There was a time — lots of ‘em, in fact — when the Cincinnati Reds were on top of the baseball world and the Cleveland Indians were the ones carrying odds of 100/1 or longer to win the World Series.
These are not those times for the Reds, who start the season at home at 4:10 p.m. Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, to whom they are linked by mutual desire to avoid another 100-loss season. The Indians-turned-Guardians, meanwhile, have the shortest odds at Ohio’s legal online sportsbooks to win the American League Central Division, and they are an odds-on favorite to make the postseason.
But right now, everyone is 0-0, and baseball fans are just excited to get the season started.
Cincinnati Reds has the best opening day tradition in baseball. pic.twitter.com/L82Qza0qHv
— Daniel Lugo (@DANIELSANTOS_LG) March 26, 2023
In the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals are favored, while the Reds have odds ranging from 50/1 (BetRivers, betJACK, Barstool Sportsbook) to 80/1 (SuperBook) to somehow finish on top. The sportsbooks view the rebuilding club as likely to win about 66 games (four more than they won last season), based on the futures options offered on the various sites for those willing to tie up a few bucks until October betting regular-season win totals.
For Reds fans who enjoy betting, there would probably have been better baseball years for such wagering to become legal in the state for the first time. The hidden benefit, however, is that if Cincy performs much better than expected — just as the young Guardians were able to do last year — it can be not only fun but enriching for the team’s backers.
Wagering opportunities include the chance to make a bet right at Great American Ball Park at its BetMGM Sportsbook, which is prevented by MLB rules from having a direct connection for game attendees but can be accessed by an exterior entrance.
For those interested in betting online, OH Bets has done the research to explore the best Reds-related betting options available before the season starts.
Inexperience and health concerns abound
The oddsmakers don’t give the Reds their longshot odds just to be mean. They look at a team with an inexperienced if promising pitching staff, with its most experienced everyday players (Joey Votto, Wil Myers) past their prime, and with its biggest future stars, such as shortstop phenom Elly De La Cruz, potentially in the minors all year.
Still, the foundation for that 62-100 record last year came from a 3-22 start that hardly seems repeatable in 2023. From May forward, last year’s team won at a pace that would enable it to surpass this year’s projections.
A bettor can use FanDuel, DraftKings, or BetMGM to wager that the Reds will win more than 65.5 games, although each has the vig for that inflated to -120. (Someone with a pessimistic view can use the SuperBook to bet under 67.5 regular-season wins, at -110.)
Cincinnati will be helped greatly in clearing the over/under number if starting pitchers Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft build upon impressive seasons as rookies last year.
Last Cactus League outings from the Reds' second-year starters:
Graham Ashcraft – 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K.
Hunter Greene – 5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K.
Nick Lodolo – 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K.
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) March 23, 2023
In general, the team will need to be healthier this year, as manager David Bell at some point or another in 2022 had to employ a team-record 66 players, including 38 pitchers. They’re already in a hole, however, with Votto and the frequently unhealthy Nick Senzel to start the season on the IL.
Bell will be hoping for a healthier version of Tyler Stephenson, whose .319 batting average last year came in just 50 games played; a bounce-back season from 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India; and not-yet-proven players such as third baseman Spencer Steer and outfielders T.J. Friedl and Jake Fraley to build upon the potential they’ve previously shown. That’s all while waiting for top prospects to emerge, such as De La Cruz to at some point take over at shortstop for light-hitting placeholder Kevin Newman.
In putting the puzzle of the Reds’ existing pieces together, the oddsmakers come out with odds as long as 500/1 at the SuperBook for them to win the World Series. More commonly, they are 200/1 to 250/1, with only the Colorado Rockies, Washington Nationals, and Oakland A’s generally deemed worse.
Player prop betting options focus on Greene
Due to the lack of clearly developed talent on the roster, the Reds provide a shortage of the kind of individual player prop bets that are connected more commonly to season statistics for MLB’s top players.
Greene, the Opening Day starter whose fastball averaged 99 mph last year while he struck out 164 batters, is the most common Reds player prop option. FanDuel lists the over/under on his 2023 strikeouts at 181.5, with -113 pricing in both directions. DraftKings puts Greene’s number at 188.5, with -105 pricing on the over and -120 to take the under.
BetJACK deviates from competitors in also offering an o/u prop on Lodolo’s K’s: 177.5, with -118 on the over, -110 on the under.
While De La Cruz isn’t even playing at the start of the season due to injury and will head to AA Chattanooga once he’s ready, he is listed among NL Rookie of the Year contenders. His longest odds — meaning the best potential payout and sites to use for him — are the 16/1 from FanDuel and Caesars Sportsbook.
And then, for those who might seek to find a consolation prize if this team turns out truly terrible — in a manner even worse than projected — there’s the option before the season starts of betting on Cincinnati to have MLB’s worst record when it ends. The SuperBook pays off at 8/1 if that occurs, compared to 7/1 at FanDuel and 5/1 at bet365.
Photo: Emilee Chinn/Getty Images