How this is done: Basically, I estimate each team's chance of winning their first playoff game, and the second, etc. Each game is done individually. Done together, you have a probability for each team to win the division series. All the possible future round matchups are weighted and analyzed using the same process. The results are a concrete and hopefully accurate probability that each team will advance past the Division Series (DS), win the League Championship Series (LCS), and win the World Series (WS).
Remember that these percentages are in no way guarantees, and never bet money you can't afford to lose. When you gamble for fun, you've already won, etc. That being said:
Note: These prices reflect the Cubs using a three-man pitching rotation in the NLDS, something which appears imminent.
Knowing all this, what do we want to bet?
Cleveland +170 to win ALDS
Some of you might be surprised that Cleveland rates as a relatively small underdog in this series. Maybe you think the Yankees are awesome because you're from New York, or because you listen to everything ESPN tells you, or you just think Derek Jeter looks really cute in his uniform. Whatever the reason, if you follow baseball casually, you probably think the Yankees are better than they really are.
I use some complicated math to generate my estimates. Trust me. One look at my spreadsheets can give you recurring nightmares of being attacked by percentages and flying bats. But I happen to think I'm good at translating numbers into words, so here goes:
The Yankees have a devastating offense that's a threat to put up 10 runs any night. They also have a pitching staff that's not very enamored of this new-fangled "strike out". Even worse, their rotation is very balanced top-to-bottom, so they gain little from better leveraging their starting pitchers. Bottom line, this team is very good, but they're not dominant and have a sub-optimal distribution of talent for playoff baseball.
Meanwhile, Cleveland's rotation is fronted by two studs, including one who may well be the best pitcher left in the playoffs and will take the mound in 40% of the Tribe's games in the ALDS. Their hitters can't match their Yankee counterparts, but the everyday lineup features two perennial MVP candidates and the game's best-hitting catcher.
Even though Cleveland has not announced any plans to go with a three-man rotation in the ALDS, I wouldn't be surprised to see them try it. If they throw C.C. Sabathia--an absolute horse--on three days' rest in Game 4, they can get Fausto Carmona back on full rest for Game 5, while skipping Paul Byrd altogether. This possibility is NOT reflected in the percentages above, but it helps illustrate the advantage of a top-heavy rotation in the playoffs. Remember the 2001 Diamondbacks? Can you even name a game they won that wasn't started by Johnson or Schilling?
It's worth remembering that Cleveland won 96 games this year. They are a good team. Are they better than the Yankees? No. Are they closer than the oddsmakers would have you believe? Definitely.
Betting individual games is another option on Cleveland. Tomorrow's line certainly looks like a play, for example; I have the true line estimated at Cleveland -120. Also, The Greek has the Indians +1205 to sweep the series. Again, this may be inferior to betting games, but it's a great line on its own.
As for taking the Indians to win the AL or WS, these seem strictly inferior to betting the series line, offering both less edge and a lower probability of winning.
Phillies +225 to win NL
This isn't a humongous edge, but I think the true line should be more like Phillies +200. It looks like a few too many people may be banking on the Rockies' "momentum". If you're regular readers of R-D, you know that I violently oppose the use of academic terms to describe something completely different. Momentum disappears and reverses itself in sports all the time; you don't see this in nature without an external force. If you still think how you ended the regular season matters, go look up last year's World Series teams again.
There's not a whole lot of mystery to these Phillies. They crush the ball at the plate, and use the "Hamels and pray for rain" approach to pitching, which is fine in a weak NL field.
For widely available futures lines, that's about it. A few places have off-market numbers that can be picked off, but there's not a whole lot out there in the way of futures.
I'll try and update each day with new odds and single-game picks. Again, I promise nothing.