2021 MLB Opening Day Betting Preview

J.D. Davis #28 of the New York Mets is congratulated by Francisco Lindor #12 after scoring in the sixth inning of a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on March 21, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

After whiffing on the 2019 postseason despite aggressive moves at the trade deadline, the New York Mets added Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha in free agency, avoided arbitration with Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, and acquired Jake Marisnick in search of their first postseason appearance since 2016 and first World Series since 1986. That was enough to earn the 10th-best World Series odds entering the 2020 season, sitting at +2000 when the season was indefinitely postponed in mid-March.

Shortly after the postponement announcement, the Mets dropped to +2500 and remained there until Opening Day in July. Their odds never increased, hovering around +2500 for a couple of weeks before a gradual decline to +8000 in September and eventually off the board upon postseason elimination on September 26. 

After whiffing on the 2020 postseason despite the ninth-highest payroll in baseball, the New York Mets added James McCann, Taijuan Walker, and Trevor May in free agency, avoided arbitration with Syndergaard, J.D. Davis, and Edwin Diaz, and acquired Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco in search of their first postseason appearance since 2016 and first World Series since 1986. That was enough to earn the fifth-best World Series odds entering the 2021 season, sitting at +1000 at Opening Day.

Here’s an MLB Opening Day betting preview for the New York Mets’ opener against the Washington Nationals and the other 14 games scheduled for April 1 (and here’s the 2021 MLB Season Betting Preview):

The shortened season limited Gerrit Cole’s debut season with the New York Yankees to only 12 starts. He’ll aim for a second straight Opening Day win after Giancarlo Stanton’s home run helped the Yankees win a third straight opener. If Stanton goes deep again on Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays, you’ll receive a $1 Home Run Boost, as you will for every homer hit by any player on Opening Day.

The Yankees were the best ATS home team in baseball last year, covering the run line in 19 of 30 games at Yankee Stadium, while the Blue Jays were 16-14 ATS on the road. 

The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers have combined payrolls of approximately $112 million. Sixteen teams have a higher payroll by themselves, and one team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, has a payroll more than twice that size.

Both teams are historically mediocre on Opening Day, and neither team had notable ATS splits last year (though the Indians hit the Under more than 28 teams, and the Tigers are the worst ATS team over the last decade). Shane Bieber is back after leading the league in strikeout rate, strikeout-to-walk rate, LOB percentage, and ERA minus in winning the AL Cy Young Award.

The Baltimore Orioles are the only MLB team with at least 70 wins and a winning percentage of at least .560 on Opening Day. Only the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Dodgers have more Opening Day wins than the Orioles and only the Mets and Mariners have a higher Opening Day winning percentage.

The Orioles were an ATS darling in 2020, covering in 35 of 60 games, including 18 of 30 games away from Camden Yards. The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, were miserable ATS at home (13-17). A couple of Season Specials to chew on: The Red Sox are +150 to start 3-0, and the Orioles are a staggering +10000 to make the playoffs

The Minnesota Twins won four of six games against the Milwaukee Brewers last season to extend their all-time series lead, 247-232. The series had been defined by decades of dominance until they nearly split all 50 games (Brewers won 26) in the 2010s.

When they meet on Thursday at Miller Park, the former AL Central foes will play in April for just the fifth time in the last 26 years. Both teams were strong Under plays last year, hitting the Under 66 times, and the Twins had the league’s third-worst ATS road record (11-19).

One year after opening the season with the third-highest payroll, the Chicago Cubs plummeted to 12th for 2021. Only their Opening Day foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates, have worse odds to win the NL Central, and their win total, 78.5, is the lowest in years. It’s the only division without a win total of at least 87.

Kyle Hendricks is back for an eighth season after posting a strikeout rate of at last 20 percent for a seventh straight year and opponents’ batting average below .245 for an eighth straight year.

On the field, the Atlanta Braves won a third straight division title by winning more than 55 percent of the games for a third straight season. In the books, they went just 26-34 against the spread, the second-worst mark in the division and fifth-worst in baseball.

The Braves split 10 games with the Philadelphia Phillies last year, winning three of seven in Philly and two of three at home. It was just the third time in the last nine years that they failed to finish above .500 against their NL East foe.

Only two teams have a better ATS winning percentage on the road than the Arizona Diamondbacks over the last decade, though they were poor away from Chase Field in 2020, covering in just 13 of 30 games en route to a .500 overall ATS mark. 

Yu Darvish will make his San Diego Padres’ debut after his winter arrival. He hasn’t started an Opening Day since 2017, his lone Opening Day start in nine seasons.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sit atop every notable odds category as they seek a fourth World Series appearance in five years, including +200 for a 3-0 start against a team they’ve dominated for the last two decades. The Dodgers won seven of 10 games against the Colorado Rockies last year and have 35 wins in their last 49 matchups.

The Dodgers were also a dominant road ATS team last year (19-11), while the Rockies were atrocious at home, covering in only 12 of 30 games.

The only NL Central team with a top-10 payroll, the St. Louis Cardinals are also the only NL Central team trying to win the NL Central. Nolan Arenado will make his Cardinals’ debut against Luis Castillo and the Cincinnati Reds

Castillo had a career-best strikeout rate, strikeout-to-walk rate, and ERA minus in his fourth season. He’s looking for some positive regression in BABIP and stranded rate, starting against Arenado and a Cardinals’ team that posted one of its worst offensive seasons in years.

The Miami Marlins posted 35 ATS wins last year despite only 10 ATS home wins, the fewest in the MLB. And they open the season against one of the most appropriately valued teams in the league, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Off another winter close-out sale, the Rays are seeking a third straight playoff berth and continued dominance of their cross-state non-rivals. They’ve won all but one game against the Marlins since 2019 and have won five straight in Miami.

In the 49 seasons since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers, the Rangers and Kansas City Royals have made the playoffs in the same season only once: 2015. Oddsmakers don’t like either team’s chances of reaching the postseason in 2021; the Rangers are +6000 while the Royals are +1000.

They open the season in Kansas City, where the Royals have sucked against the spread during their rebuild. Since winning the World Series in 2015, they’ve never posted more than 41 ATS home wins and haven’t finished above .500 against the spread at Kauffman Stadium since 2016.

In holding the Mets hitless in October 2015, Max Scherzer joined Roy Halladay as the only pitchers since 1973 with two no-hitters in one season. On Thursday against the Mets, he’ll try to join Bob Feller as the only pitchers with an Opening Day no-hitter.

Scherzer opens the season for the Washington Nationals at +800 in NL Cy Young odds, ranking behind only Trevor Bauer (+700) and his Opening Day counterpart, Jacob deGrom (+400). 

Twenty of 37 ATS wins for the Chicago White Sox last year came on the road, where they open the 2021 season. They were one of only two teams that posted at least 35 outright wins and 35 ATS wins last year and are the only AL Central team with a win total of at least 90 (90.5).

On Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, Lucas Giolito will make his third straight Opening Day start. He’s 1-1 in his two previous starts, holding the Royals to three hits in a 6-3 in 2019 and getting pounded for seven earned runs in a 10-5 loss to the Twins in 2020. 

The Houston Astros were a strong fade during their season of shame, going 25-35 ATS, including 12-18 on the road. In posting their first sub-.500 season since 2014, seven of their 29 regular-season wins came against the Oakland Athletics, one of the few teams they struggled against during their sham run.

Zack Greinke will make an Opening Day start for a fifth different team, the most in MLB history, as he looks to rebound from one of his worst seasons in the big leagues.

You cleaned up if you rode the Over for the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners last year. The teams combined to hit the Over 62 times, the highest among this year’s Opening Day opponents. 

Opposite Kevin Gausman, Marco Gonzales will make his first career Opening Day start after a breakout season in which his strikeout-to-walk rate skyrocketed and opponents’ batting average plummeted.

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM

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