After winning just 73 games a year ago, to finish at the bottom of the National League Central standings for a fifth consecutive season, the Chicago Cubs have opened their 2015 MLB campaign with strong 14/1 odds in World Series futures betting, as seen on bettingsports.com.
The Cubs, whose infamous World Series drought reaches 107 years in 2015, capped the club’s worst five-year stretch in over half a century last season, their fifth straight with a losing record, by posting back-to-back SU victories just twice in the final three weeks of last season.
However, change came quickly and in abundance for the Cubbies this winter, starting with the hiring of manager Joe Maddon, who departed Tampa Bay for the Windy City after leading the low-budget Rays to five 90-win seasons and a pair of American League East pennants during his nine-year tenure.
Maddon, a two-time winner of AL Manager of the Year honors, has his work cut out for him with a youthful and unproven Cubs squad that both inherits a historical burden and faces stiff competition in a suddenly competitive NL Central division.
The St. Louis Cardinals have failed to reach the postseason just four times in the 21st century, and open their season as a 12/1 World Series bet and strong 5/4 futures betting favorites to claim their third straight NL Central pennant, according to sportsbooks available through bettingsports.com.
The Cards’ roster also underwent change in the offseason. Oscar Taveras, a 22 year-old prospect who was expected to be a major offensive contributor in St. Louis for years to come, was killed in a car accident just days after the Cardinals’ playoff run.
Starters Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly departed via trade, while Jason Heyward arrived from the Atlanta Braves to the hole in right field created by Taveras’ tragic passing.
The Cubs also face stiff competition from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who will be gunning for their third straight MLB playoff berth after earning NL Wild Cards in each of the last two seasons.
The Pirates closely trail the Cubs in NL Central divisional futures betting, with odds of 11/4 t sportsbooks available through OddsShark.com, but sit well back of the pack in World Series betting, at a lengthy 28/1.
Pittsburgh ended a streak of 20 straight losing seasons in 2013, and followed up with an 88-win campaign last year. While the Bucs trail the Cubbies on the MLB futures betting lines, the team props betting line on the number of Pirates regular season wins is set at 84.5, while Chicago sits at just 82.5.
Rounding out the pack in NL Central online futures betting, both the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers sit with 12/1 odds to earn a divisional pennant. However, the Brewers are pegged at 50/1 in World Series betting, well ahead of the Reds, who open at 66/1.