I don’t think the Mets have as strong a hold on the NL East as most bookmakers do. The Mets’ odds to win the division are priced around -250 at most U.S. shops, but I think that’s way too high considering the schedule and the potential that Jacob deGrom could miss an extended period.
The Mets are an entirely different team without deGrom, and it will be more noticeable as we get closer to August. Comebacks against the Pirates and the Reds are one thing, but the Mets have a very tough schedule starting after their next homestand ends Aug. 1.
Beginning Aug. 2, they will have to run a gauntlet of opponents, potentially without deGrom, so we might see a much different picture in the NL East standings by Sept. 1.
The Mets have two off days the entire month of August. Starting Aug. 10, they will play 13 days in a row, hosting the Nationals and Dodgers and then visiting the Giants and Dodgers. After a single day off, they face another stretch of 14 games in 13 days against the Giants, Nationals and Marlins. The Mets face the Nationals 11 times between Aug. 10 and Sept. 6 and play 13 games with the Giants and Dodgers in that period. That is a tough schedule for any team, but for one that could be missing its ace, it might knock them out of first place in the division.
Not only will the Nationals have a chance to make up significant ground on the Mets with all their head-to-head games, but the Nationals finish the season with a month of games against the Braves, Pirates, Marlins, Rockies, Reds and Red Sox, with potentially only three of their last 25 games against opponents with records over .500.
For all these reasons, I have bet the Nationals to win the NL East at 14-1 and the Nationals to make the playoffs at 11-1. Both numbers are available at DraftKings.
What about the Padres?
The Padres seem to be everyone’s favorite team except mine. I’ve never seen so many people hype a third-place team so much. They haven’t won anything, they haven’t come close to winning anything and their core is largely made up of guys the Dodgers didn’t want to pay — Yu Darvish and Manny Machado — or the Dodgers already beat — Blake Snell.
The Padres were 5.5 games back of the Giants in the NL West, while the Dodgers are getting a healthy Corey Seager back this week and just called up their best pitching prospect, Josiah Gray.
The next couple of series will be huge for the Padres to make up ground in the division and solidify their chances for a wild-card spot. They get 10 games against the Diamondbacks over the next month, seven against the Marlins and seven against the Rockies. That’s 24 games against teams that have basically already checked out of the 2021 season. But the Padres will need as many wins against bad teams as they can get because they catch no breaks to finish the season. Between Sept. 10 and Oct. 3, the Padres have two days off and play the Dodgers six times in Los Angeles and the Giants 10 times, with seven in San Francisco. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nationals, Mets, Phillies and Padres fighting for two playoff spots, and the Padres could be left out.
The NL MVP race is far from settled
I’ve barely mentioned the MVP odds for deGrom or Juan Soto.
DeGrom looked like a lock for the Cy Young Award and was the favorite for MVP, but NL MVP odds have been off the board for several days with the announcement that deGrom is on the injured list again with a strained forearm.
I make deGrom’s MVP odds about 0% right now, as it is incredibly unlikely that he will pitch more than maybe 150 innings. With that workload, deGrom would win the Cy Young with the fewest innings by a starting pitcher in modern history. Snell won it with 180, and Clayton Kershaw won with 198.2. I can’t see deGrom getting serious MVP consideration with only 150 to 160 innings, and it’s questionable whether that’s a large enough workload for him to even win the Cy Young.
Meanwhile, one of the preseason MVP favorites had a quiet first half but is finally heating up. Soto was hitting .301/.420/.512 and was the first player in history with five home runs and 10 hits in his first four games after the All-Star break. Those numbers in Soto’s age 21-22 seasons put him in the same company as Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx.
With the Nationals’ favorable schedule, Soto’s MVP campaign is far from over. His odds were as high as 80-1 during the All- Star break, but I expect them to open much lower if and when any U.S. bookmakers get around to pricing the market. According to my internal MVP numbers, I make Soto the third favorite at + 1699. I make Fernando Tatis Jr. + 101 and Max Muncy + 1598. I’d bet Soto at any odds above 20-1 when they are reposted. I expect his odds to keep dropping.
Last year we saw Tatis take a huge lead in the MVP race only to slump for the final month of the season while Freddie Freeman passed him. I don’t put a ton of stock in 2020 numbers because of the shortened season and all the weirdness surrounding it, but just like last year I wouldn’t be so sure that Tatis Jr. will run away with it.