At Pennsylvania Sportsbooks, It’s Never Too Early To Bet On Baseball

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MLB pitchers and catchers report for spring training next week. That means it’s time to check in on what the online betting sites in Pennsylvania are already offering for the 2020 baseball season.

The eight sites have put up futures odds on team win totals and chances of winning the World Series, league championships, and division titles. And one site, FOX Bet, is the first to put up player props such as the over/under on season homers or pitchers’ strikeouts.

The Yankees and Dodgers are, unsurprisingly, the heavy favorites in their leagues. Each was already strong before making the two biggest offseason acquisitions, with New York giving Gerrit Cole the largest contract ever for a pitcher and the Dodgers trading this week for star Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts.

Most of the betting sites have the Yankees around +350 to win the World Series and the Dodgers +400 to +450.

The outlook is far different for the Phillies and Pirates from either those two above or from one another.

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Phils seen as getting 84-87 wins

Philadelphia was the team getting a lot of national attention before the season started last year, with big-name acquisitions such as Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Andrew McCutchen.

Realmuto was everything the Phils could have hoped for and Harper put up solid numbers, but a key injury to McCutchen was among a number that plagued the team. That and a lack of quality pitching behind Aaron Nola were big factors in a late-season collapse that left the team a mere 81-81.

Now the Phillies have a new manager in Joe Girardi, a new No. 2 starter in Zack Wheeler, a new shortstop in Didi Gregorius, and futures odds for the season that fall somewhere between 2019’s fanciful early optimism and the end-of-year disappointment.

The over/under on Philadelphia wins is listed as high as 86.5 by FOX Bet and 85.5 by FanDuel and BetAmerica (though the latter has the over at -125 and the under at -105). DraftKings, Unibet, Parx, BetRivers, and PlaySugarHouse, all using the same odds provided by Kambi, all stand at 84.5, making any of those the best place for a fan to bet the over.

The Kambi-backed sites all list the Phils at 20/1 to win the World Series, 9/1 to win the National League pennant, and +325 to win the NL East.

The division they’re in is one of the toughest challenges facing Philadelphia, as even with a win projection safely above .500, they’re predicted to finish third or fourth, according to the odds. The Braves are +190, the Nationals +250, and the Mets also are at +325.

A lot will depend on a return to health and success by McCutchen and the bullpen, the ability of the two key newcomers, and Rhys Hoskins avoiding the big power plunge he experienced after last year’s All-Star break.

Pirates World Series odds? Hahahaha

The Pirates were a disaster both on and off the field in 2019, and the one thing they have in common with the Phillies in 2020 is a win projection well below the one they had at this time a year ago.

Their over/under on wins is pretty consistently at 70.5, with the one exception being FOX Bet, which has 71.5 (with -118 on the over and -105 on the under).

The Kambi-backed sites have their 70.5 number listed with -103 on the over, -118 on the under, so if you are somehow a Pirates optimist, you’ll want to use one of them. (But be forewarned: A USA Today panel just came out with a prediction of an NL-worst 60-102 for these Pirates.)

The challenges are many for manager Derek Shelton and GM Ben Cherington, both newly hired. Cherington began what could become a still bigger overhaul by trading away his biggest asset, multi-tooled Starling Marte, to the Diamondbacks for prospects years away from stepping foot in PNC Park.

The Bucs were already missing for all of 2020 what would have been otherwise considered their two biggest pitching pieces: Jameson Taillon, due to Tommy John surgery, and star closer Felipe Vazquez, due to imprisonment. Their offseason acquisitions have consisted of utility players and back-end relievers, leaving them a projected payroll around $50 mm.

That also leaves the club that was 14th in the NL last year in homers and ERA with odds ranging from 100/1 (FanDuel) to 250/1 (FOX Bet) to win the World Series. To win the NL, they’re from 80/1 (BetAmerica) to 125/1 (FOX Bet).

The Cardinals are the favorite to win the NL Central (+200 to +225) and the Pirates range anywhere from 50/1 on the Kambi sites to 100/1 at FanDuel, suggesting the latter finds it equally ridiculous for the team to win either the division or World Series.

Harper, Hoskins, Nola get their own bets

It’s likely that sites beyond FOX Bet will be posting prop bets before and during spring training, as has been common in past years in Nevada sportsbooks. They figure to include an over/under for the game’s top stars in categories such as homers, hits, steals, pitchers’ wins, strikeouts, or saves and preseason odds for category leaders or MVP or Cy Young Award winners.

FOX Bet doesn’t have that full range currently, but it has a few categories, including several that feature Phillies (um, no Pirates).

It places Harper’s o/u on homers at 38.5 and Hoskins’ at 36.5, both well behind the top-ranked Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees at 48.5. Harper is listed at 22/1 to lead the majors in homers and Hoskins at 40/1.

In the category of strikeouts by pitchers, Nola carries an o/u of 221.5.

Cole, the rich new Yank, has the top o/u of 277.5 strikeouts, and FOX Bet is giving him some special betting attention. On him, and no one else, it is offering odds of +425 to win the AL Cy Young, 18/1 to have a 20-strikeout game, and 20/1 to throw a no-hitter.

Photo by Eric Hartline / USA Today Sports

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at [email protected].

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