World Series Odds Favorite Cubs Suddenly Have Strong NL Competition

A lot of crazy things can happen over the course of MLB’s 162-game season, just ask the 1969 Chicago Cubs, who led the old National League East for 155 days before losing 18 of their last 25 games to finish second behind the New York Mets.

The 2016 Cubs (44-20) know all about their infamous history that is full of postseason failures, and they continue to chase their demons in hopes of winning their first World Series since 1908 as +325 favorites (bet $100 to win $325) at online sportsbook Bovada.

The gap has started to close though over the past month between Chicago and other top contenders in the NL. The Cubs still have a very solid lead in the NL Central over the St. Louis Cardinals (35-30) and Pittsburgh Pirates (33-33), who both finished ahead of them last year in the division when all three teams made the playoffs, and this season they are +2800 and +4400, respectively.

But the other two division leaders are catching up to Chicago, with the NL West’s San Francisco Giants (41-26) and NL East’s Washington Nationals (42-25) within striking distance for the best record in the league.

The Nationals are currently the +800 second choice to win the 2016 World Series with the Giants right behind at +850. Each team has taken two of three from the Cubs at home over the past month, with Washington getting a walk-off single from Jayson Werth to beat them 5-4 in 12 innings on Wednesday.

While the Nats did not have to face Chicago ace Jake Arrieta in the series, they got great performances from their top pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg to make a bit of a statement that they could be a force to be reckoned with come October as well.

San Francisco’s recent success suggests it will be dangerous too following three World Series titles in the previous six years. The Giants also have the starting pitching to compete with the Cubs, led by 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, who are as good as any one-two punch in baseball. Several American League teams wish they had at least one of those guys, which is why none of them are among the top three favorites to win the 2016 World Series.

The best teams in the AL right now according to oddsmakers are the Boston Red Sox (37-28) and Texas Rangers (42-25), with the Toronto Blue Jays (38-31) and Cleveland Indians (35-30) not too far behind. The Red Sox are listed at +900 to win the World Series, with the Rangers sitting at +1000, the Blue Jays at +1400 and the Indians at +1600.

Of that group, Boston and Toronto are the only AL teams that are not leading their division because the Baltimore Orioles (38-27) hold that distinction. The Orioles look to be one of the best value plays at the moment with a price of +1800 along with the Seattle Mariners (35-31) and defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals (35-31).

Seattle had led the AL West before Texas took over, and Kansas City remains in the hunt in the AL Central despite enduring a season-long eight-game losing streak recently. The Royals have since rebounded by winning five of six.