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When the 2009 season started, the Chicago Cubs were the prohibitive favorite to win the National League Central, and were a strong favorite to represent the Senior Circuit in the World Series. Only Cubs fans knew better.

Wherever you looked, pre-season, to find World Series odds, you would note the Cubs occupying the third spot behind the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. This was, of course, unsurprising for two reasons: 1.) on paper, the three were likely the best in the baseball, and 2.) as the most popular teams in baseball, they are the most likely to draw heavy action, regardless of true performance expectations.

But now that the Cubs have slipped under .500 in mid-June, certainly the Cubs’ World Series odds have fallen off the map, no?

Well. In a word? No.

As of June 14, 2009, the team picked as most likely to take the World Series by a group of odds-makers and other folks who do the whole MLB baseball betting thing is the Boston Red Sox. A close second is the New York Yankees – no real surprises there. Next up, and first in the National League is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Given how incredibly they’ve played even without Manny Ramirez, that pick is unsurprising.

Next up in the NL are the New York Mets – a bit of a surprise, given recent, Cub-like woes. The Detroit Tigers are also up there among the top five. But then there’s a surprise.

Next is the Chicago Cubs. Que?

The Cubs, currently a craptastic 29-30 and a distant fourth in the NL Central, are pegged by the odds makers as the 6th most likely team to win the World Series. Better, that’s right, than the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals far ahead of them in the Central.

So what to make of this? Do we Cubs fan overly negativize the performance and prospects for the team? Or is it simply a matter of my admittedly thin understanding of how sports betting works? Perhaps when it comes to baseball betting, these popular teams are going to stick near the top until the brutal end. Of course, it could simply be the matter of conflating “odds” with “chances.”

Whatever the reason, I don’t exactly take new solace here. This is a floundering, struggling, flawed offensive team. You want to tell me you’ll bet me the Cubs have a better chance of winning the World Series than, say, the Philadelphia Phillies? Sorry Cubs, but for now, I’ll take that bet.

  • Kid

    The popular teams always have disproportionately low odds. The odds are set to encourage and discourage betting. Let’s say the Cubs were +10000 like a lot of the teams. That would mean a $100 bet would win $10,000. The problem for the sportsbooks is that the Cubs are very popular, so a disproportionately high number of bets will be placed on them.

    If the Cubs actually won, they’d be paying a boatload of money out. The odds are set to try to encourage, as much as possible, an equal payout among all the teams with any shot of winning. (Obviously, at this point, nobody is going to bet on the Nationals even at +100000).

    Since they’re going to have to pay out for some team winning, they want to try to even out the payout among all the contending teams as much as possible. That’s how the odds get set. People will bet on their favorite team or the team they think is most likely to win. The sportsbooks try to control for that by setting the odds.

    The Cubs always have disproportionately low odds because of their popularity. It doesn’t mean that they’re really the 5th most likely team to win.

    • Ace

      Some variation of that was my guess, but as a non-better, I didn’t know the mechanics of it. Makes sense. Thanks for the info, Kid.

  • http://hubpages.com/hub/Chicago-Cubs-Fan Mike from a Humble Cubs Fan

    Definitely must have something to do with betting odds because these guys don’t look to be able to win the Little League World Series right now.

    • Ace

      Maybe the metal bats would help.

  • KACHINA321

    I THINK IT’S TIME THE YANKEES WON THE WORLD SERIES. FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON EVERYONE THINKS THAT THE YANKS WIN IT EVERY YEAR. I THINK THAT THEY HAVE THE STAFF TO DO IT THIS YEAR. EVEN IF PETITE IS NOT HEALTHY.

    • Ace

      Yes… um… go Yankees?

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