As the second half of the Major League Baseball season prepared to begin in earnest Friday, the five teams in the National League Central are separated by a total of 4 1/2 games.
That's a tighter margin than what separates first and second in any of the other five divisions.
As play began Friday, the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros all enjoyed leads of at least 5 1/2 games in the American League, the Atlanta Braves opened the second half of their slate with a 6-game lead in the NL East and the Los Angeles Dodgers are running away with the NL West with a 13 1/2-game cushion.
The Dodgers have an MLB-best 60-32 record (.652), followed closely by the Yankees (57-31), Twins (56-33), Astros (57-34) and Braves (54-37).
With a few weeks to go before the July 31 trade deadline, sportsbooks are bullish on the big-market teams.
PointsBet (+290) and FanDuel listed the Dodgers as current World Series favorites on Friday, with William Hill favoring the Yankees (+300) slightly above the Dodgers (+350).
The same teams are among the top three at each of the three books:
PointsBet: Dodgers (+290), Astros (+350), Yankees (+350)
FanDuel: Dodgers (+280), Yankees (+350), Astros (+400)
William Hill: Yankees (+300), Dodgers (+350), Astros (+450
PointsBets and FanDuel have the Braves as the fourth betting favorite at +950 and +750, respectively, while William Hill has the Twins at +500 and the Braves at +1000.
Notably absent near the top are any of those teams from the dogfight in the NL Central.
FanDuel lists the divisional odds in the same order of the standings coming out of the break: Chicago Cubs (+140), Milwaukee Brewers (+160), St. Louis Cardinals (+380), Pittsburgh Pirates (+900) and Cincinnati Reds (+1300).
While the Dodgers are overwhelming favorites to emerge out of the NL come October (+121 by PointsBet with the Braves next closest at +300), the battle is expected to be much tighter in the loaded AL.
The Yankees lead the pack at +175 by PointsBet and FanDuel and +160 by William Hill, with the Astros close behind (+180, +200, +225). William Hill is more bullish on the Twins (+300) being a major factor down to the wire compared to PointsBet (+475) and FanDuel (+450).
Keeping a close eye on the July 31 trade deadline and marquee players on the market who could move the needle with one of the contenders may provide an opportunity to jump on current odds for a team ready to make a second-half charge.
World Series Winner (PointsBet)
Los Angeles Dodgers: +290
Houston Astros: +350
New York Yankees: +350
Atlanta Braves: +950
Minnesota Twins: +950
Chicago Cubs: +1600
Boston Red Sox: +2200
Washington Nationals: +2200
Tampa Bay Rays: +2200
Philadelphia Phillies: +2500
Milwaukee Brewers: +2800
Cleveland Indians: +3300
Texas Rangers: +5000
Oakland Athletics: +6000
St. Louis Cardinals: +6000
Colorado Rockies: +6600
Pittsburgh Pirates: +9000
San Diego Padres: +10000
Cincinnati Reds: +10000
Arizona Diamondbacks: +10000
Los Angeles Angels: +15000
New York Mets: +15000
Chicago White Sox: +40000
San Francisco Giants: +200000
Toronto Blue Jays: +250000
Detroit Tigers: +250000
Seattle Mariners: +400000
Miami Marlins: +500000
Kansas City Royals: +500000
Baltimore Orioles: +500000
--Field Level Media