While the All-Star break isn’t the official halfway point of the Major League Baseball season, it does give everyone a chance to step back and take a look at the big picture. The MLB season is a marathon, not a sprint, but the lengthy season can still lead to overreaction from both fans and bettors.
Some teams, including the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants, have been pleasant surprises to begin the new season. Others, like the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, have been serious disappointments relative to preseason expectations. There are still a little over two months left in the season, but it may be time for some teams around the league to alter their plans ahead of the upcoming trade deadline.
Some teams that may have been expecting to buy at the deadline may instead be forced to sell. Others that may not have had intentions of really going for it this year may actually do just that. The stretch of games immediately following the break will likely give us a window into how teams like the Cubs and Braves will approach the July 31 trade deadline.
So, now is an interesting time to place futures bets with regard to the chances of certain teams to play into October. MLB betting sites have updated their playoff odds accordingly as the season has progressed, but there is still value to be found if you know where to find it.
Which teams are good bets to qualify for the postseason as we near the end of July? And, which teams’ playoff odds should you fade?
Can the Yankees Right the Ship?
- To Make Playoffs (+130)
- To Miss Playoffs (-165)
The Yankees began the campaign as the odds-on favorites to win the World Series. Now, just a few months later, they’re plus-money underdogs to even make the playoffs. Life comes at you fast, they say.
As usual, injuries have played a role for this team. Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks have all spent time on the injured list so far this season. Gleyber Torres is in the midst of the worst season of his career, while Stanton and Gary Sanchez have been as streaky as ever. Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman – two All-Stars tasked with carrying the rotation and bullpen, respectively – have been legitimately bad since the league started cracking down on pitchers using “sticky stuff.”
Coming out of the break, the Bronx Bombers are alone in fourth place in their own division. New York is just 46-43 on the year and eight games behind the division-leading Red Sox. The Yanks will have an opportunity to gain ground on their rivals with a four-game series set to get underway on Thursday, but making up that kind of a deficit won’t be easy.
New York Is Also up Against It in the Wild Card Race
Three teams currently separate Aaron Boone’s squad from the second Wild Card slot, and they’re 4.5 games adrift of the Oakland A’s for that place. The Yankees would have to leapfrog Cleveland, Toronto, Seattle, and Oakland just for the rights to face Tampa Bay in the Wild Card Game.
The offense is still loaded, but there are all sorts of questions about this pitching staff. Cole has looked legitimately shaky – one big start against Houston notwithstanding – and the rest of the rotation is dicey. Would you trust Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, Domingo German, and Michael King to lead this team on a playoff run? I certainly wouldn’t.
The value is on New York to somehow get in at +130, but this team has an awful lot of work to do.
Yankees Betting Prediction –To Miss Playoffs (-165)
Will the Blue Jays Make A Run?
- To Make Playoffs (+165)
- To Miss Playoffs (-200)
Nobody wants to face the Blue Jays in the playoffs. Toronto may have the most explosive offense in all of baseball, with a murderer’s row of right-handed power populating the lineup. That said, Toronto is just three games over .500 on the season, thanks in large part to some shaky pitching.
The Jays can mash, but can they keep their opponents off the scoreboard?
Hyun-jin Ryu has looked more like a run-of-the-mill lefty than a bona fide ace so far this season. Robbie Ray has stepped it up, but consistency is an issue. Ross Stripling and Steven Matz have been up-and-down, while Alek Manoah is a volatile rookie.
Don’t be surprised if Toronto tries to add some reinforcements to the pitching staff ahead of the deadline. There are no weak spots in this offense, but just ask the Tampa Bay Rays whether pitching is more important come playoff time. At this point, I’d be taking a wait-and-see approach with the Blue Jays’ playoff odds. If they make a move for a legitimate ace-caliber starter at the deadline, that would be the time to buy Toronto. If not, the Jays may have to wait until 2022 to make their return to the postseason.
Blue Jays Betting Prediction –To Miss Playoffs (-200)
Can the Reds Catch the Brewers?
- To Make Playoffs (+255)
- To Miss Playoffs (-320)
The NL Central was billed as the most wide-open division in baseball before the season began. Four teams entered the campaign with legit playoff hopes, though we have seen some separation in recent weeks. The red-hot Brewers, thanks in large part to a stellar pitching staff, entered the break with a four-game cushion over the second-place Reds.
Like the Yankees, the Reds Will Have a Chance to Make Up Ground Right Away
Cincy will host Milwaukee for a three-game set this weekend at the Great American Ballpark. If the Reds can at least win the series, we may have a race on our hands. If not, this thing may be over and done with.
Frankly, the only realistic path for Cincinnati to get to the playoffs is through the division. Given the state of the NL West, which features arguably the three best teams in the National League, any other team nabbing a Wild Card spot looks unlikely. Whichever two teams fail to win the NL West will likely face off in the NL Wild Card Game.
So, can the Reds catch the Brewers? Like so many other clubs on the playoff bubble, it comes down to pitching. Sonny Gray is back on the IL for a third time this season, while Luis Castillo has been incredibly inconsistent all year long. Tyler Mahle and Wade Miley have had their moments, but this is another team that could be on the market for a starting pitcher ahead of the deadline.
Cincinnati has won six of their last seven meetings with the Brewers so far this season. A four-game gap isn’t insurmountable with this much time left in the season, either. It’s a bit of a long shot, but I don’t mind taking a stab at the Reds’ +255 odds to sneak into the postseason. They’ll have to go through the division, but this is probably the most winnable division of all right now.
Reds Betting Prediction –To Miss Playoffs (-200)
Are the Braves Toast?
- To Make Playoffs (+350)
- To Miss Playoffs (-475)
The Braves came to within one game of a World Series berth last season, but they blew a 3-1 series lead and fell to the Dodgers in seven games. Ever since, things have gone downhill for this team. Mike Soroka, who was set to return this season after tearing his Achilles last year, recently tore the same Achilles again. To make things worse, All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. went down with a season-ending ACL tear just before the break.
The Braves hadn’t been playing well even before losing their best player. Despite entering the season with the third-best odds of any team to win the National League, Atlanta is just 44-45 and four games adrift of the Mets in the NL East. As mentioned previously, it’s pretty unlikely we see a non-NL West team nab either of the two Wild Card spots this year.
Can the Braves overcome their injury issues and catch the Mets? I don’t really trust the Mets given their own shaky history, but this just doesn’t look like Atlanta’s year. Freddie Freeman is in the midst of a down season, while Max Fried and Ian Anderson haven’t quite lived up to expectations. Without Acuna, this team just doesn’t look like a serious threat. Pass on Atlanta’s chances of pulling off a miracle playoff run.
Braves Betting Prediction –To Miss Playoffs (-475)
Are the Mariners for Real?
- To Make Playoffs (+1000)
- To Miss Playoffs (-2000)
Needless to say, nobody expected the Mariners to be where they are. Seattle is currently five games north of .500. That’s good for third place in both the AL West and AL Wild Card races. While overtaking Houston and Oakland to win the division looks rather unlikely, could Seattle beat the odds and grab a Wild Card place?
The Mariners haven’t been in the playoffs since 2001, which is the longest playoff drought in American pro sports. While their record is impressive, it’s worth wondering whether it’s sustainable. Seattle is 19-8 so far this season in one-run games, which is very easily the best mark in MLB. The Mariners are also 9-1 in extra-inning games. Per ESPN’s “expected win-loss” metric, Seattle should be 40-51 right now. Instead, they’re 48-43. The Mariners also have a run differential of minus-50, which is the worst mark of any team remotely close to a playoff spot right now by a mile.
The Mariners have been a fun story, but this isn’t going to last. Seattle is very lucky to have a record as good as they do right now, and we may finally see the regression monster come for them in the second half. The +1000 odds on Seattle finding a way into the postseason are appealing, but this team is a mirage.
Mariners Betting Prediction –To Miss Playoffs (-2000)
Can Ohtani Lead the Halos to the Postseason?
- To Make Playoffs (+575)
- To Miss Playoffs (-900)
The Los Angeles Angels have had the best player in baseball on their roster since 2011. Now, they may have the two best players in baseball on their roster at the same time. Mike Trout is set to return from his hamstring injury at some point in the next few weeks. Until then, Shohei Ohtani is expected to continue to carry the load for the Halos.
While the talent here is undeniable, team success has been hard to come by for this franchise. LA has made the playoffs just once since Trout’s debut. That came back in 2014 when they finished with the best record in the AL. What happened after that? They were unceremoniously swept by the Royals in the ALDS.
Joe Maddon’s crew has been treading water for most of the season, but they’re not fully out of it. The Angels will come out of the break at 45-44, which is good for fourth place in the division and seventh in the Wild Card picture. As fun as it would be to see Trout and Ohtani lead the Angels into a playoff series, they just have too much ground to overcome.
The Angels won’t close the nine-game gap that separates them from the Astros in the West. The Wild Card deficit is only 5.5 games, but they’ll have to jump over six teams just to get there. Unfortunately for the Angels, Trout and Ohtani can’t do everything for them. There’s always next year, Angels fans.
Angels Betting Prediction –To Miss Playoffs (-900)
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