Take a quick look around the room and make sure Pete Rose isn't lurking anywhere. Is it safe? Ok, then let's talk about betting and the 2016 World Series. Specifically, let's talk about the Detroit Tigers and what the oddsmakers think about their chances of winning the World Series this next season. Then let's talk about how stupid the whole thing is and how no one's predictions ever work out, except for that one guy who bet hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Royals before the 2015 season and won millions as a result.
That guy is a jerk. We're not going to talk about him.
Bovada (one of many available sports betting sites) just released their updated World Series odds (good as of December 16) along with the odds they had posted at the start of November. What happened between those two dates? Oh, you know, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, something called the "Winter Meetings," a bunch of high-profile trades and signings that reshaped entire teams' destinies. No big deal.
Here are a few highlights from the Bovada numbers:
- The Cubs (6-to-1), Giants (6-to-1), and Red Sox (9-to-1) are now the top three clear favorites
- The Royals, Mets, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Astros, and Cardinals all now have worse odds than they did before the Winter Meetings
- The Phillies saw the biggest odds improvement, by which I mean they went from 200-to-1 all the way to 100-to-1, LOL Phillies
- The Diamondbacks leapt from 50-to-1 odds to 20-to-1 odds, demonstrating the power of signing pitchers who look like Cameron Diaz
- Don't laugh at the Diamondbacks, though, because their odds are actually better than the Tigers' odds now
- The Tigers got worse odds, dropping from 20-to-1 down to 25-to-1
How is it that the Tigers greatly improved their starting rotation and their bullpen, yet got worse World Series odds as a result? If you'll just do another quick Pete Rose check, I'll explain.
These odds are not "true odds" (the real-world probability of winning). These are payout odds, the amount that the sports books are willing to risk paying in the event that a million people bet on, say, the Cubs, and the Cubs actually win the world championship. To minimize their risk, they also set the Giants at the same 6-to-1 odds, which means they do think the Giants are among the favorites to win, but they'd like to get the betting public to split their bets between those two teams.
The other thing you need to know is that those payout odds will shift as soon as a bunch of bets start pouring in. If I had millions of dollars to blow, I could place a multi-million dollar bet on the Phillies at 100-to-1, and in all likelihood those odds would quickly shift to something like 60-to-1. Why? Did their odds to win suddenly get better? No, but the sports book would definitely want to minimize their risk of going bankrupt, should the Phillies pull off a miracle in 2016.
So why did the Diamondbacks shoot all the way up from 50-to-1 to 20-to-1? Does Zack Greinke really improve their "true odds" of a world championship that much? No, but he is a marquee name, and the betting public eats that stuff up. Ask around sometime, see how many casual fans are now of the opinion that, "yeah, man, with Greinke pitching, those D-Backs are in good shape to go all the way." Public opinion shifts, and the oddsmakers lower the payout enough to still attract those bets, yet not lose their shirts if the Diamondbacks do indeed win.
Ditto for David Price and the Red Sox. Double-ditto for Johnny Cueto going to the Giants, and Jason Heyward going to join Jake Arrieta on the Cubs roster. Are the Cubs truly favorites to win the World Series? Maybe. Are they now a super high-profile team, especially after making it to the NLCS in 2015, and therefore in the forefront of the betting public's mind? Absolutely.
So what does all this mean for the Tigers? Nothing, if we're talking about their "true odds." The fact that they're listed at 25-to-1 (implying odds of about 4 percent) mostly reflects two things: the Tigers haven't made huge, splashy trades or signings that would attract the attention of the betting public, and after having finished in last place in 2015, they're way off the radar.
The Tigers may very well have as high as a 10 percent shot at the World Series (9-to-1 odds), but who in the world would lay that bet right now? That payout isn't nearly high enough for John Q. Bettor to risk wagering on a last-place team that didn't sign David Price. Put the Tigers at 25-to-1, and maybe, just maybe the sports books can attract some bets for Cabrera & Co.
Give it a few months of actual baseball and watch what happens. If the Tigers somehow wind up sitting in first place for all of April and May, they'll attract more attention, and those payout odds will quickly drop to the lowest possible level while still attracting betting action.
So fret not. The Tigers still have a great chance of going to the playoffs and making a run at the World Series trophy. I'm confident enough to bet your money on it.
Most recent Bovada World Series odds
|Team||Odds on Nov 2||Odds on Dec 16|