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After the longest offseason, it’s finally opening day for baseball.
Nobody ever expected a Major League Baseball season to open on July 23, but we didn’t know a global pandemic was going to happen either. BetMGM had to reset its over/under win totals and pretty much any other prop bets for a 60-game season.
With two games about to kick off the season on Thursday, we present our best MLB prop bets at BetMGM, with a World Series pick at the end.
Our favorite over/under win total bets
Scott Pianowski: Going under on the Giants at 25.5 feels like a gift. This team is already without three of its most important hitters, and Gabe Kapler is the type of manager who’s too smart for his own good. Fantasy and real-life values don’t always line up, but it’s astounding that this roster currently does not have a Top 300 fantasy pick in the dugout.
I’d feel a little better about Tampa Bay over 33.5 if I knew Austin Meadows was at full throttle, but I also accept that the special sauce of the Rays is usually tied to subtle things. Defense. Bullpen. Depth. And it’s easy to talk down some of their in-division competitors (Boston’s pitching is a mess, Toronto is MLB’s nomad team, Baltimore literally has nothing to promote at the moment). And because I think any of four teams could win the NL Central, I must reflexively pan the fifth team, the Pirates; let’s punch under 25.5 there.
Frank Schwab: I think the New York Yankees are very, very good. They might win a World Series. Still, 38 wins in a 60-game season is a lot. A .633 winning percentage is better than 102 wins in a normal season. The Yankees’ win total in March was about 101.5, it’s 37.5 now, and I have to take the under on the Yankees. A 38-22 record is just a lot to ask. I also like the St. Louis Cardinals under 32.5 (not a big fan of their lineup or rotation, though getting Miles Mikolas back helps), the Boston Red Sox under 31.5 (no Mookie Betts, Chris Sale or David Price and a rotation that will lead with Nathan Eovaldi is a pass) and Cincinnati Reds over 32.5 (their lineup doesn’t have many holes and their rotation is underrated).
Best bets for MVP, Cy Young
Schwab: In the 1981 short season, no starting pitcher put up eye-popping strikeout totals or a great record. Voters’ eyes went to Rollie Fingers’ 1.04 ERA, his six wins and 28 saves. He won Cy Young and MVP. Regardless of whether he deserved either, there’s a reason he won and it might apply this year. I think Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader to win Cy Young at 33-to-1 really stands out. The best-case scenario for a starting pitcher this season is what, eight wins and 90 strikeouts? Neither number would pop off the page. The way the Brewers use Hader he could collect plenty of wins and saves to go with a sparkling ERA and a great strikeout rate. His odds are 14th best, behind Max Fried, Mike Soroka and Dinelson Lamet. In an unusual year, I like Hader at those odds.
Pianowski: Chris Paddack at 40-1 is an interesting Cy Young longshot. No more innings cap to worry about. San Diego is a young team on the upswing, much like the White Sox in the AL. Petco is still a pitcher-favoring yard. It’s interesting that his odds are longer than Lamet’s, though Paddack seems to be the unquestioned jewel of this staff. Matt Chapman is an interesting gambit at 20-1 for AL MVP. His defense is angelic, and he has enough power to challenge for a home run title. And maybe he could enjoy some unusual BABIP luck for a couple of months, smooth out his roughest area. I used to plug in Vin Scully on late summer nights, that was my lullaby. These days, it’s the left side of the Oakland infield, Chapman and Marcus Semien.
Any other MLB prop bets stand out?
Schwab: One for me seemed like good value. Under the regular season specials, BetMGM is offering a prop on most wins for any pitcher. The line is 8.5 at -125 odds. A 9-win pitcher in 60 games is the same as a 24-win pitcher in a 162-game season. This century the only pitchers to reach 24 wins are Randy Johnson in 2002 and Justin Verlander in 2011. Things will be weird, with bulk relievers getting more cheap wins than usual or teams tweaking rotations, but nine wins is still a lot to ask. I’ll take the under on any pitcher having more than 8.5 wins. I also like division championship bets on the Reds (+275), Rays (+350) and White Sox (+290).
Pianowski: Explore some Mike Clevinger props (wins, strikeouts); there’s value there. I found it interesting that his props pay out much longer than Shane Bieber’s props; although Bieber pitched a full season and Clevinger did not last year, I see no other reason to prefer Bieber. This is the year Clevinger becomes a ballyhooed, celebrated ace.
Our World Series picks
Schwab: It’s boring, but I have to take the Dodgers. Even as the co-favorite at +375 I don’t think they’re a horrible value. This is one of the deepest rosters I’ve ever seen, and motivation shouldn’t be a problem since this group hasn’t won a title yet. If I had to go with a long shot it might be on the Reds at 25-to-1, but it’s hard to see anyone knocking off the Dodgers.
Pianowski: Two for boring. The Dodgers have stars, depth, a chip on the shoulder. They have new talent, young talent, established talent, veteran talent. You’d like them better in a true seven-month marathon, but I’m still betting on talent in a sprint season. In the American League, give me Minnesota, a team that’s quietly put a good ballplayer at pretty much every position. They might not have a true MVP candidate, but I don’t see any weaknesses with those guys.