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2019 World Series Odds: The Early Favorites

The best team in baseball doesn’t always win the World Series. But in 2018, the Boston Red Sox would not be denied. They enjoyed one of their best regular seasons in franchise history, destroying the MLB Vegas odds at 108-54 and plus-31.11 betting units; then the Red Sox mowed through all three of their playoff opponents to claim their fourth World Championship since John Henry and partners bought the team in 2002.

Henry’s willingness to combine Moneyball principles with a massive payroll has the Red Sox set up for many more years of success. At press time, they’re the favorites on the 2019 World Series odds board, with almost their entire lineup due back for their title defense. They were outstanding in just about every facet of the game last year. They should be outstanding again in 2019.

 

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MLB Odds Breakdown

Nothing is guaranteed in baseball, though. There are several top-flight teams who will give the Red Sox a run for their money next year, and it’s a very crowded group on top of the early 2019 MLB betting lines:

1. Boston Red Sox: +650 MLB Lines

The one area Boston have to worry about is relief pitching. They ranked ninth overall in this department last year with a collective 3.72 ERA, and they have two key pitchers entering free agency in Joe Kelly (4.39 ERA) and closer Craig Kimbrel (2.74 ERA). Losing one or both could make life difficult, although filling out the bullpen is one of the easier parts of roster construction – when you do it right, as Moneyball taught us. They might decide Kimbrel is expendable after his shaky performance during the 2018 postseason, and give Matt Barnes (3.65 ERA) the job instead.

2. Houston Astros: +700 MLB Lines

The Astros (103-59, minus-1.81 units last year) used analytics to build the 2017 World Series champions, but they couldn’t quite keep up with the Red Sox last year, losing the AL pennant in five games. Has their window closed already? The starting rotation could be a problem; Lance McCullers (3.86 ERA) will miss 2019 to Tommy John surgery, Dallas Keuchel (3.74 ERA) declined the team’s one-year qualifying offer, and Charlie Morton (3.13 ERA) is headed for free agency. How much gas will Justin Verlander (2.52 ERA) have in his right arm at age 36?

3. New York Yankees: +800 MLB Lines

No doubt the Yankees (100-62, minus-9.50 units) would like to get their hands on Keuchel and/or Morton. Their hitting wasn’t in question last year, but things started falling apart on the mound when Luis Severino (3.39 ERA) went into his mid-season slump. A full year of JA Happ (2.69 ERA) should provide some stability, and as always, the Yankees can open the vault and pick up some more talent during the offseason and before the trade deadlines. That’s how they added both Happ and OF Andrew McCutchen (.892 OPS) for last year’s World Series run.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: +900 MLB Lines

Losing back-to-back World Series isn’t the worst thing in the world. It happened to the Dodgers (92-71, minus-22.83 units) twice before, in the early ‘50s and the late ‘70s, and both times, they came back to win it all in short order. Just like the Red Sox, LA have deep pockets and a strong analytics department; Clayton Kershaw (2.73 ERA) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (1.97 ERA) will be back next year, as will manager Dave Roberts. Getting All-Star shortstop Corey Seager (.854 OPS in 2017) in game shape after he missed most of 2018 following Tommy John surgery could be all the Dodgers need to get over the top.

5. Chicago Cubs: +950 MLB Lines

Theo Epstein helped the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino, then he brought the Cubs (95-68, plus-0.55 units) their first World Series in almost a century. The last two years haven’t been quite as fruitful for Epstein, but the Cubs did go to the playoffs both times, and they hope to have Yu Darvish (3.44 ERA in 2017) back in the rotation after he made just eight starts in his first season on the North Side. But will they break open the piggy bank and sign perennial All-Star Bryce Harper (.889 OPS) away from the Washington Nationals? Stay tuned.