After months of negotiations and uncertainty, MLB’s July Opening Day is almost here. In just a few days, all 30 of league’s teams will be back on the field for the regular season for the first time since last September, all of 10 months ago. It has been a long time for fans to wait for baseball’s return but that wait is almost over. As teams finish up their summer camp exhibition games this week (the replacement for the traditional spring training), the start of the 2020 regular season is right around the corner.
MLB’s Opening Day is set for July 24th meaning that of the traditional big four American sports leagues, baseball will be the first to return to the calendar as the NFL season isn’t for another few months and the NBA and NHL are both returning slightly after the MLB does. That means, at least for the first week of the season, all eyes will be on the boys of summer.
Due to the coronavirus, baseball, like all sports, was impacted both in terms of the season being delayed and shortened, as well as in the format to which 2020’s games will be played. The 60-game season will feature all 30 teams in action, but instead of league-wide schedules, each team will only play opponents from their division and that division’s NL/AL counterpart.
For example, the New York Yankees will be playing teams in the AL East and NL East only. The universal DH will also be used, marking the first time National League teams will be using the extra hitter in place of the pitcher taking at-bats. These changes will certainly play a role in game outcomes this year and with that, means re-examining the betting odds as part of this MLB predictions preview.
Earlier this year, USA Betting provided division by division betting odds, however, as those were based on the assumption of a 162-game regular season with a full schedule and no NL DH, we decided to offer updated predictions. These odds reflect the latest projections currently being offered by Bovada Sportsbook and indicate the impact baseball’s 2020 changes will have on the 60-game season and playoff implications as well. Feel free to read our old previews for more in-depth analysis of each of the league’s 30 teams.
NL and AL East Predictions
The NL and AL East are comprised of the following teams, listed in order of their World Series odds: New York Yankees (+375), Atlanta Braves (+375), Tampa Bay Rays (+1600), New York Mets (+2000), Washington Nationals (+2000), Philadelphia Phillies (+3000), Toronto Blue Jays (+8000), Miami Marlins (+25000) and Baltimore Orioles (+30000).
Home field disadvantage: Home field advantage in sports often leads to quite the debate among fans. In a sport like baseball, there is reason to believe that advantage extends beyond a favorable crowd as each ballpark is unlike another. The outfielders in Boston are going to know how to play the Green Monster better than any other team just like the Phillies batters know when a ball kicks off the wall in center field, there is a good chance for extra bases. Players know the intricacies of their park and that leads to them being able to read balls better on offense and make better plays of defense.
This year, the Blue Jays won’t have that as due to coronavirus restrictions the team will not be allowed to play at home in Toronto. In some ways, this is a huge advantage that the Blue Jays are giving up as they are one of just two teams, the Rays being the other, to still play on artificial turf. As players will tell you the ball bounces differently on turf, something Toronto’s players are used to. Now they’ll have to get used to playing a season, likely on grass, which could cause some problems.
Toronto isn’t considered to be a serious contender but their odds definitely slip with losing their home park. The Rays on the other hand, could be in the best position to utilize their turf advantage especially against the NL East opponents, who aren’t used to playing on the surface as frequently as those in the Rays’ own division.
Predictions to win: Yankees to win the AL East (-265), Mets to win the NL East (+375).
The Yankees are still co-favorites to win the World Series and for good reason. With the season delayed, New York had time to get healthy. Operating on full cylinders now, this year could be NYY’s best chance to win another World Series in quite some time.
The Mets have an exciting, young team that played very well divisionally last year. The Braves are favorites to win the NL East, but take a flyer on the Mets here as a bit of sleeper pick in a race that could be anyone’s to win.
NL and AL West Predictions
The NL and AL West are comprised of the following teams, listed in order of their World Series odds: Los Angeles Dodgers (+375), Houston Astros (+1200), Los Angeles Angels (+2000), Oakland Athletics (+2000), San Diego Padres (+3000), Arizona Diamondbacks (+6600), Texas Rangers (+8000), Colorado Rockies (+15000), San Francisco Giants (+15000) and Seattle Mariners (+20000).
Getting past the scandal: Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of fans not being allowed at baseball games will be the Astros. While no one has forgotten about the Astros’ cheating, the absence of fans means the absence of boos and chants of “bang, bang.” The delayed season also puts less of an emphasis on Houston’s actions given there have been much bigger news stories capturing peoples’ attention over the past few months.
In USAbetting’s earlier AL West preview, we wrote that the biggest hurdle to the Astros winning the division this year would be the mental game and how they would respond to being baseball’s biggest villains. Some, if not all of that pressure, will be gone now and that leaves the path open for the Astros to bring home the divisional crown. They have some big hitters such as Alex Bregman and George Springer.
In the NL West, some things haven’t changed. The Dodgers remain the class of not just the division but of the entire league. Facing only NL and AL West opponents actually boosts the likelihood that the team wins some 40-45 games this year as their schedule strength definitely took a notch down.
Predictions to win: Astros to win the AL West (-160) and Dodgers to win the NL West (-450).
The Dodgers are huge favorites, like, it’s not even close. At -450, the next closest odds in the division are the Diamondbacks at +750. This won’t be a contest really as LA is just too good and is an early front runner to win the most games this year as well as book a trip to the World Series.
Might they face the Astros in a rematch should they get there? Houston has a good team and with the mental pressure of playing a season where you get booed everywhere you go largely out of the equation, look for that talent to shine through. Houston didn’t need to cheat to win and this year, they’ll look to prove that.
NL and AL Central Predictions
The NL and AL Central are comprised of the following teams, listed in order of World Series odds: Minnesota Twins (+1500), Cincinnati Reds (+1800), Chicago White Sox (+2000), Chicago Cubs (+2400), Cleveland Indians (+2500), St. Louis Cardinals (+2500), Milwaukee Brewers (+3300), Kansas City Royals (+15000), Detroit Tigers (+20000) and Pittsburgh Pirates (+30000).
Crowded in the middle: For years now, the NL Central has been one of the league’s most tightly contested divisions. As it would turn out, their AL counterpart has somewhat mimicked that with new teams maintaining dominance on almost a yearly basis. With the NL and AL Central solely playing each other, look for two divisional races that should be wire-to-wire until the end.
Of course, the Central is also the home to the team that is expected to be the worst in the league in the Pirates. Much like the NL/AL East slate of games, look for the Central slate to see the Pirates and Tigers, who have the fifth worst odds to win the World Series, get beat up on in the road to some easy wins for their opponents.
Predictions to win: Twins (-150) to win the AL Central and Cubs (+275) to win the NL Central.
From top-to-bottom, no division is as closely bunched together as the NL Central, which has four of its five teams all within +75 points when it comes to odds with the leading and trusted sportsbooks for the States to win the division. None of this is really anything new for the NL Central as season-long battles are what this division has become known for. Look for the Cubs, just +25 points behind the favored Cardinals, to emerge as the winner, likely claiming the crown in the final series of the season.
In the West, things are a little less bunched as the Twins have recently emerged as a tough team. The MLB’s home run leaders a year ago, there is no easy out in Minnesota’s lineup. They will be tough to beat, especially when they’ll be able to use a DH for every game, not just the AL ones.