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April 19, 2014

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Parity in baseball makes for attractive wagering

LVH Superbook 2014 odds to win World Series

Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-to-1

Detroit Tigers, 7-to-1

St. Louis Cardinals, 7-to-1

Washington Nationals, 12-to-1

Boston Red Sox, 12-to-1

New York Yankees, 12-to-1

Tampa Bay Rays, 12-to-1

Los Angeles Angels, 15-to-1

Atlanta Braves, 15-to-1

Oakland A’s, 15-to-1

Texas Rangers, 15-to-1

San Francisco Giants, 20-to-1

Pittsburgh Pirates, 25-to-1

Cincinnati Reds, 30-to-1

Cleveland Indians, 40-to-1

Baltimore Orioles, 40-to-1

Kansas City Royals, 40-to-1

Toronto Blue Jays, 40-to-1

Seattle Mariners, 40-to-1

Chicago White Sox, 40-to-1

San Diego Padres, 50-to-1

Arizona Diamondbacks, 50-to-1

Milwaukee Brewers, 50-to-1

Philadelphia Phillies, 60-to-1

Colorado Rockies, 60-to-1

Chicago Cubs, 100-to-1

Miami Marlins, 100-to-1

New York Mets, 100-to-1

Minnesota Twins, 100-to-1

Houston Astros, 200-to-1

Like the settings of their multimillion-dollar complexes in Florida and Arizona, the disposition of Major League Baseball teams during spring training is bright and sunny.

From the blue-blooded franchises to the perennial losers, every team shares an upbeat attitude on their World Series aspirations.

That optimism is shining through again as this year’s spring training begins. And there’s a reason for it: If you think there’s no parity in baseball, you’re subscribing to an outdated myth.

Five years have passed since a Las Vegas-branded preseason favorite, the 2009 New York Yankees, exited the year as champions. The four World Series winners since — the 2010 San Francisco Giants, the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, the 2012 Giants and the 2013 Boston Red Sox — were an average of 24-to-1 in preseason future odds with 12.5 teams ranked ahead of them.

Exclusively using that criteria, which team fits best as wager-worthy headed into this baseball season? Well, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 13th-lowest price in the LVH Superbook’s odds to win the World Series at 25-to-1.

The Pirates broke out of a 21-year playoff drought last season behind an MVP season from Andrew McCutchen, but also a fair amount of luck. Pittsburgh somehow won 94 games despite scoring only 57 more runs than its opponents, which, based on league historical averages, would normally have resulted in six fewer victories.

Sports books remain high on the Pirates going into the 2014 season, but other statistical measures disagree. Baseball Prospectus’ projections peg the Pirates for 78 wins. That’s a discrepancy of 6.5 victories from the Superbook’s over/under win total of 84.5 games, the largest of the 30 MLB teams. The team that Baseball Prospectus prefers most over the local betting market might come as a surprise. It’s the Los Angeles Dodgers, the World Series favorites at 5-to-1 and the team with the highest win total of 93.5 victories.

Baseball Prospectus’ advanced statistics warn that sports books haven’t gone far enough with the Dodgers, as they’re projected to ride their MLB-high $220 million payroll to 98 wins.

Neither the Dodgers nor the Pirates are offered at a high enough prices to warrant a bet on them to win the World Series, though. I’d suggest looking just below the Pirates at National League Central rival Cincinnati (30-to-1).

The Reds have won 90 games or more in three of the past four seasons and were better than the Pirates in every measure except wins and losses a season ago. When the odds were released a couple of months ago, the Reds were seen as twice as likely to win the World Series at 14-to-1. In other words, the oddsmakers believed in the Reds, but their stock plunged when the bettors gravitated to other teams. Still, the oddsmakers aren’t dumb, so the value of the 30-to-1 bet is too much to ignore.

The Red Sox at 12-to-1 and the A’s at 15-to-1 also merit consideration. Boston deserves a better chance to become the first repeat champion in 15 years, coming off a season in which it was the best team all year.

Oakland has quietly owned the American League West the past two years while its division rivals hog the spotlight with big-name acquisitions and glitzier personnel.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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