After an offseason of uncertainty, Major League Baseball is back and looking slightly different this year.
The biggest and most notable change is the arrival of the designated hitter in the National League. Teams are no longer required to trot out a pitcher to hit. Look for fewer intentional walks and better batting averages in the senior circuit.
This will mean a few more chances at hitting batter prop bets as well. FanDuel Sportsbook in Iowa, for example, has a variety of interesting in-game bets including pitcher strikeouts, hits and inning over/under. You can also bet on correct final score and correct inning scores, among a variety of other game bets.
Even though FanDuel’s Masters offer is done, the $1,000 bonus bet for new customers is still a great option.
The universal designated hitter should increase the number of runs by National League teams. Keep an eye on that when making totals bets this season.
A 2019 FiveThirtyEight piece stated that, as a whole, pitchers batted at a rate 125% worse than a league-average hitter. Again, something to note as you make your picks this year.
In another small change, all baseballs will be kept in humidors this year at 70 degrees and 50% humidity. It was a change originally used by the Colorado Rockies to help even its hitter-friendly park, but could have different effects in parks around the country where it is far wetter.
Who are the favorites now that baseball is back?
With varying degrees of certainty, sportsbooks in Iowa are unanimously picking the Los Angeles Dodgers as the 2022 World Series Champion, falling between +475 and +500. Picking up first basemen Freddie Freeman and pitcher Corey Knebel certainly doesn’t hurt. David Price will make his return and Cody Bellinger is back as well on a one-year deal.
Toronto, behind the blazing bat of Vlad Guerrero Jr., is the second favorite, according to the major books. The Blue Jays added bats, trading for Matt Chapman and Ramiel Tapia during the offseason. Toronto also signed free agent starter Kevin Gausman to a five-year deal. He and Yusei Kikuchi will help anchor the rotation.
Other top favorites include the New York Yankees (+950 DraftKings), the Atlanta Braves and the Astros.
Of course, baseball is back in the Midwest too
Closer to home, the Chicago White Sox are the sixth favorite at most books. They hope star prospect Eloy Jiménez takes another step forward. DraftKings has them at +1100, while Caesars has them as the fourth favorite at +1100. FanDuel has them as the third favorite at +950.
The NL Central should be interesting this year as the St. Louis Cardinals are between +2000 and +3000, while the Milwaukee Brewers are between +1200 and +1600 to win it all. The Brewers pitching staff had an excellent year a season ago. Starters Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta played lights out.
Tyler O’Neill is a star in the making for the Cardinals and the team hopes the 26-year old left fielder can build on an excellent 2021 second half. Albert Pujols is back in St. Louis as a designated hitter.
The Minnesota Twins are among the higher mid-range teams for World Series odds. The Chicago Cubs, once again a rebuilding club, are further back in the pack. The Twins signed Carlos Correa in the offseason and added pitchers Chris Paddack and Sonny Gray.
Maybe the Mariners’ year?
Seattle is a team to keep an eye on. Oakland eliminated the Mariners from playoff contention in a final series last year but the club spent money on its pitching staff and outfield during the offseason. Jesse Winkler, a home run smashing outfielder joins the lineup. So does heralded prospect Julio Rodríguez, who was in the Mariners’ opening day lineup.
Seattle has not made the postseason since 2001, but North America’s longest professional sports playoff drought could very well come to an end this season. The major books have Seattle as +2000 to +4000 to win Major League Baseball’s championship.
Major League Baseball expanded its playoff this year too — single-game playoff games no longer exist and the sport added two more playoff spots for a total of 12. There is still an added emphasis on winning the division, as the second-best and third-best division winners will be the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the playoffs.
The changes in baseball this year could help bring more competitive balance to the game. Many of the rules are still untested however and only time will tell if the changes add action, scoring and fan interest.
In the meantime, labor peace and baseball is back. Betting customers in Iowa have a popular sport to wager on all summer long.