Last year about this time, the Atlanta Braves were far down the list of World Series odds. Their longest odds at some sportsbooks were 40- or 50-to-1.
The Braves got hot in October and won a championship, cashing a few huge tickets for bettors who weren't scared off by Ronald Acuna Jr.'s injury. The 2019 Washington Nationals had a similar story, rallying after a bad start to the season. A team with long odds at the all-star break can take the title, as we've seen. There's still plenty of time left in the season, after all.
But if you look at BetMGM's odds, oddsmakers have cut the group of true World Series contenders down to five teams. Maybe that just means there's a great value bet out there, like the Braves last season.
World Series odds at the all-star break
Here are the five teams on BetMGM's board that have shorter than +2000 odds to win the World Series:
New York Yankees +325
Los Angeles Dodgers +375
Houston Astros +450
New York Mets +700
Atlanta Braves +900
The Yankees, Dodgers and Astros are obvious. They have the three best records in baseball and all lead their divisions by at least nine games. All three teams are among the team leaders in pitching and hitting. All three should be adding more talent at the trade deadline. It's easy to talk yourself into any of the three, but there's also not much betting value on any of them.
The Mets are among the title contenders because they've had a good season and the possibility of pairing Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom in a playoff rotation is intimidating. The Braves have been on fire since a slow start to the season.
A bet on any of those teams is justifiable. Those are clearly the five best teams in baseball at the all-star break. But that means there are good odds on 25 other teams with a lot of baseball to be played.
Which team can make a surprising run?
Is there a team that profiles like the 2021 Braves, who can win a World Series after being buried at midseason?
The Milwaukee Brewers (+2500) have reasonable World Series odds and a 63.9% chance to win their division, according to Fangraphs' projections. If you believe in the St. Louis Cardinals to win that division, their +4000 odds to win the World Series aren't bad.
Or perhaps the Chicago White Sox, at +4000, are the most Braves-esque pick.
The White Sox had an awful start to the season but they played better in July. They won five of six heading into the break. For all their issues, they're only three games behind the Minnesota Twins in the division. Fangraphs' projections have Chicago with the best chance to win the division (43%). They have the top-end talent to make a postseason run, and a legitimate ace in Dylan Cease. If Lucas Giolito comes around and pitches as he has the past few years, that's a good 1-2 at the top of the rotation. A White Sox title isn't a likely outcome this season, but that's why their odds are long.
If you want to take a team to win the World Series from a likely wild-card position, it can work. A talented team like the Toronto Blue Jays (+2000) or San Diego Padres (+2500) could make a run. Or maybe the White Sox can get hot in the second half and be this year's surprise postseason team.