Pennant Payouts and MLB Futures

Baseball Prospectus has an interesting offshoot of their projections called the Playoff Odds Report. Unlike much of the really great stuff on their site, this one is free for anyone to see. Starting with the Nats, we see they have the lowest odds of making the playoffs in the majors. Part of that is their division, because they don’t actually have the worst projected record in the league. So let’s move on…

This winter I was in Las Vegas and did what I always like to do there – put some money on baseball futures. My philosophy is simple: I look for longshot payouts that seem to have an actual decent chance of making the playoffs. I don’t bet much money, just $20 or $30, so I usually like a 15-1 payout or more the get really interested. And the philosophy also relies on the belief that any team COULD win it once they make the playoffs. So what it boils down to is this: find a team that has low Vegas odds to win the pennant, but I think has actually a good chance of making the playoffs, and bet a little on them.

This year, I was there in December, so I didn’t have the luxury of using the BP playoff report. I bet on the A’s (at 18-1 odds) and the Brewers (at 35-1 odds). I think I did alright. Below is the list of teams, with their playoff odds and their respective payouts (according to bodog.com on 2/25/11) for winning the pennant

The first thing that jumps out at me is how much the payouts on the Brewers went down. Again, I got 35-1 payouts in December, when Zack Greinke had already been acquired. For that matter, so had Shawn Marcum. Everyone, not just me, knew they’d have those two, plus Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, as starting pitchers. There haven’t been any real acquisitions since then, the only big news that I can think of is Wainwright’s injury, but that isn’t enough to move the needle as much as it did. It just seems Vegas was a bit behind on that one. I, on the other hand, probably just got lucky showing up in December. As for my Oakland pick, at 18-1 instead of the 12-1 above, I’m pretty happy. I guess any time the payouts get lower in the futures bets, after you’ve placed yours, you gotta figure you had a good hunch.

For those without the benefit of a time machine, though, you have to use the odds above. And the one that jumps out to me the most is the Dodgers. Next would be the A’s, and that’s about it. 8-1 odds just aren’t enough to get me excited for this game. I’m not much of a gambler, other than the occasional Mega Millions ticket, but this is always a fun thing to do if you find yourself in Vegas before the season starts. As for me, you know I’ll be pulling for the Brewers to win the NL pennant. Well, after the Nats, of course.

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