Depending on which sports book you are looking at, the Texas Rangers are opening at roughly 20:1 to win the 2016 World Series. If that sounds like a long shot in betting terms, that’s because it is. When every $5 nets you $100, that’s basically the casinos telling everyone they don’t expect the wager to work out.
But that’s also the nature of betting on baseball. There are so many (average-to-good) teams, and so much that can’t be predicted over the course of a six month season, that it’s hard to feel good about any individual bet.
So while Vegas might not be the absolute truth, it does give an accurate representation of the public perception, and where people are placing their money.
From highest to lowest, below are the odds to win the AL Pennant, per Bovada.com:
- Boston (9:2)
- Toronto (9:2)
- Houston (7:1)
- Kansas City (7:1)
- Cleveland (8:1)
- Texas (9:1)
- New York (9:1)
- Detroit (12:1)
- Chicago (16:1)
- Anaheim (16:1)
- Seattle (20:1)
- Baltimore (25:1)
- Minnesota (25:1)
- Tampa Bay (25:1)
- Oakland (40:1)
As you deduced, I put the AL West teams in bold to show the wide range of where they fall on the preseason pecking order.
Here are Bovada’s AL West odds:
- Houston (+160)
- Texas (+210)
- Anaheim (+375)
- Seattle (+400)
- Oakland (+1200)
So the way these numbers work are easy: Texas’s +210 means for every $100 bet, you net $210 — a little better than two-to-one. (Conversely, when you see a minus before the number, let’s say -210 for argument’s sake, it means for every $210 bet, you net $100.)
According to this Vegas sport’s book, the Astros are small favorites to win the AL West, and their odds to represent the American League in the World Series are similarly, albeit slightly, better than Texas’s.
Considering how small that difference is, the developing expectation in the AL West is a two horse race between the Astros and Rangers. The second tier of the West, as per Bovada’s odds, shows Anaheim and Seattle as roughly 4:1 underdogs, with Oakland rounding out the pack at a robust +1200. (And if we’re talking about real long shots, the A’s are the team you want to throw away your $5 on.)
It is interesting, as both PECOTA and FanGraphs see the AL West standings identically, and contrary to Bovada:
- Houston (88-74 and 86-76, respectively)
- Seattle (84-78, 83-79)
- Texas (80-82, 81-81)
- Anaheim (77-85, 81-81)
- Oakland (76-86, 79-83)
The bottom line is, over the last few years the projection systems have at best been unfriendly and at worst have failed the Rangers. But that isn’t really their fault: Forecasting models like ZiPS and PECOTA take injury history into account, and the sad truth is Texas has been one of the least-healthy teams in baseball in recent memory.
So when we, as Rangers fans, get optimistic about players like Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar and Derek Holland performing at peak value, the computers don’t have the heart to give a shit. That’s part of the reality/technology gap that’s impossible to completely take into account.
When it comes to actual consequence — and there are few things more important than money — Vegas views Texas about the same as the Astros. We can split hairs about which roster is more talented, especially once Yu Darvish returns, but the difference is mostly negligible.
The way I look at Vegas projections are similar to the more well-known advanced metric sites. It’s just more information to look at.