As we’ve discussed in this space before, betting odds can be a blunt instrument for gauging actual odds of a sporting event happening. On the one hand, the oddsmakers are looking to get even money on both sides of the bet, constantly smoothing things out, and thus *theoretically* distilling all the available information into the market equivalent of consensus.
On the other hand, when you have a team as popular as the Chicago Cubs, with as many fans who want to be able to say they bet it all on the team, the smoothing process can get skewed, because the odds keep getting re-set further and further from reality as all the bets are going on the Cubs to win.
That’s the case, in my opinion, with the latest World Series betting odds (not to be confused with statistically calculated odds from places like FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus), which Bovada just released. The Cubs are the favorite to win it all 12/5, ahead of the next-best Red Sox at 5/1.
If you want to have some fun, by all means, go ahead and bet on the Cubs (if and where it is legal to do so). If you want to win actual money, probably do not take that bet.
The 12/5 odds for the Cubs implies a 29.41% probability that the Cubs will win it all. To be sure, that’s not a completely insane figure, but let’s consider: if the playoffs were a total crapshoot, the Cubs would have a 1/8 chance to win it all, which is 12.5%. Although we use the expression frequently as shorthand, we know that the playoffs are not entirely a crapshoot, and the Cubs, being the best team in baseball, having home-field advantage in the NL, and with a strong front of the rotation and bullpen, are probably better situated than the average playoff team.
To that end, Baseball Prospectus has calculated the Cubs’ World Series win probability at 25.2%. FiveThirtyEight has it at 26%. FanGraphs has it at 19.1%. The latter is the only one, by the way, that does not have the Cubs as the overwhelming favorite (the Red Sox are a close second at 17.1%).
So, that’s the range I’d be looking at for the Cubs’ actual probability of winning it all this year. Against that backdrop, I’m actually impressed that the odds from Bovada aren’t more skewed.
Apparently there ARE some ridiculous odds out there, though:
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 3, 2016
That’s a 36.36% probability of the Cubs winning it all. Better than 1 in 3, despite there being 10 teams in the playoffs right now, and eight of them by the time the Cubs play in their first series. Do not take that bet, no matter how much you love the Cubs.