MLB Betting Advice: AL East Odds and Predictions
Heading into the season, it was widely expected that the top of the American League East was going to be a two-team race. And, indeed, that is precisely how it has turned out. The only problem is that it's not the two teams people thought. The Yankees are about where we expected them to be, but it is the Rays who are dueling with them and the Red Sox who are playing the role most people thought Tampa Bay would be in - a solid wild card contender, but well behind the top two squads. In a year in which the divisional races are really short of drama already, the AL East is the most interesting thing we have going for us. Let's take a look at where we are at as the end of May is here.
The odds: Bovada has the Yankees as the -130 favorite to win the division. While that's a reasonably low price at first glance, it is actually the second-highest odds in any division - only the NL Central, in which all five teams are within six games, offers a better potential return. On the opposite extreme, the Astros are at -6600 to win the AL West. Not far behind the Yankees in the race for the East is the Rays at +190. Boston is further back at +410, though that price still gives them a lot more credit than a typical team that is 7.5 games behind would get. Texas is also 7.5 games back of the division lead in the West, but they are at +2500. San Diego is 7.5 games back of the Dodgers and have the same record as Boston, and they are at +1200. Boston is getting the World Series champion boost here without a doubt - plus the fact that they are among the most public of teams out there. Rounding out the division are the Blue Jays at +50000 and the Orioles at +100000. You could add four zeros to each of those prices and they still wouldn't be attractive.
The Yankees: New York is taking care of business. They are as strong on the road as at home. They are a dominant 16-4 in the division. They have won nine of their last 11 and are a stellar 19-7 in May. Despite the success, though, there is lots of room to improve. The pitching has been strong - especially my fellow Canadian James Paxton - though J.A. Happ needs to be better. And while they are scoring runs just fine, it's not the key guys who are getting that done. Aaron Judge has played only 20 games and none since April 20. And he was not at his most productive before that injury. And Giancarlo Stanton played only the first three games of the season. It's a positive that they are winning the division without their two most important bats, but that will only remain a positive if we see those guys return. Right now, their absences make the margin for error much smaller than would be ideal.
The Rays: Tampa Bay is sitting a game back of the Yankees, but I looked at three different full season projections, and all three had Tampa Bay narrowly beating the Yankees at the end of the season. They are a strong 18-8 on the road - a good shortcut to get a sense of how strong a team is, because geography matters more for bad teams than good. They are not as explosive at the plate as the Yankees, but they are effective enough, led by DH Austin Meadows, who is just hitting the cover off the ball. Whether that is sustainable for him is an open question, but there is enough upside on this team, and the load is shared widely enough, that they should be fine. And they don't need their bats to carry the weight given their pitching and defense. They have allowed 56 fewer runs than the Yankees in 53 games, and their 166 runs against is a ridiculous 37 better than any other team. This team is very hard to play against, and it feels sustainable.
The Red Sox: I have been around too long to give up on the Red Sox yet, but I am getting closer to that moment for sure. They just aren't that inspiring. They are only 15-15 on the road and only two wins above .500 at home. Their 16-10 record in May has certainly been better than the 13-17 mark they sported entering the season, but that 16-10 record is still a lower winning percentage than the two teams they are facing overall, and Boston has dropped four of their last six while playing very good Houston and very disappointing Cleveland. The pitching isn't nearly as good as it should be, and their 270 runs allowed is far too many for a contender. Their bats have been as productive as the Yankees, but they are being forced to do too much - and haven't been able to too often. They can still salvage this, but they need to be an entirely different team than they have been so far.
The wild card: This is the crazy thing about the AL right now. As underwhelming as Boston has been, if the playoffs started right now Oakland and Boston would be playing a play-in game for the final wild card spot. With a .518 win percentage. It is not a banner year for the home of the DH. And right now, Cleveland and the Rangers are the only other teams within close striking distance, with the Angels and White Sox still alive. That's hardly a dominant group of teams. If Boston can find their stride, then it feels very likely at this point that all three top AL East squads will be heading to the postseason.
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