Occurring every October, the World Series is the ultimate contest in Major League Baseball.
While the World Series is always hyped as one of the most entertaining, intense series of the year, and is also a great betting contest, it’s not always the fairest way to assess which team is better.
The baseball regular season is so long that the best teams usually end up on top. The longer the season goes on, the more the bad teams separate from the good.
Some Teams Start Out Hot but Peter Out by July
The true talent level of a team is usually revealed over the course of the grueling regular season. The only problem is some postseason teams are much better than others, and the best ones don’t always win the series.
Thanks to the short 7-game or 5-game formats, the lesser team can win a postseason series regularly.
Wildcard games are even more unpredictable. An inferior team with an ace pitcher can easily take a wildcard game on the strength of a great starting pitching performance.
While the postseason is more unpredictable than the regular season, the World Series still draws more bettors than any other baseball series. And even though a short series has more variance than the regular season, there are still some tips that can give you a leg up on your World Series bet.
1- Study Starting Pitchers
There are several paths that teams can take to a World Series victory, and one of them is a deep, top-level pitching rotation.
The Nationals followed this model in 2019 and were rewarded with their first World Series victory as a franchise.
The team had 4 great starters that consistently went deep into games throughout the World Series and the team was a great moneyline bet to win it all.
The Nationals were +180 underdogs and the Astros were -215 favorites before the series began but the Nationals overcame the odds with their gritty rotation and deep lineup to give bettors who picked them before the series a great payout.
The payout was even better in the middle of the season.
The 4 starting pitchers, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Patrick Corbin finished the regular season with wins-above-replacement (WAR) totals between 3.7 and 6.2. Cumulatively, the quartet gave the team a WAR over 20.
While the rest of the team wasn’t as solid as the Astros were top-to-bottom, Nat’s manager Davy Martinez was able to leverage his great rotation into a World Series victory.
Another thing that helped propel the Nat’s to victory is controversially using their starting pitchers out of the bullpen throughout the playoffs.
Patrick Corbin pitched in 3 games in the World Series, 1 start and 2 relief appearances, and recorded a 3.60 ERA. He helped the Nationals in his start but also got them out of late-inning jams.
The Nationals were able to overcome long odds to win the ‘19 World Series on the backs of their starting pitching. Teams like them with star pitching stand a good chance of not only sneaking into the playoffs but stealing a World Series from an opponent with a better overall roster.
2- Bet on Deep Rosters
The Cardinals were 7th place in World Series odds on September 29, 2011, the day after the last regular-season games ended. The team had 15-1 odds, and while they had a shot to win the World Series, they were only ahead of the Diamondbacks, in odds against, amongst playoff teams.
It would have been tough to predict a bet on the Cardinals that year, but obviously it would have paid off significantly. It’s easy to look back in hindsight and proclaim them easy favorites, but there are some key factors that showed the Cardinals could be a strong playoff team.
As is usually the case, the Cardinals had lots of position player depth on the roster. They had 9 players record 1.6 WAR or better, forming an entire field of above-average competitors.
Despite having future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, the team didn’t really have any top-level performances.
Even Pujols, who recorded several seasons above 8 WAR in his career, only produced 5.3 WAR that year— below his lofty standards and a low number for the best player on a World Series-winning team.
The depth of the roster helped the Cardinals overcome poor starting pitching as well. Chris Carpenter was their best starting pitcher that year by WAR numbers and only recorded 3.7 wins above replacement over more than 230 innings.
While he was a workhorse that year, he produced a rather pedestrian 108 ERA+, only 8 percent better than league average.
Other than Carpenter, the Cardinals didn’t receive any standout pitching performances that year, the next highest WAR total for a pitcher was a mediocre 2.4 wins above replacement.
While the Nationals won the World Series with top tier starting pitching, the Cardinals were able to snag a win over the Texas Rangers with great position player depth that constantly put pressure on the opponent’s pitching.
Wager on teams with a cadre of above-average position players to beat the odds when you’re making bets on World Series winners.
3- Look For Sneaky Speedsters
For the last few years, Taco Bell has run a promotion called, “Steal A Base, Steal A Taco.” Whoever records the first stolen base of the World Series gives free tacos to everyone in America through Taco Bell.
While this promotion is silly, it does reflect the value of stolen bases in the World Series. In a short, tightly-contested series, a single run can make all the difference in a game, and a base runner on second after a steal can score that run.
Teams often get speedsters on their way to a World Series run.
Postseason rosters consist of 26 players just like the regular season, but teams will often opt to carry a speedster instead of a 5th starter or long man reliever like they would in the regular season.
Check rosters to see if they have a speedster who could make the difference in a close World Series. A player like Jarrod Dyson or Billy Hamilton could give you the edge on a bet if they can take an extra base, steal a base, or score a game-winning run.
4- Watch for Strong Bullpens
A strong bullpen can help a team perform better than you’d expect during the regular season, holding tight leads and keeping teams in games. Bullpens are even more important in a shortened series like the World Series where every game counts.
Great playoff teams like the Yankees and Cubs have all built deep bullpens the last few years, with the hopes that, once the starter gives the team the lead after 5 innings, the bullpen can come in and shut down the opposing team over the last 4 innings.
A World Series team that followed that blueprint with great success was the ‘15 Kansas City Royals. The team overperformed their Pythagorean record in the regular season by 5 games, ending the year with 95 wins, on the strength of their bullpen.
Wade Davis was the greatest of the Kansas City Royals relievers that year.
He recorded a 0.94 ERA that year, giving up 7 earned runs over 67.1 innings pitched. He carried that stellar performance into the postseason, helping the Royals stay in close games and protecting tight leads.
Like Aroldis Chapman for the Cubs in 2016, Wade Davis helped lead the Royals to a World Series victory.
If a team has a great bullpen that can shut opposing offenses down, look for them to beat the odds and consider making an underdog bet on them winning the World Series.
5- Check Out Preceding Series
Lastly, fatigue can play a role in World Series runs.
Some teams have to overuse their starting pitchers en route to the World Series and end up with gassed pitchers who can’t suppress offenses enough to win.
Inversely, some teams perform better with their backs against the wall. Wildcard teams will often take World Series victories as they fight and scrape for every playoff win.
Do you have any baseball betting tips for predicting World Series winners? Let us know in the comments.