Aside from adding another piece to the bullpen, (according to Troy Renck, it won't be Rich Harden), Colorado's offseason appears to be basically complete. As such, Philadelphia signing Cliff Lee still dominates the sports landscape. One of the more interesting aspects of this news to me is the impact it has on (at this point) ridiculously premature 2011 World Series odds.
Maybe it's because I have a gambling problem, maybe it's because I have a healthy amount of respect for the guys running sports books, but I think that Vegas lines are a great indicator of where those in the know perceive the MLB landscape to be heading into 2011. Of course, one has to remember that certain teams (the Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox to name a few) will receive better odds because their larger fan bases will pay the premium to bet on their team. Per ESPN Insider's Buster Olney, here are the updated 2011 WS odds from bookmaker Bodog.com in order of World Series chances:
Philadelphia Phillies: 7/2
Boston Red Sox: 5/1
New York Yankees: 6/1
San Francisco Giants: 12/1
Minnesota Twins: 18/1
St. Louis Cardinals: 18/1
Atlanta Braves: 20/1
Cincinnati Reds: 20/1
Colorado Rockies: 20/1
Tampa Bay Rays: 20/1
Texas Rangers: 20/1
Chicago White Sox: 25/1
Los Angeles Angels: 25/1
Detroit Tigers: 28/1
Los Angeles Dodgers: 30/1
San Diego Padres: 30/1
Chicago Cubs: 35/1
Florida Marlins: 35/1
New York Mets: 35/1
Oakland Athletics: 35/1
Toronto Blue Jays: 50/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 60/1
Washington Nationals: 65/1
Houston Astros: 70/1
Arizona Diamondbacks: 80/1
Baltimore Orioles: 80/1
Cleveland Indians: 80/1
Seattle Mariners: 100/1
Kansas City Royals: 125/1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 150/1
Having just said that Vegas knows more than most, a few things jump out at me when looking at that list that I think are market inefficiencies. Allow me to facilitate your transition from model citizen into degenerate gambler.
1. When betting on a World Series winner, one should remember that the playoffs are a crapshoot. The San Francisco Giants might seem like a decent bet because their strong starting pitching makes them a favorite in a short series, but their lineup has to hold up well enough to get them into the playoffs again first (and their pitching needs to remain healthy). At 12:1 odds, I wouldn't make that bet. The Rockies' blend of offense and pitching makes them a more likely 2011 playoff team and I'd rate their 20:1 odds as pretty fair.
2. Betting a single AL East team may be a fool's errand due to the intense competition that will prevent one of the big heavies from making the playoffs altogether. However, it would be a decent ploy to place bets on NY, Boston, and Tampa Bay, there's an excellent chance that one of those three will be playing for the title next fall. Don't get me wrong, Minnesota is a great team and Texas will be no slouch even without Cliff Lee, but the odds are simply better that one of the eastern giants will emerge from the AL.
3. The aforementioned prowess of the AL East is why I would be wary of betting on any other AL team, even if I do really like Minnesota's team. They'll get pushed hard by the White Sox in 2011.
4. There's no shame in betting on the favorites. Philadelphia has probably the best odds of any team to make the playoffs and they will be favored in just about any short series, so it makes mathematical sense to go with that edge. By that token, you should avoid the rest of the NL East at all costs.
5. Among the non-Rockies midpack teams (18:1 to 35:1), the Dodgers (yes, the Dodgers) look like a good bet at 30:1 due to a strong pitching staff and an offense that could be fueled by a Matt Kemp bounceback. Their position in the ultracompetitive NL West could be their undoing, but I think that, like the AL East, betting on the Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies is likely to get you at least two playoff teams. The difference is that the presence of the Phillies makes it less likely that one of those teams will be playing in the Fall Classic.
6. In the longshot category (50 to 1 or greater odds), the team I like is Milwaukee (60:1). The Brewers play in a division without a dominant team, they have a great offense, they have an ace pitcher (Yovani Gallardo), they acquired a top of the rotation starter (Shaun Marcum is criminally underrated), and they've got a bounceback candidate in Randy Wolf. Okay, so they've got very little rotation depth beyond those guys and a shaky bullpen -- they're longshots for a reason -- but it's easy for me to see a scenario in which the stars align and they at least make it to the postseason. And really, that's all that you can ask from a longshot.
7. Five teams with odds that are too high (overrated): Cardinals, Braves, Angels, Padres, Mets
8. Five teams with odds that are too low (underrated): Twins, White Sox, Dodgers, Brewers, Mariners
For comparison's sake, here were the odds just after the 2010 World Series.
Part of Tulo's new contract involves sizable charitable donations. It's a great way to put those fat stacks of cash to a good use. Also in the above link is a detailed list of Tulo's contract escalators.
Jim Armstrong writes about how much pitching the NL West has. In a land full of pitching, the team with the best offense shall prevail. He also details the key offseason moves for each NL West team.
According to Jack Etkin of ITR, Colorado will be sending four prospects (Wilin Rosario, Jordan Pacheco, Bruce Billings, and Cory Riordan) to the Rookie Career Development Program, wherein they will be lectured about how to be responsible MLB players. Etkin also has notes about minor league signees Eric Duncan and Geno Espineli.