2017 MLB Betting: 4 Pennant Value Bets to Consider

by Aaron Brooks
on September 14, 2017

More than any other sport, the MLB playoffs are more about which team gets hot at the right time than which team is the best throughout the marathon regular season.

Just look at the 2017 campaign. The Dodgers couldn’t seem to lose for a 2-month stretch, at one point challenging to break the record for the most regular-season wins in history. Now, as I write this on September 11, they’ve lost 9 straight games and 14 of 15.

The Indians may be the latest example of a team that peaked too soon. At the time of writing, the Tribe was the proud owners of an 18-game winning streak, absolutely steamrolling everything in their path. But as the Dodgers showed already, winning at such a pace simply isn’t sustainable in baseball. Regression will kick in at some point, and Cleveland has to hope that it doesn’t come until the playoffs are over.

Who will be the next team to catch fire? Whoever it is, with just 3 weeks to go in the regular season, getting hot right now could be enough to carry an average team all the way into the Fall Classic.

With Bodog and Bovada both offering odds on which teams will win the American League and National League pennants, let’s take a look at 4 dark horses that are capable of going on a run and cashing some huge tickets for bettors in October.

1. Los Angeles Angels (+2500 at Bodog)

On paper, it’s hard to figure out why the Angels are in the thick of the AL wild card hunt.

Offensively, they don’t hit home runs (25th in MLB), hit for average (26th) or score many runs (22nd). And their pitching hasn’t been that impressive, either, ranking 11th in the Majors in team ERA and 27th in quality starts.

However, there are 2 underrated things that the Angels do extremely well – run the bases and play defense. Los Angeles entered Monday’s action with the most stolen bases in all of baseball, and it had committed the ninth-fewest errors. Both of those elements are critical to success in the postseason, where home runs aren’t usually as big of a factor due to colder weather and elite pitching.

They also happen to have the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. The stud centerfielder led baseball in WAR last year and probably would be again this season had he not missed 40 games due to injury. Incredibly, he may still win the AL MVP despite missing a quarter of the season, and the Angels’ mediocre offensive team statistics for the year are misleading because he did miss so much time. They also benefit from the late-season addition of Brandon Phillips, a proven playoff veteran who makes their attack a bit better.

Trout has made the playoffs just once in his career when the Angels were swept in the first round of the 2014 ALDS by Kansas City. He’s not on the national stage nearly often enough, and we can expect to see him at his best if he and LA get back to the postseason once again.

If Trout is playing at his highest level, he could almost single-handedly carry the Angels through to the Fall Classic.

2. Seattle Mariners (+4000 at BetOnline)

The Mariners are in the same boat as the Angels when it comes to team statistics. Seattle’s team batting average is near the middle of the pack and its run production and power numbers are in the bottom half of baseball, while the Mariners’ pitching numbers are also mediocre overall.

Seattle has one thing that the Angels don’t, however: an ace pitcher that can go up against the best that any other team has to offer. You won’t see James Paxton’s name among the list of pitching leaders this season, but that’s only because he hasn’t thrown enough innings to qualify. His 2.78 ERA in 119.2 innings ranks third among AL starting pitchers, just a hair behind Chris Sale’s 2.76 mark, and Paxton’s 1.08 WHIP would be fifth behind only Corey Kluber, Sale, Luis Severino and Carlos Carrasco. He’s also one of a handful of starters in MLB this year to average more than 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and should have plenty of gas in the tank after missing about a month of the season due to a strained pectoral muscle.

With Paxton on the hill, Seattle would have as good a chance as anyone in a single-elimination wild card game. Then you’d have the M’s in the divisional round as a +4000 longshot to win 2 more playoff series, with veterans like Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez who could be rejuvenated by a playoff push.

They just have to get to the wild card game first, which may be the hardest part. Seattle enters the final 3 weeks of the year 3 games behind the second wild card, and with 4 teams ahead of it. But 10 of the Mariners’ last 19 games will be against teams ahead of them in the wild card hunt, and another 3 will be against the woeful A’s.

It’s too early to write off the M’s, especially at this +4000 price.

3. Milwaukee Brewers (+3300 at BetOnline)

Just when you thought the Brewers were going to quietly fade from the NL wild card picture, they rebounded from a 3-game sweep in Cincinnati by going into Wrigley Field last weekend and sweeping the defending World Series champions by a combined score of 20-3.

Suddenly, the NL Central – and an automatic berth in the NLDS, not having to play a single-elimination wild card game first – is a very attainable goal for the Brewers, who trail the Cubs by just 2 games with 19 games to go.

Milwaukee certainly has a favorable schedule down the stretch, including a 4-game set at home to the Cubs that could go a long way towards deciding the division. Other than that series and a 3-gamer in St. Louis to end the regular season, the rest of the Brewers’ opponents this year are a combined 37 games under .500.

The season-ending injury to starter Jimmy Nelson on Friday (he’s the third Brewers pitcher to be injured while batting/running this season) definitely hurts, but Milwaukee’s still got Zach Davies (17-8, 3.67 ERA) and Chase Anderson (9-3, 2.93) as a terrific 1-2 tandem at the top of its rotation.

That could really pay off if the Brewers end up having to go the wild card route, where they currently trail the Rockies by 3 games.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (+3300 at Bovada and BetOnline)

If you’ve watched baseball at all over the past decade, you know how dangerous it is to shovel dirt prematurely on the St. Louis Cardinals.

This is the organization that overcame a 10.5-game deficit in the final 6 weeks to secure a wild card spot in 2011, then was twice 1 strike away from losing the World Series before beating Texas in the Fall Classic. The following fall, St. Louis trailed Steven Strasburg and the Washington Nationals 6-0 through 3 innings of the deciding game of the NDS, only to storm back and prevail 9-7.

Though many faces have changed, the Cardinals also have several key parts remaining from the team that reached 4 consecutive NLCS from 2011-14. Yadier Molina still anchors the pitching staff from behind the plate, pesky leadoff man Matt Carpenter is a veteran of 39 career postseason games, and Adam Wainwright – though a shadow of his former self at 36 years old – has a 3.03 ERA in his playoff career.

Like the Brewers, the Cardinals have 2 legitimate chances at qualifying for postseason play – the NL Central, where they trail the Cubs by 2 games and are tied with Milwaukee for second place, or the wild card, where they’re 3 games behind Colorado. And while the Rockies and Brewers have stumbled a bit in the second half, St. Louis has gone 32-23 since the all-star break, including an 8-2 start to September.

You also can’t understate the value of experience in playoff races and postseason competition.

While Colorado and Milwaukee may wilt a bit under the pressure in September, the Cardinals have shown they only play better when the spotlight heats up.
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