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If you're leading your division at this point of the Major League Baseball season, you should feel pretty good.
According to MLB.com, of the 144 division champions since 1996 (the first season with the wild card), 96 had at least a share of the division lead on July 1. That doesn't count the short 2020 season.
That also means one-third of division winners in the wild-card era weren't in first place to start July. We're a bit into July, but it's still a good time to see if there are any good longshot bets to win the six divisions, with odds from BetMGM:
AL Central and AL West: Don't bother
As stated, two-thirds of division winners come from the teams that have a share of the lead on July 1. The Chicago White Sox are up by eight games in the AL Central and are -2500 to win it. The Houston Astros have just a 3.5-game lead in the AL West, but they are a very good team and the -800 odds reflect that. Let's call those divisions and move on to the other four.
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have won four in a row, have a possible MVP in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and maybe the best offense in baseball. The Jays have the best OPS in MLB. They actually have a higher run differential (+95) than the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays ahead of them. There's still plenty of time for the Jays to make a run, and their odds of +900 (down from +1100 on Monday morning) might be the best on the board. It might be too late for the Jays to reclaim a home-field advantage in Toronto, but their July 30 return to Canada can't hurt either.
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
The Mets lead the division, but also are dealing with injuries to Francisco Lindor and Jacob deGrom. Also, when hasn't there been a cloud of doom surrounding the Mets? It is hard to trust anyone else though. The Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen issues are relentless, the Atlanta Braves have been struggling all season and just lost Ronald Acuna Jr., and the Washington Nationals just haven't been good. I like the Braves at +600 and the Phillies at +450, and I'll land on the Phillies as the better play. The Acuna loss is brutal for the Braves. The Phillies have a 25.2 percent chance to win the division based on Fangraphs' projections, so there's some value in their odds.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals were the preseason favorite, but they've struggled and are a game under .500. They're nine games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. But their +2000 odds are at least somewhat enticing. The Chicago Cubs are +1600 and they've been awful and are likely to trade off pieces in the next couple weeks. The Cincinnati Reds just got swept and are seven games back, yet still +500 odds to win the division. Take the much longer odds on the Cardinals, just in case the Brewers — who have two division titles since 1982 — collapse.
NL West: San Francisco Giants
The Giants are a rarity: A division leader who is a long shot to win the division. They're +375. The San Diego Padres are +375 while the Los Angeles Dodgers are -250 favorites. The Dodgers are probably going to win. They're only one game back. The Giants have been overlooked all season and there's no good reason why. This is a good baseball team and has been for almost four months. It's hard to bet against the Dodgers, but you could do worse than taking a team that already leads its division at +375 odds.
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