MLB Odds: Baseball Handicapper Previews NL Contenders

Joe DuffyAnalyst IMarch 30, 2010

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 24:  Fernando Martinez #26 of the New York Mets gets hit by a pitch while facing the Houston Astros at Tradition Field on March 24, 2010 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

OffshoreInsiders.com columnist Shea Matthews takes a look at the best bets for NLCS champions.

Hard to believe MLB betting is almost back already. Now is arguably the best time to bet on futures for league crowns. Why? Because, if you think you have good inside knowledge, you can get major value on your bets. For example, if you bet on the Tampa Bay Rays’ futures in 2008, you made out like a bandit.

Here are some picks to consider for the National League pennant.

ELITE

Philadelphia Phillies

Odds to win: +300

The Phillies remain as good a pick as any to win not just the NLCS, but the World Series. They have a dynamite one-two punch in Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels to lead their pitching staff. Halladay could win 25 games for all we know in his NL debut and Hamels was very unlucky last season according to his peripheral stats (like batting average on balls in play). Philly also has the National League’s best offense by a mile; it had four players hit 30 or more homers last season. Sports betting picks don’t get much safer than these guys.

St. Louis Cardinals

Odds to win: +500

If Chris Carpenter stays healthy for a second straight year, the Cards will seriously contend again. He joins Adam Wainwright to form an elite top of the rotation. Albert Pujols is the best hitter of the last decade (at least) and should be even more dangerous than usual with a full season of Matt Holliday distracting pitchers in the lineup. The Cardinals’ lack of depth in the rotation is a minor concern, however.

CONTENDERS

Atlanta Braves

Odds to win: +900

Here I was ready to label the Braves my favorite “sleeper” and, as it turns out, the secret is out in books like Bodog. Everyone sees that the Braves’ pitching staff is starting to resemble its 1990s heyday, with Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson on board. If they can score enough, they’ll contend.

Colorado Rockies

Odds to win: +900

These guys have plenty of power with the likes of Tulowitzki, Stewart, Gonzalez and Hawpe on board – not to mention a park that boosts offense. But it’s the pitching that makes Colorado so intriguing. Ubaldo Jimenez is ready to become a bona fide ace thanks to his blazing fastball – the fastest on average of any major-league starter.

San Francisco Giants

Odds to win: +1000

The Giants arguably have the National League’s best “top four” in a pitching rotation, with two Cy Young candidates (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain), a cagey vet (Barry Zito) and a budding strikeout artist (Jonathan Sanchez). If only Pablo Sandoval had more help on offense.

SLEEPERS

Arizona Diamondbacks

Odds to win: +1500

It’s not a question of talent; from Dan Haren to Justin Upton to Mark Reynolds to Miguel Montero, this team has it in spades. It’s a question of health and maturity. If Brandon Webb returns in style and the likes of Stephen Drew and Chris Young find their swings, watch out for the D-backs.

Cincinnati Reds

Odds to win: +2000

Shhh! Here’s your deep sleeper courtesy of your favorite sports betting blog. Cincy should score enough; Joey Votto is developing into a star and Jay Bruce will show major power if he plays a full season. The key is the pitching, which could be the Reds’ best in years if Aroldis Chapman can find a rotation spot and Homer Bailey finally harnesses his talent.

BUSTS

Los Angeles Dodgers

Odds to win: +800

I think their reign is over. The rotation is very thin after Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley – and Billingsley isn’t even guaranteed to rediscover his control after struggling in the second half of 2009. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will keep driving in runs but Manny Ramirez is on the decline, Rafael Furcal is brittle and Russell Martin disappeared last season. Not a recipe for a pennant.

New York Mets

Odds to win: +1200

Bay Schmay. Snagging the star outfielder from Boston won’t be enough. Other key contributors like Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, are already hurt as usual and Johan Santana can’t pitch every game. The rest of the Mets’ pitching staff is shaky at best.

Free pick: Philadelphia Phillies. Sure, it’s boring, but there’s no denying that the Phillies are head and shoulders above the rest of the National League.

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