The MLB all-star break is a nice opportunity to take a few days away from betting, recharge your batteries and focus on picking more winners in the second half.
It’s also an ideal time to review what’s happened over the first half of the season and make some new predictions for what will take place down the stretch of the campaign. Unlike most MLB futures that see their odds change tomorrow based on the result of tonight’s games, injuries or trades, the shutdown for the all-star break means you have plenty of time to research your picks and place your wagers.
5Dimes.com does a great job of posting lots of midseason betting props, so we’re going to use their odds for this article. Here are 3 bets that are worth making for the second half of the 2017 MLB season, all at a nice plus money return.
1. Aaron Judge to win Triple Crown
There goes No. 3️⃣0️⃣!!!!!
Aaron Judge has now hit more home runs than any @Yankees rookie in history.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) July 8, 2017
Let us be clear here: the odds are that Judge will not pull off the rare triple of leading the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. It’s nearly an impossible feat to accomplish, since it requires a hitter to excel in both hitting for average and power, along with having the good fortune of having runners on base to drive in when they come to the plate. It’s why just 1 player, Miguel Cabrera in 2012, has won the AL Triple Crown in the past 51 years.
So why is this a bet worth making? The odds. 5Dimes lists Judge at +650 to win the AL Triple Crown, which suggests he’s got about a 15% chance of doing it. Based on Judge’s season so far and the fact that he’s a rookie who only seems to be getting improving by the day, we think he’s got at least a 20% chance of winning the Triple Crown, if not better.
Judge enters the all-star break atop the AL in home runs, and he’s just 4 RBI behind Nelson Cruz for the lead in that category. That leaves batting average as the one statistic where Judge has some work to do, and he’s 18 percentage points behind the Astros’ Jose Altuve. However, it’s just Altuve and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez (3 points ahead of Judge) that the Yanks slugger needs to pass.
Altuve is damn good, but a .347 batting average is going to be hard to sustain, especially with the Astros coasting to the AL West title. Meanwhile, Judge will be asked to keep coming up big as the Yankees are in a dogfight for a wild card spot in the American League, if not a shot at first place in the East. That kind of pressure can work against Judge as well, but as he proved in winning the Home Run Derby, he’s got the easygoing demeanour necessary to thrive in the spotlight, even in New York.
Staying focused the rest of the season could be the difference between winning the AL batting title and not, and we think the +650 price makes this bet worth a shot.
2. Milwaukee Brewers to win NL Central
— Tom (@Haudricourt) July 11, 2017
At the beginning of the season, the NL Central was the last division where we expected to see a compelling race. The Cubs were coming off one of the best seasons in MLB history, and there was no reason to think they wouldn’t be at least as good – if not better – with their nucleus of young stars having another season of experience under their belt.
However, it’s the Brewers, not the Cubs, who enter the all-star break with the lead in the Central. Milwaukee closed its first-half schedule on an 8-2 surge in its last 10 games (including an 11-2 rout of the Cubs in Chicago) and owns a 5.5-game lead over Chicago going into the second half of the year.
We’ve all been expecting the Cubs to make their inevitable run, win 16 of 20 games and regain control of the division. But should we? Chicago is 28th in baseball in team batting average and stolen bases, 21st in runs scored and 18th in OPS. Their starting rotation ranks 25th in MLB in quality starts, and their defence has committed the fifth-most errors. The Cubs have scored exactly as many runs as they have allowed this year, making them the very definition of an average team.
Meanwhile, the Brewers sit second in baseball in home runs, fourth in stolen bases, seventh in OPS and eighth in runs per game. Their pitching has been surprisingly solid, ranking eighth in ERA. They have outscored opponents by 45 runs and their 50-41 record is exactly what their Pythagorean record suggests they should be. Plus, Milwaukee management has been known to go for it when its team is in contention, so don’t be surprised to see the Brew Crew bolster its roster down the stretch.
The Cardinals and Pirates aren’t really factors in this race, and more likely to sell at the deadline than add help. In a two-horse race between the Brewers and Cubs, and a 5.5-game head start to boot, we’ll gladly take the +175 value on Milwaukee.
3. Cleveland Indians to win American League Pennant
— Indians Fans (@IndiansViews) July 1, 2017
Last fall, not many people thought too much of the Cleveland Indians’ chances in the playoffs. Though the Tribe won the Central and had home field advantage in the first round against Boston, the Red Sox were favoured to win that series. The same was true of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, and even the World Series against the Cubs, but Cleveland came within 1 run of claiming the Fall Classic.
The Indians’ run through the playoffs demonstrated their incredible pitching depth, especially in the bullpen. We saw how Terry Francona utilized the two-headed monster of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to perfection, bringing them in when the games were on the line, regardless of the inning.
But now, despite the fact Miller and Allen are still as dominant as ever (Miller’s ERA is 1.42 and he’s got 67 strikeouts in 44.1 innings, while Allen owns a 2.62 ERA and has fanned 49 in 34.1 frames), the Indians are a +395 darkhorse to repeat as American League champions. That’s probably because of an underwhelming first half of the season in which Cleveland has gone 47-40.
Look closer at the numbers, though, and Cleveland looks as dangerous as ever. The Indians are a top-10 offence in runs per game, batting average and OPS. Their pitching is second in baseball in WHIP and third in both ERA and strikeouts. They’ve outscored their opponents by an average of nearly 1 run per game this season, suggesting their record should be closer to 51-36.
The Twins and Royals are on Cleveland’s heels in the AL Central, but the Indians are by far a superior team. When they get to the playoffs, pitching matters the most, and Cleveland proved last year that they’ve got it. Corey Kluber is only getting better as the season goes along, Carlos Carrasco is 10-3, surprising Mike Clevinger has an ERA of 3.00 in 11 starts, and Danny Salazar has been injured.
Houston looks incredible so far this year, but they’re young and still relatively inexperienced. Boston has David Price’s post-season struggles to worry about. We’ll grab the Indians at nearly 4:1 return to do something that they already did last year, and won’t be surprised if they end up hoisting the World Series Trophy this year either.