For athletes, reaching the World Series is one of the most difficult feats in all of sports. Major League Baseball teams play 162 games during the regular season just to reach the playoffs, and their reward is at least two pressure-packed playoff series with the hope of reaching the Fall Classic.
The good news is that it’s a lot easier to bet on the World Series than it is to win one. The key is educating yourself as much as possible about World Series history and the best strategies for betting on the World Series.
How to bet on the World Series
The most common method of betting on any baseball game, including World Series games, is moneyline betting. While baseball games have a run line, which is akin to a point spread in football or basketball, the run line for most games is 1.5 runs. Bettors get a little leeway if they pick a team that ends up losing by a single run, but it’s typically better to use the moneyline to pick a straight-up winner.
With a moneyline, the favorite will usually have a negative moneyline, such as -120. This means you have to bet $120 to make a profit of $100.
Meanwhile, underdogs have a positive moneyline, perhaps +140. This means a $100 bet will earn you a profit of $140. Of course, World Series games will usually have somewhat moderate moneylines since the two teams are likely to be close in talent and ability.
To figure out which team has more value in a World Series game, it’s important to consider a variety of factors. For example, comparing each team’s starting pitcher is crucial for picking a winner of any baseball game, as they tend to have more influence over the result of the game than any other player on the field.
It’s also important to consider the dimensions of a ballpark and whether it’s traditionally more favorable to pitchers or hitters. Some ballparks are also more favorable to left-handed hitters or right-handed hitters, which can sway the advantage toward one team or another based on the projected lineups.
World Series history
The World Series is one of the oldest sporting events among the major American sports. The first World Series took place in 1903, with precursor postseason series happening in the 1880s and 1890s. Back then, it was a best-of-nine series rather than today’s best-of-seven series.
Oddly enough, there was no World Series in 1904 after the National League champion New York Giants refused to play. Fortunately, the World Series returned in 1905 and has taken place every year since except for the 1994 season when there was no World Series while the players were on strike.
The road to the World Series
As mentioned, the road to the World Series is a long one. The regular season consists of all 30 MLB teams playing 162 games each. Played over six months, those games determine the 10 playoff participants.
In both the American League and National League, the three division winners qualify for the postseason, as well as two wild card teams. The two wild card teams in each league play one another in a one-game playoff for the right to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.
The divisional round of the playoffs is a best-of-five series, with the team with the best record in each league playing the wild card winner. Meanwhile, the two remaining teams in each league play one another in the other Division Series.
The two winners of the divisional round in each league play one another in the League Championship Series, which is a best-of-seven series. The League Championship Series determines the winners of the National League and American League, who then meet in the World Series.
World Series lines and odds
In addition to betting on individual World Series games, futures betting on the World Series is available year-round. This allows bettors to place a moneyline bet on any of the 30 MLB teams to win the next World Series.
Top favorites will have a smaller payout if they end up winning the Fall Classic, while teams with longer odds can offer massive payouts if they end up winning it all. However, even the leading betting favorites have a moneyline in the +300 to +600 range in futures betting, setting up a significant payout for bettors who can accurately predict a World Series winner.
Of course, moneylines for each team tend to change during the year. Injuries or poor performances from proven players can cause a team’s odds to shrink.
Meanwhile, teams that outperform preseason expectations or make trades to acquire impact players will see their odds to win the World Series improve, and their moneyline become smaller.
Over the last 10 years, the National League representative has won the World Series six times, compared to four winners from the American League. The San Francisco Giants are responsible for three of those wins, taking the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
However, the American League started to turn the tide, winning three Fall Classics in a four-year span before the Washington Nationals won the championship in 2019.
The Nationals also ended a stretch of leading favorites winning the World Series. The Cubs, Astros and Red Sox, winners in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively, all had a moneyline less than +1000 on the opening day of the season.
Meanwhile, the Nationals and every other World Series winner of the past 10 years had a moneyline of +2000 or larger on opening day. The Nationals were also the biggest betting underdog to win the World Series in the last 10 years.
Washington began the season with a +2000 moneyline, which inflated to +2500 at the All-Star break and was +1500 when they began the playoffs as a wild card team. In fact, they are just the second team in the last seven years to win the World Series with a moneyline greater than +550 entering the playoffs.
Betting odds and predictions
The start of the 2020 MLB season has been delayed, but there is optimism that play will begin at some point and that there will be a World Series this year. More importantly, bookmakers are still taking futures bets on what team will win the 2020 World Series.
At the moment, the New York Yankees are the betting favorites at +310, with the Los Angeles Dodgers not far behind at +340. The third-leading betting favorites are the Houston Astros at +850.
Of course, the Astros will be public enemy No. 1 when the season resumes after it came to light during the offseason that Houston cheated on its way to winning the World Series in 2017.
Beyond the top three favorites, there are several intriguing dark horses that offer high payouts if they end up winning it all. The Minnesota Twins have championship potential with a well-rounded starting rotation and a potent lineup. Minnesota’s moneyline is currently +1575.
The reigning champion Washington Nationals still have the same trio of starting pitchers that carried them to last year’s World Series title. They also have a tempting moneyline at +1900.
Underdogs and long shots
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics both have moneylines of +3300. The implied probability of either team winning the World Series is less than 3%, although both teams have playoff potential and could be a threat to win the World Series with a little good luck.
Finally, at the bottom of the barrel, both the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles have moneylines of +120000, giving them the slimmest odds of winning the 2020 World Series.
If you are making a prediction on the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers are the closest thing to a safe bet. For starters, they’ve won seven consecutive NL West division titles. On paper, they remain the clear favorite in that division, giving them good odds to make the playoffs without having to play in the Wild Card game.
With regard to winning the World Series, just making the playoffs is more than half the battle. The Dodgers have also played in the World Series in two of the last three years.
More importantly, they have a wealth of talent, especially after acquiring Mookie Betts in February. With Betts and Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles has arguably two of the best three position players in the game.
The Dodgers also have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, highlighted by longtime ace Clayton Kershaw. Based on those factors, the Dodgers are one of the best betting picks for the 2020 World Series.
World Series FAQ
Who has won the most World Series?
The New York Yankees have won the most World Series in MLB history. Heading into 2020, the Yankees have won 27 World Series titles. The next closest franchise is the St. Louis Cardinals, at 11.
Who gets home-field advantage in the World Series?
Home-field advantage in the World Series comes down to which of the two teams had the best record during the regular season. Most of the time, home-field advantage plays some role in the outcome of the World Series. However, the 2019 Fall Classic between the Astros and Nationals was the first World Series when the road team won all seven games.
How is the wild card determined?
The two teams in each league with the best record outside of the division winners are the wild cards. Of the two teams, the team with the better record during the regular season hosts the one-game playoff.
What is the longest game in World Series history?
The longest World Series game of all-time was Game 3 of the 2018 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. After more than seven hours, Max Muncy of the Dodgers hit a walk-off home run in the 18th inning to give Los Angeles a 3-2 win.
What teams have never won the World Series?
Heading into 2020, the Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers have never won a World Series.
Of those six teams, the Mariners are the only franchise to never play in a World Series. While the Rays and Rockies are relatively young franchises, the Brewers, Padres and Rangers have all been around for over 50 years without a World Series title.