Here is how one bookmaker has the race for the title marked up this morning (this list echoes most of the other bookies odds for same)
- 15/8 New York Yankees
- 5/1 Boston Red Sox
- 11/2 Philadelphia Phillies
- 6/1 St Louis Cardinals
- 15/2 LA Dodgers
- 8/1 LA Angels
- 12/1 Colorado Rockies
- 16/1 Detroit Tigers
That list appears to be split into four distinct groups
- The favourite.
- The chasing pack.
- The dark horse.
- The outsiders.
No prizes for guessing the favourite.
The New York Yankees at a restrictive 15/8. Where's the value in that? You walk into a bookmaker and place 100 units of currency on them and if they win, you go back into that same bookmaker and you take out just under 290. Not exactly value. Of course, those of you reading this from the States can't go into a bookmaker, can you? You can buy a gun, but you can't place an adult wager. And you wonder why I live in Ireland...
Back to the Yankees, here's the problem. Sure, they are putting up some magnificent numbers in their little stadium (little as in, not a pitchers ball-park, enough said), however they also have a host of questions that will be thoroughly examined by superior pitching in the playoffs. Outside of Big CC Sabathia and the regal Mariano Rivera, who are opponent batters going to be afraid of? Burnett? This would appear to be a 50/50 option, he is either going to walk nine batters and lose or strike out nine and win, even the most ardent of Yankee fans couldn't be too comfortable with the potential of AJ Burnett v John Lester in the ALCS, for example. 'Jibber Jobba The Headhunter Chamberlin'? That young man is being lit up like a Christmas tree the last few weeks of regular season action. He appears to be going through a 'chuck-and-duck' stage, where he throws a pitch, and then dives out of the way as it is laced right back up the middle.
Quick, name four Yankee relievers out of their bullpen, without saying the words 'Mariano Rivera'. Not so easy, huh? Put it this way, you knock a Yankee starter out early, they are in big, big trouble. Phillip Hughes aside, that 'pen is weak.
Big lineup, big stars, big names. Questionable starting and relief pitching.
We haven't even touched on one if the main reasons you really should think twice about putting your hard earned cash money on the New York Yankees. There is a player on their squad who is such a bad team mate, and such an anti-clutch performer, that his former team-mates on the Texas Rangers dubbed him 'The Cooler'. Much like mythical Casino 'Coolers' A-Rod has the ability to bring any winning streak, any playoff run, to a crunching, crashing halt. The man has never won a title. Never. He was a major part of the incredible Yankee collapse in 2004 and continues to be a gigantic albatross hanging around the neck of the New York nine.
You want summer bombs against Kansas or Cleveland? Not a problem. You want some hits in the playoffs, in clutch situations? Problem! A-Rod just does not do playoff success. 'The Cooler' . I didn't make that up, his own team-mates! Imagine!
Tread carefully, basically. No value to be had there.
The chasing pack.
There are four teams in the chasing pack, and you can make strong arguments for and against all four. What is interesting is that three are from the NL whilst just the one is from the AL. The way the betting is made out, it would appear the bookies are saying;
Basically, whoever wins the ALCS, which should be between Boston and New York, will win the World Series, over any one from Philly, St Louis or the Dodgers.
The one that jumps out at you here is obviously the Philadelphia Phillies, or, the 2008 World Champion Phillies. It is not often you can back a returning champ, in reasonably good shape to defend his title, at 11/2. Such is the dramatic effect the Yankees are having on the betting. The Phillies have a little bit of everything, pitching, relief pitching, big bats and defence, not to mention an eye for the clutch hit and the dramatic. They do have some lingering questions hanging over them though. Their closer situation is a straight up old fashioned shambles. Brad Lidge is leaking live a sieve and the knock on effect on their late inning relief has been hairy lately. If they make the Series, they will once more be a few batters short against the power packed AL lineups. In '08 they took advantage of a rookie Tampa team to take the title, could they do it twice in a row against a superior, more veteran than Tampa, AL lineup? That might be asking too much.
Still, 11/12, that's not bad for a team that has been there and done it as recently as '08.
The St Louis Cardinals are an intriguing prospect. Have you ever seen Adam Wainwright pitch? He is the real deal, and he isn't even their ace, that's Chris Carpenter, who is an absolute stud. The 'Cards have a pen, a decent lineup and some punch, and, to give him his full due, the greatest living hitter in the game, one Mr Albert Pujols.
At 6/1, you can see where the value is in that.
How do you evaluate a team like the LA Dodgers? Their 'ace' is a guy who has been lit up a few times in '09 (Chad Billingsley) and does not appear to have an Ice Cold playoff demeanour. That's not arbitrarily knocking the guy, I have watched him pitch live four or five times in '09 and he just does not look like a front line ace to me, too easily rattled. Their lineup is an odd collection of diverse talents, led of course by Manny Ramirez. The dreadlocked one, whatever you want to say about him, gets the job done, and done well, come playoff time. After that? Kemp, Martin, Loney and Ethier, all talented young dangerous hitters, however, would you argue with me vociferously if I hinted that it is a lineup you could get some swings and misses out of? Can't you see the Dodgers failing to hit in the playoffs? I can see it. And I just do not like their chances, 15/2, you can take it or leave it, I don't want any part of it.
The last of the chasers, the Boston Red Sox, will live and die on the backs of four young men. It's pretty clear cut. If Lester, Beckett, 'BulletHoles' and Dice-K pitch anywhere close to their standard, particularly the first two of those guys, the Red Sox will win the World Series. As that crazy Meerkat on TV says, 'Simples'. If you think there's a good chance of that happening, 5/1 is pretty tasty.
The dark horse.
Ah the dark horse, what's not to love about the dark horse. At a relatively astonishing 8/1 the Anaheim Angels of California or whatever name they are trading under these days, are superb value. There is no doubt about it. They can pitch, they can hit, they have a decent 'pen, and they run the bases very well. The way they play the game of baseball, you could imagine them absolutely destroying a NL team in the World Series. They play a fearless NL brand of baseball, moving the runners over, clutch hits and great base running, but have a ridiculous lineup that very few AL, let alone NL, teams can match. One slight snag. The Red Sox and Yankees both stand in their way. Maybe one of those teams will trip over its own feet, but, both? Still, 8/1, pretty tasty none the less.
Finally, the two 'dogs, the outsiders. The Rockies and the Tigers. Both of these guys share common features, if you think they can become contenders, their double figure prices are super value. They are both relatively young, and both have decent man-managers who should get the most out of their squads. The Tigers have one of the best fireballing, no, actually, infernoballing pitchers in the game, let alone the playoffs, in Justin Verlander, and a very good late inning bullpen. Do they have the lineup and the defence though to survive a first round in New York? If they win their home games, anything could happen. Great value for a small bet at 16/1, if they win, you look (and feel) like a genius, if they lose, the damage is limited and hopefully you still get a run for your cash money.
Something about this version of the Rockies smells like one-and-done. It looks to me like they are surviving on smoke and mirrors, a decent lineup and reasonably okay pitching, can you honestly see them slipping past the Dodgers, Cards or Phills? Neither can I.
So there it is. The 'value', for what it's worth, has to be The Angels and Tigers from the AL, and the Cardinals from the NL.
God I love playoff baseball.
Can't come fast enough.