World Series Outright: Sustainable or Nah? Assessing Legitimacy of MLB’s Hottest Starts
MLB’s World Series odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate as of Tuesday, April 17. Early-season lines tend to be reactionary and will swing as the landscape settles down, so as always, make a habit out of reviewing these numbers before deciding on any wagers at your preferred sportsbook. Also be sure to check back and look at our opening odds, so you can see how much team projections have actually changed to this point.
Arizona Diamondbacks (+1600)
Opening Odds: +3300
The Arizona Diamondbacks were the ultimate collective equivocation entering the regular season. Fans, analysts and even sportsbooks hedged. They weren’t quite dark horses, but they weren’t quite afterthoughts either. The beginning of the year would determine exactly what they were.
Based on what’s happened so far, the Diamondbacks look like fringe favorites. They have a convincing 2.5-game hold over the Colorado Rockies in the NL West Division, and their offense has been slightly better than expected, turning in a little more than five runs per game.
The pitching, however, has absolutely carried them. They rank in the top seven of both earned run average (ERA) and strikeouts per nine innings. Starting pitcher Tyrone Corbin, 28, has been alien-like. He has yet to register a loss and is whiffing an absurd 14.2 batters per nine innings on the mound.
Brad Boxberger has fared extremely well out of the bullpen as well. Though he’s walked four batters through just seven total innings of action, he’s struck out 10 of the 27 hitters he’s faced.
When a team is getting so much production from so many different angles without playing through an exceptionally easy schedule, it usually means they need to be taken seriously. Plus, it’s not that ridiculous to sit here and say the Diamondbacks will stay in front of the Rockies all year—though they’ll need they’re total batting average (.233) to improve a great deal.
Boston Red Sox (+750)
Opening Odds: +1000
The Boston Red Sox deserve all of the acclaim they have thus far received. They entered the season as one of MLB’s foremost World Series favorites, and they’ve now been upgraded, essentially, to absolute heavyweights. The progression from where they were, to where they actually are, is hardly an unfathomable leap.
At the same time, we have to be kind of realistic. The Red Sox aren’t going to win almost 87 percent of their games all season. That would put them on track for, like, 140 victories. That’s not happening.
Boston’s pitching for real. Chris Sale is an unquestionable monster, and their top-three ERA was basically assumed coming in. Their offensive output is a little harder to buy. They rank second in runs scored per game and pace the entire league in on base percentage.
Upholding these offensive standings while deploying a below-average number of proven home-run hitters figures to be difficult. The Red Sox should still have no problem sniffing around 100 or more wins, and they remain the pick to win the AL East Division. But this start is simply too blistering to believe in its entirety.
More likely than not, a noticeable portion of their success so far is owed to playing out the league’s easiest schedule to date.
Verdict: Nah (Sort of)
Los Angeles Angels (+1200)
Opening Odds: +2200
The Los Angeles Angels, similar to the Diamondbacks, were another hedge bet toward the end of the offseason. They’re perennial underachievers, so while it looked like they would contend for an above-.500 record and some playoff love, you couldn’t be totally sure.
Except, now you can.
Mike Trout is, predictably, in beast mode again. He is third among all players in the league in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) without placing in the top 10 of on-base or slugging percentage. The Angels as a whole are sporting MLB’s best offense. They are first in runs scored per game and first in batting average (.291) by a 16-point margin; the distance between them and the second-place Red Sox (.275) is greater than that which separates the seventh-place Seattle Mariners (.256) from the 23rd-ranked Kansas City Royals (.231).
Newcomer Shohei Ohtani has been a top-to-bottom acid trip. An unprecedented rookie talent because of his capacity to be developed as both a premier pitcher and hitter, he is not disappointing in any way, shape or form.
Through 30 total at bats, the designated hitter leads the Angels in on-base and slugging percentage—which, ya know, wow. His pitching is similarly encouraging. He’s gone a total of 13 innings through two starts, during which time he’s first on the team in WHIP and a tidy third in strikeouts per nine frames.
Doubting the Angels, while an annual tradition, officially feels futile. Lean into their rise.
New York Mets (+900)
Opening Odds: +2000
Healthy pitching was always going to be the key to the New York Mets’ season. It seems like their pristine collection of arms has been around for a while, but in truth, it isn’t that long ago since they made the World Series in 2015. The Mets still have one of the five youngest pitching staffs in baseball.
That staff has delivered thus far. Only the Houston Astros own a better collective ERA, while just the Astros and New York Yankees average more strikeouts per nine innings.
None of the Mets’ pitchers are currently in the top 10 of WAR for MLB’s arms, but that has more to do with their maintenance and innings-monitoring process than anything else. Closer Jeurys Familia has been sensational serving as a bridge between the starters and victories, racking up seven saves—tied for the most in baseball—and the Mets have three relief arms, including Familia, who place in the top 10 of total appearances.
Aspects of this model feel unsustainable. Depending on your bullpen isn’t a foolproof year-long plan. But the Mets have the depth outside the starting rotation to approach the game this way, and their league-leading winning percentage against teams over .500 suggests they’re built to turn every tilt into a grind-it-out-affair that favors them.
Pittsburgh Pirates (+5000)
Opening Odds: +15000
Talk about your truly disarming surprises.
The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t appear in any meaningful conversations before the start of the season. Now here they are, comfortably above .500, sitting atop the NL Central Division.
Don’t expect that to last.
Pittsburgh deserves all the credit in the world. The pitching staff has been great. Corey Dickerson leads all MLB players in total WAR—not just pitchers, but every single position. Jameson Taillon also paces all pitchers in Adjusted ERA.
All of which feels too good to be true. The Pirates rank in the bottom half of the league in home runs relinquished per nine innings and have fallen that far while playing out MLB’s third-easiest schedule. They’re a whatever 3-3 against teams that are .500 or better, and their 7-2 record on the road, compared to their 4-3 showing at home, profiles as a major red flag.
Bank on the Pirates to obliterate their win-total over/under for the season if you wish. Just don’t count on them doing much more than that. They should regress by appreciable margins as the season wears on.
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