(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Arizona's Corbin Carroll (Harry How/Getty Images)
Initial World Series Odds: +12000
Season Performance: 84-78, Secured NL's 6th spot
Playoff Progress: Overcame Milwaukee 2-0 in NLWC. Dominated Los Angeles 3-0 in NLDS. Currently trailing 0-1 to Philadelphia in NLCS.
Odds before NLCS: +475
Present World Series Odds: +650
Leading World Series MVP Contender: Corbin Carroll (+1900)
The Arizona Diamondbacks' journey to the NLCS, especially as the 6th seed, has been nothing short of astonishing. What's even more remarkable is that Arizona clinched this seed against all odds.
While the baseball community was busy praising Baltimore's impressive two-year recovery from a season with 110 losses to one of the top-performing teams, the Diamondbacks silently made their mark, entering the playoffs just two years post their 110-loss season in 2021.
The young duo, Corbin Carroll and Gabriel Moreno, have been instrumental in this turnaround, propelling the team ahead of expectations and truly enjoying the game.
Given their current momentum, who's to say they can't clinch the title?
During the regular season, the Diamondbacks' bullpen was seen as a weak link. However, this October, it's arguably been their most potent weapon. Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald, though not widely recognized, have been exceptional in crunch situations.
In terms of hitting, Arizona wasn't particularly known for their home runs during the regular season, averaging just about one per game with a total of 166. Yet, in the playoffs, they've unleashed their power, recording 14 home runs in just six games.
Clearly, their strategy of hitting significantly more home runs while maintaining strong defense in the crucial final innings has been a winning formula.
It remains to be seen if they can maintain this momentum in the upcoming best-of-seven series. However, even though they might be the underdogs in terms of MLB experience compared to other playoff teams, their recent performances have surely boosted their confidence.
avid Berding/Getty Images)
Starting World Series Odds: +575
Season Record: 90-72, Secured AL's 2nd spot
Playoff Journey: Triumphed over Minnesota 3-1 in ALDS. Currently trailing 0-2 to Texas in ALCS.
Odds before ALCS: +185
Present World Series Odds: +650
Leading World Series MVP Contender: Yordan Alvarez (+917)
For Astros supporters, there's a silver lining despite the 0-2 deficit: The team has shown stronger performance on the road (53-30) compared to their home games (40-45) this season, including a 6-1 record against Texas.
Even with the current odds at +650, the Astros are in a better position than when they faced a home defeat by Kansas City in September, which saw their odds drop from +600 to +1500. I recall considering a significant bet on Houston at that time, but a friend advised against it, leading to some tension in our friendship.
Houston bounced back impressively, clinching five of the last six regular-season games, eventually securing the AL West title by besting their state rivals, whom they now face in the ALCS.
Despite Atlanta and Los Angeles exiting early in the NLDS, the Astros were seen as the top contenders for the World Series. However, Philadelphia had better odds of reaching the Fall Classic.
This Astros lineup, in terms of total regular-season victories, differs from their dominant presence in the past seven consecutive ALCS, where they averaged 102.4 wins in the previous five full seasons.
Several factors contributed to this season's dynamics. Players like Alex Bregman and José Abreu had slow starts. Chas McCormick only began to shine in June. Key players like Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez missed significant games, and Justin Verlander joined only in August.
It's puzzling how Houston had a combined 2-7 record against Oakland and Kansas City in September. Yet, with early season challenges, player slumps, and strategic acquisitions, the team gradually built momentum, peaking in October.
It remains to be seen if the Astros can rally from their current 2-0 deficit.
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Starting World Series Odds: +1571
Season Record: 90-72, Secured NL's 4th spot
Playoff Performance: Overcame Miami 2-0 in NLWC. Triumphed over Atlanta 3-1 in NLDS. Leading 1-0 against Arizona in NLCS.
Odds before NLCS: +210
Present World Series Odds: +145
Leading World Series MVP Contender: Bryce Harper (+833)
In recent seasons, the Phillies have showcased their knack for late-season surges. Last season, after a 22-29 start and parting ways with Joe Girardi, they rallied to reach the World Series. This year, without any managerial shifts, they faced challenges early on, standing at 25-32 in June. However, they soon began to harness the potential of their roster.
Their resurgence became evident in August when both Trea Turner and Bryce Harper began to shine, with Harper settling into his role at first base. From August 5, only the Braves (338) outscored the Phillies' 302 runs.
While Turner and Harper have been postseason standouts, the pitching staff, especially Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez, has been instrumental. Their combined postseason stats include a 1.57 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP. Wheeler's performance in Game 1 of the NLCS was notable, with only a minor blemish from a Geraldo Perdomo homer.
The bullpen has also been stellar, boasting a 1.45 ERA. This is particularly impressive considering they faced the formidable Atlanta offense in four of their six games.
If there's a chink in the Phillies' armor, it might be Johan Rojas' 1-for-21 batting in his initial six postseason games. Opponents might also look to exploit the Phillies' base-running aggressiveness, but they should tread carefully.
Given their comprehensive strengths, it's somewhat unexpected that the Phillies weren't the top pick entering the NLCS.
AP (Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez)
Starting World Series Odds: +4633
Season Record: 90-72, Secured AL's 5th spot
Playoff Journey: Overcame Tampa Bay 2-0 in ALWC. Triumphed over Baltimore 3-0 in ALDS. Leading 2-0 against Houston in ALCS.
Odds before ALCS: +295
Present World Series Odds: +115
Leading World Series MVP Contender: Corey Seager (+1267)
The Texas Rangers' 2023 journey was filled with highs and lows. Initially seen as outsiders for the postseason, they began on a strong note, concluding April with a lead in the AL West. However, setbacks hit when their significant acquisition, Jacob deGrom, faced a season-ending UCL injury, and Corey Seager, another key player from the previous year, was sidelined with a hamstring issue.
The team's potential became evident in late May when Seager returned to form. Yet, they faced a challenging period from mid-August to early September, recording a 4-16 run, which raised doubts about their playoff chances.
Their resurgence was notable, drawing inspiration from the song "Higher" and echoing the energy of the band Creed. At their peak, pinpointing a weak link in their lineup was challenging. By June 4, they averaged an impressive 6.48 runs per game, boasting the best run differential.
The offense, led by rookies Evan Carter and Josh Jung, has been formidable. Leody Taveras, batting ninth, has showcased a .483 on-base percentage in the postseason, further highlighting the depth.
On the pitching front, Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery have consistently delivered, keeping the scoreboard in Texas' favor. The return of Max Scherzer and Jon Gray from injuries adds more firepower to the rotation as they head into the ALCS.
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Before Game 1 of the ALCS on Sunday, 13 players had World Series MVP odds better than or equal to +3000. The only pitcher among them was Justin Verlander with odds of +3000.
This isn't indicative of a lack of top-tier starting pitchers in the remaining teams. On the contrary, each of the four teams boasts an impressive duo of ace pitchers. The abundance of high-quality starting pitchers makes it challenging to single any one out for betting purposes.
The reason pitchers aren't favored with high odds is their historical underrepresentation in the list of WS MVP trophy winners.
In the last 14 World Series events, only Madison Bumgarner in 2014 and Stephen Strasburg in 2019 have clinched the MVP title as pitchers.
However, Nathan Eovaldi's recent performances for the Rangers might hint at a break from this pattern.
Eovaldi, often dubbed "Big Game Nate", conceded only one earned run in his games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore and three earned runs against Houston. He emerged victorious and delivered quality starts in all these matches.
If the Rangers make it to the World Series, many will attribute their success to Eovaldi's skillful escape from a tough situation in the fifth inning of the Monday game. And while MVP voting for the World Series should focus only on performances within the series, Eovaldi's current form will likely amplify his odds.
When considering the odds for Philadelphia Phillies over Texas Rangers at (+215):
If you're aiming for a decent return on investment at this juncture, it's advised to opt for the "straight forecast" method rather than merely picking the champion. This approach involves selecting the winners of both the ALCS and NLCS, and then the eventual World Series champion.
This strategy will still require a gamble on one of the teams in the World Series to truly tilt the odds to your favor.
For context, Philadelphia's odds over Houston stood at +425 two days ago, but it has since surged to a tempting +1100 due to the Astros' initial setbacks in the ALCS.
However, a calculated bet would be on Philadelphia beating Texas, considering they are currently viewed as strong contenders for the World Series title.
In such a scenario, it would be a face-off between the NL's 4th seed and the AL's 5th seed. This match would feature the MLB's fourth and fifth highest payrolls going head-to-head in an unforgettable wild-card face-off. Based on performances so far, betting on the Phillies seems wise, as their top earners have been exceptional this October.