Odds and Ends

Larry Levin

Welcome back after a hiatus for life, holidays, the universe and everything!

 Well, as of Monday, Sept. 21, the wagering platform SuperBook has updated playoff odds. The National League pennant faves are the Dodgers, slightly better than 2-1, followed closely by both the Mets and Cardinals at exactly 2-1. The Dodgers also weigh in as the World Series faves among NL teams at 9-2, with again, the Mets and Cards just trailing at 5-1. Cubs and Pirates, eat your hearts out (though their odds are pretty good as well).

 In the American League, SuperBook has the Royals at 8-5 on the pennant, edging out the Blue Jays at 2-1, with the Rangers then Yankees trailing. And the Royals have the best World Series odds of anyone, at 7-2. with no one particularly close.

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 What to make of all this?

 Well, the Royals most likely have a big edge for a couple reasons. First, the betting markets have to encourage folks to wager on a Kansas City team, as it’s not the natural inclination among those in more major markets. So there could be some skewing from what’s essentially an encouragement angle.

 That rationale seems pretty believable when you consider other factors. First, the Royals have had their seemingly automatic bullpen backend disrupted by the difficulties of closer Greg Holland. Though setup man Wade Davis is more than capable to step in, it’s never a picnic to make such a change at season’s end. The 2014 Royals couldn’t lose with a post-sixth inning lead; that invulnerability is now somewhat less so.

 Add to that the monster run that the Toronto Blue Jays have been on. The NOBs (North of Borders) have been bashing up a storm of largely unparallelled proportions, vastly leading MLB in run differential. And now that they’ve added frontman hurler David Price and gotten back their young stud pitcher Marcus Strohman, the Jays look pretty darn impressive.

 While the Royals may need some bookie boosting to entice bettors, no such help is required for the Brooklyn…oops, Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only do they reside in the second largest market, but the Bums are essentially a national team given their history across the continent and the historic mystique of the franchise.

 So what drives the Dodgers’ favorite status headed into October? Simple…Thing One and Thing Two, this year interchangably known as Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. The gamblers of course see the huge advantage in having two Cy Young capables available to pitch the lion’s share of playoff games.

 While the latter had a couple small blips at season’s start, Kershaw’s been his usual impenetrable self for the last four months or so. And Greinke, who earlier in his career encountered severe behavioral issues that forced him into a career hiatus for awhile, is on a different planet out on the mound. As one MLB Radio commentator observed last week, it’s as though it’s just Greinke and the batter out there…he appears to hear nothing else, see nothing else.

 What does this all mean for the hometown boys? Well, the Cards are hardly fearful of Kershaw, having handled him four times in two years worth of playoff games. And they match up pretty well against the relatively light hitting Royals. The main question St. Louis fans are asking, though, is undoubtedly the same one that’s preventing the Redbirds from being the odds-on favorite which is: Will St. Louis’ ability to score runs rematerialize in time for the postseason? If not, our refrain could be: Better luck next year.