No matter how you slice it, the mainstream sports world believes the Yankees and Astros are better than the Twins.
Minnesota owns the best record in the American League at 50-27, a game ahead of the Yankees (49-28) and two up on the Astros (49-30). Still, the betting money is landing on the two teams chasing the Twins for home-field advantage in the AL playoffs.
According to Bovada, the Yankees are favored to win the AL with 2-to-1 odds, followed by the Astros at 5-to-2 and then the Twins at 4-to-1.
- New York Yankees 2/1
- Houston Astros 5/2
- Minnesota Twins 4/1
- Boston Red Sox 8/1
- Tampa Bay Rays 8/1
- Cleveland Indians 14/1
- Texas Rangers 25/1
- Oakland Athletics 33/1
- Los Angeles Angels 40/1
- Chicago White Sox 80/1
- Seattle Mariners 300/1
Minnesota is still on pace to win 105 games, down from their 110-win pace a couple of weeks ago, but there's good reason sports bettors favor the Yankees and Astros.
Why the Yankees are favored over the Twins
Both teams have lineups fully capable of mashing the ball just as the Twins have done to opposing pitchers this season, especially New York, which has won 49 games despite Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius playing in a combined 43 games.
Look at the lineup New York used against Houston on Friday night:
- D.J. LaMahieu
- Aaron Judge
- Luke Voit
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Aaron Hicks
- Didi Gregorius
- Gio Urshela
- Austin Romine
As if that's not nasty enough, it didn't include All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez or rising star Gleyber Torres. With all due respect to the Twins, the Yankees have the scariest lineup in baseball.
The Yankees also have a talented starting pitching staff led by James Paxton, C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German and soon-to-return, Luis Severino, who was an All-Star last season.
Did we mention the Yankees have Aroldis Chapman at the back of the bullpen?
The Yankees are extremely talented, but so are the Astros.
Why Houston is favored over the Twins
Houston can dominate Game 1 of any playoff series just by giving Justin Verlander the ball. The veteran ace leads the AL in wins (10), innings (114.2) and WHIP (0.75), and is second in strikeouts (142) and fourth in ERA (2.67).
If a playoff opponent doesn't beat Verlander in Game 1, they're then faced with the challenge of beating Gerrit Cole in Game 2.
Cole leads the AL in strikeouts (148 in 96.2 innings) and dominated the Twins when he held them to one hit and zero runs over seven innings earlier this season.
The Astros are also starting to get healthy again, which is a big reason why they recently went through a seven-game losing streak. Jose Altuve is back from injury and George Springer will likely be back in the middle of the order and playing center field this week after missing a month.
The obvious difference between the Twins, Astros, Yankees
Minnesota's lineup can slug with the best of them, but it's the pitching that separates the Yankees and Astros from the Twins.
Can Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi shut down New York and Houston the way Verlander, Cole or Paxton can mow down the Twins? And can Minnesota's bullpen step up to the challenge against big-time lineups?
Minnesota's bullpen ERA of 4.43 ranks ninth in the AL, well behind the Yankees (3.95 ERA) and Astros (3.73 ERA).
The Twins made a low risk, high reward move over the weekend by reportedly signing right-handed reliever Cody Allen, who was released by the Angels after posting a 6.26 ERA this season.
If Allen can return to the dominant form he had during his seven seasons with the Indians, the Twins will have found a playoff-tested strikeout arm that could pay dividends late in the season and in the playoffs.
The trade deadline at the end of July is looming, and you can count on Minnesota being involved in a ton of rumors until then. If any of the rumors come true, they could help swing the playoff odds in Minnesota's favor.