Don’t bet on the Chicago Cubs in 2015.
No, I don’t mean I think the Cubs will be bad in 2015, and, no, I don’t mean you shouldn’t hope they’re competitive. They’ll enter the season with the best chance to be a competitive team in four or five years, so all the positivity you’ve been feeling still stands.
Instead, I’m saying, literally, don’t bet on them.
As of mid-December – i.e., post-Lester/Montero/Hammel – the Chicago Cubs held the fourth best World Series odds at 12-1, tied with the Angels and Tigers, behind only the Dodgers (15-2), Nationals (15-2), and Cardinals (9-1). That’s silly. And, even worse, a BN’er sent me this on Twitter:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) December 24, 2014
Whether you gamble or not, gambling odds can often be a strong indicator of future outcomes on the theory that “the market” aggregates and distills information better than any one source. Bookmakers have an interest in getting the odds as close to perfect as possible, and bettors have an interest in taking the best odds possible (which then swings those odds in the opposite direction; and so forth until it lands where “the market” believes the odds are best).
You see inefficiencies, however, in rare circumstances where you have a large, often irrational fan base that wants to pump dollars into bets on their team, regardless of the reasonableness of the odds. Enter Cubs fans who want to bet, aggressively, on the Cubs for 2015 (and, actually, this happens every year around this time with Cubs’ World Series odds). We’re a crazy bunch. It makes us fun and lovable, but it makes us terrible gamblers when it comes to the Cubs.
Thus, the Cubs’ odds right now are just sillystupidnuts. Whether they’re 12-1 or 6-1, that’s not at all reflective of the strength of the 2015 team, as currently projected by reasonable minds and systems. We’ve talked about this since the Cubs’ odds first came out back in October (at 50-1, they were waaaaay too low, and I offer kudos to anyone who locked in that bet before the odds moved rapidly). It’s all meaningless, mind you, but it’s a fun conversation, especially in the offseason.
Which makes me wonder: what should the Cubs’ true odds of winning a World Series in 2015 be right now? Reasonable projection systems put the Cubs right at the cusp of being a playoff team, so let’s call them a 50/50 shot to make the playoffs. From there, if you subscribe to the theory that the playoffs are a crapshoot (I do; though the odds are slightly lower for the Wild Card teams, because obviously), then you could say the Cubs have a 1 in 10 shot of winning it all. So that puts their true odds at something like 1 in 20, if you buy the assumptions there.
In other words, if you’re betting to have a little fun, then go ahead and take whatever odds are available. If you’re betting to try and win some money, I’d avoid anything shy of 20-1 on the Cubs.