The odds for 2018 World Series betting are about what you would expect with the playoffs a week away.
The Astros (+300 at 888Sport) are slight favorites over the Red Sox (+333), owing to the fact that even though Boston has clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason, Houston will have an easier first-round opponent, facing Cleveland rather than the winner of the American League wild-card game between the New York Yankees and Oakland A’s.
One line that jumps out when picking a World Series winner is Atlanta at +1200, the longest odds of any division leader. The National League East champions also have something going for them when it comes to historical trends: They don’t hit a ton of home runs.
When the Astros won the 2017 World Series, having gone deep 238 times during the regular season, it was the first time that a 200-homer team won it all since the 2009 Yankees.
In this year’s field, every team except Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs (+800), and maybe the Colorado Rockies (+1600) -- and the maybe represents both their playoff status and whether they’ll get to 200 home runs -- will head into October shy of 200 dingers.
Of course, the Astros were last year’s world champions as the team with the most home runs in baseball during the regular season, so perhaps things have changed, particularly given the recent rise in prominence for homers as part of collective offense in baseball.
Even so, Houston’s power was spread through the lineup – George Springer led the Astros with 34 homers in 2017, a total that only saw him tie for 10th in the American League. There were 11 Astros with double-digit home runs, which meant that there was no soft landing spot in the Houston lineup for opposing pitchers.
Atlanta, led by Ronald Acuña’s 26 home runs, has this kind of power depth, with nine players in double figures. The Yankees (+1100) have even more home run threats, with a major league-record 12 such players, including six with 20 or more.
And that doesn’t include Andrew McCutchen, who hit 15 homers for the Giants before being traded to New York and finishing off his eighth straight 20-homer season. The Dodgers (10 players), Astros (9), A’s (8), Cardinals (8), Red Sox (8), and Rockies (8), also have multiple bats capable of delivering decisive blows.
A stark reminder of the importance of balanced power is a fact that goes the other way: No team has won the World Series with the regular season major-league home run leader since the 2008 Phillies, who had Ryan Howard go deep 48 times.
Before that, you have go to back to another 48-homer Phillie, Mike Schmidt in 1980, and then Willie Stargell in 1971, with 48 dingers for the other Pennsylvania team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Phillies and Pirates are out of this year’s World Series mix, but the A’s used to play in Philadelphia, and Khris Davis leads the major leagues with… 46 home runs. Maybe if he hits two more before the end of the season, it’s a sign?
Maybe not, but Oakland is in an interesting position going into the postseason, along with New York. No American League wild-card team has won the World Series since the 2004 Red Sox, a 98-win outfit that, like the A’s and Yankees now, performed at a high level over the course of the season but finished behind a division champion that won triple-digit games.
Why would it be intriguing to ponder an A’s or Yankees victory when no American League wild-card has won it all in a decade and a half? The last six World Series winners have been the 2012 Giants (NL West), 2013 Red Sox (AL East), 2014 Giants (NL wild card), 2015 Royals (AL Central), 2016 Cubs (NL Central), and 2017 Astros (AL West).
Missing from the rotation are the AL wild card and the NL East.
Betting that +1200 for Atlanta at 888Sport just keeps looking better and better.