No surprises so far

October, 8, 2009
10/08/09
12:26
PM ET
From the Department of the Obvious:
    Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have picked the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals as favorites to meet in the World Series and think New York has an overwhelming chance to win its first title since 2000.

    The Yankees are 3-2 favorites to win the championship despite having to beat three teams to do it, oddsmaker Tony Sinisi of Las Vegas Sports Consultants said Wednesday.

    "That's really prohibitive," Sinisi told The Associated Press. "It just looks like a Yankee year, and if it's not the Yankees, you can draw them from a hat."

    --snip--

    St. Louis is considered the National League favorite at 9-2 odds for the series, but not by much ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies (11-2) and Los Angeles Dodgers (6-1). Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which recommends betting lines for 90 percent of casinos in Nevada, set the Colorado Rockies' odds to win the World Series at 14-1.

As I'm sure you know, oddsmakers don't set their lines on who they think will win; they set their lines to attract equal amounts of betting money to each side. Presumably, the Cardinals were popular with bettors because they've got the National League's MVP and two strong Cy Young candidates (including the eventual winner). The Dodgers were relatively unpopular because (I'm guessing) Manny Ramirez didn't make any noise down the stretch and the Dodgers can't match the Cardinals' top two starters.

However, this season the Dodgers scored 50 more runs than the Cardinals, and they allowed 29 fewer. These are meaningful numbers. And while the Cardinals didn't add Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa until the middle of the season, you might recall that Manny Ramirez missed nearly a third of the season. It seemed to me, before the Dodgers and Cardinals opened Wednesday, that the Dodgers deserved to be slightly favored. I know that's easy to say now, after the Dodgers' Game 1 win. But I'll also tell you that when Imagine Sports simulated the series 1,000 times, the Dodgers won 545 of them (and of course winning Game 1 really boosts the Dodgers, who now win 724 of 1,000 series).

As I mentioned yesterday, Imagine Sports had the Phillies winning 626 of 1,000 series against the Rockies. I didn't mention that the the Yankees beat the Twins 744 times (of course, those numbers are much higher now, with both favorites winning their first games).

And what of the last Division Series? It's not nearly as close as I would have guessed, with the Red Sox winning 583 of 1,000 series. Of course, it's tempting to pick the Angels because surely we'll have one upset, right? Except of course that's not the way the world works. What happens between the Red Sox and the Angels is completely independent of what happens between the Phillies and the Rockies. The Red Sox played better than the Angels this season, and they played better than the Angels last season.

The simulation doesn't know (or doesn't care) that the Red Sox are 9-1 against the Angels in their three Division Series matchups. The sim just knows that the Red Sox are the better, more talented team.

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