additionally, the hold on the World Series Market is nearly 30% when using only DraftKings odds but drops to 19.2% when you integrate the best odds from either DraftKings or FanDuel. It’s obvious but true that you should shop around as it can dramatically lower the edge you need to beat the books.
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Most of the positive expected value bets essentially come from shorting overhyped divisional favorites – the Yankees, Braves, and Cardinals. One exception to that is the Astros, whose market odds seem to have been overly impacted by the sign-stealing scandal, although it’s admittedly difficult to project the true impact that will have on the team this season.
World Series Champions
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You’ll notice that for some teams the expected value of betting them to win the World Series is higher than to win the Division (Astros, Twins), while it is the opposite for other teams (Rays, Red Sox, Cubs, Nationals, Mets).
Davis Mattek Picks
With so many of the US-based legal sportsbooks taking huge amounts of tickets and handle on the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Rays get pushed down in both division odds and World Series odds in an artificial way. It helps that the Rays are actually good this season! The Rays have TWELVE hitters projected with over a .300 wOBA per ZiPS and that does not include uber-prospect Wander Franco or useful platoon players like Manuel Margot and Joey Wendle. The pitching staff features potential Cy Young winners in Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, and Blake Snell. They are the most complete and healthy team in the AL East; this is one of our favorite bets.
Trevor Story +5000 To Hit Most HRs And +4000 To Win NL MVP (FanDuel Sportsbook)
An important criteria for winning MVP is always going to be “narrative”. Story will have an excellent and compelling narrative if the Rockies are able to land in a playoff spot and he is clearly their lead hitter. He can rack up compelling compiler numbers, coming off a 23-steal and 35-home run season. He is a career 19.9% HR/FB ratio hitter with only 33% ground balls and 43.4% hard hit ratios; this is essentially the perfect mix of a batted ball profile for a potential HR-leader and darkhorse MVP candidate.
Mike Leone Picks
Yordan Alvarez To Win AL MVP +6600 (DraftKings)
It’s difficult taking the field over Mike Trout, who has such an overwhelming edge in talent over even the second-best hitter in the AL. Trout has won 3 of the last 7 AL MVP awards, so it’s not impossible to dethrone him. A combination of injury risk for any player and a bad Angels team (which can unfairly drive the narrative around MVP decisions) does make it possible for the MVP to come from elsewhere.
Enter Yordan Alvarez. The Astros are frontrunners to win the AL pennant, and Alvarez is likely to be their best power hitter. The young hitter smacked 27 HRs in 87 games as a rookie, good for a .342 ISO. Steamer projection system currently projects Alvarez to finish fifth in the AL in wRC+, and a lack of MLB data means Alvarez has a wide range of potential outcomes, volatility that is welcomed on a bett with long odds.
Anthony Rizzo To Win NL MVP +5000 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
These odds are way longer than on DraftKings (+3300). FanGraphs has the Cubs as the most likely team to win the NL Central at nearly 40%. That sort of team success correlates with the chances that one of their hitters wins the MVP Award (circular feedback loop). Both Javier Baez and Kris Bryant have shorter odds to win the MVP than Rizzo, but he’s ahead of both of them in Steamer projected wRC+ (fourth in the NL). These odds are too long, especially since there is not a Trout like prohibitive favorite in the NL (could possibly make the argument that the trio of Cody Bellinger, Juan Soto, and Christian Yelich combined is just as difficult of an obstacle to overcome, however).
Both Davis and I struggled to find value in the CY Young markets. It’s something we hope to investigate 2-3 starts in the season where a change in repertoire, velocity, or health for talented pitchers could signal upside before the markets react appropriately.