If there were any doubts about whether Major League Baseball is really coming back this week, Pennsylvania’s online betting sites seek to dispel those with a bevy of special offers.
FanDuel is offering “7th Inning Stretch Insurance,” where you can place a pre-game moneyline bet and get up to $50 in site credit refunded if your team leads in the 7th but loses the game.
DraftKings provides a $25 free bet on the opening weekend to anyone placing a futures bet for at least that amount on a team to win the World Series.
FOX Bet has some futures odds boosts for those who like to bet hometown teams, including bumping the Phillies to 25/1 instead of 22/1 to win the World Series and boosting Aaron Nola to 28/1 from 22/1 as the NL Cy Young Award winner.
And Unibet has a 20% profit boost through Sunday for any single MLB bet up to $50.
Those are just some of the ways the nine legal online/mobile sportsbooks are encouraging fans to get a stake in the return of the first major U.S. professional team sport since COVID-19 wrecked the calendar on March 12.
Get ready for a crazy short season
The prospects for the state’s two MLB teams are much different from one another, but they share the same odd twists to the coronavirus-impaired 2020 season as all 30 teams:
- A 60-game schedule instead of 162
- Two-thirds of games to be played with division opponents
- One-third of games played against teams in the commensurate American League division
- No fans in the stands
- Tweaks to various rules, such as allowing for expanded rosters and putting an automatic runner on second base in extra innings to try to cut the length of games.
- Adoption by the National League of the AL’s longtime designated hitter rule, meaning Phils and Pirates pitchers won’t bat.
Just how any of the changes specifically affect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh remains to be played out, but the teams’ prospects remain pretty much as was anticipated back in spring training before anyone knew there’d be a nearly four-month delay to the season.
In other words, the Phils are deemed a pretty good team in a very tough division. The less talented team inhabiting beautiful PNC Park across the state should be among the worst in the NL, although the truncated schedule offers a glimmer of hope for such clubs to become relevant with a short burst of success.
In openers, Phils are favored, Bucs are ‘dogs
While the MLB gets underway Thursday night with two games, the Yankees-at-Nationals and Giants-at-Dodgers, fans and bettors interested in the Pennsylvania teams have another 24 hours to wait.
The Phillies send their ace, Nola, to the hill Friday night while hosting the Marlins, the only team the Phils are favored to finish ahead of in the NL East.
While the moneyline will presumably shift a bit at the various sites by Friday evening, the Phillies were a heavy favorite in the opener as of Thursday morning. The best price for someone betting on them to start the season 1-0 was the -188 at FOX Bet, with the other sites listing them above -200.
Just as the Pirates’ season-long fortunes are predicted to be worse, it was the same for their opener at St. Louis Friday. The Pirates plan to pitch Joe Musgrove, whose performance last year was nowhere close to that of Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty.
Bucs backers could thus get the team at an underdog price as good as +170 (FOX Bet) for the opener, with other sites offering a little less reward.
Phils good, but are they good enough?
The sportsbooks view the Phillies as a better-than-average team, based on an over-under wins total of 31.5 offered across the board by the sites. (FanDuel offered the lowest vig on the over, at -106, as of Wednesday morning.)
But their competitive challenge in 2020 is made clear by odds that generally hold them as only the fourth-best team in the NL East, behind the Braves, Nationals, and Mets.
The payoff for a bet on them to win the division ranges from as low as +320 to as much as +400 at the Caesars online book, making the latter the best choice for Phils fans looking to profit off of them.
For Phils doubters, the Braves, as division favorites, can be bet for a profit as high as +215 at the various Kambi-backed sites, which include DraftKings, Unibet, BetRivers, PlaySugarhouse, and Parx.
As to the Phillies’ chances of winning the World Series, those same sites using Kambi odds have them at 22/1, while FanDuel lists 25/1 and Caesars again pays the best price at 33/1.
The Phils are anywhere from 14/1 (Caesars) to 9/1 (FOX Bet) to win the National League pennant.
Some sportsbooks offer odds on just the likelihood of being one of the five NL teams to make the playoffs, with Philadelphia as an underdog to do so. FanDuel will pay +220 on a successful “yes” bet for them to reach the postseason, and the Kambi sites offer +215.
The Bucs are longshots, to say the least
The Pirates had a major front-office overhaul in the offseason, and since the middle of last year they lost a series of their best players to injury, trade, or arrest.
Adding it all together leaves the team with odds no less than 100/1 to win the World Series, though FOX Bet and Caesars offer a better price at 250/1 for those with wild imaginations and a dollar or two to spare.
Even to win the competitive NL Central, where the four teams ahead of them are tightly bunched in odds, the Bucs are mostly 70/1 or worse. FOX Bet offers a slightly better reward to bettors, at 85/1, if the club surprises everyone.
Most of the sites have the Pirates at 15/1 to reach the postseason, with FanDuel offering a bit less return at 13/1.
The over/under on their win total is 25.5 everywhere, with the Kambi sites providing the best vig (+110) for a successful bet on the over.
Lots of ways to bet on Bryce
Aside from the aforementioned chance to bet on Nola to win the Cy Young, the biggest available wagering on a local performer’s individual achievement centers on Phils slugger Bryce Harper.
Many of the sites offer 16/1 on the outfielder to emerge as NL MVP. FanDuel makes him 21/1 to lead the majors in home runs, which is a slightly better payoff for that accomplishment than competing sportsbooks. The Kambi sites list an over/under of 14.5 on homers hit by Harper this year.
And FanDuel adds a little more drama and interest to the opening of the season with a chance to bet on which Phil will hit the team’s first home run of the season. It’s got Harper at +250 and Rhys Hoskins at +350, in addition to other players ranging to the longest odds of 40/1 for both Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn.
And that’s just the beginning, folks. If baseball betting is your thing, you’ll want to pay close attention to incentives from all of the sites on opening weekend, as they’re likely to add more than what’s described here.
It’s unlikely, however, that any will treat bettors more generously than this DraftKings offer: If any of 44 players it lists from last year’s All-Star Game hits a home run on opening weekend, it will pay off up to $25 at even money. That might not be a bad way to ease into a season of baseball betting.
Photo by Bill Streitcher / USA Today Sports