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Major League Baseball 2016

The 2016 MLB season begins on April 3rd with an inaugural match between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The regular season runs until October 2, and is then followed by the Post Season - also known as the MLB playoffs - and finishes with the best-of-seven-match World Series, which takes place in the first week of November.

Major League Baseball Season Format

Regular Season

There are currently 30 teams in Major League Baseball, and they are divided into two leagues; the American League and the National League. Each league has three internal divisions, East, Central and West, with five teams in each division. The image below of MLB tables shows the final MLB standings of each of the six divisions after the completion of the 2015 regular season.

Each team plays a total of 162 games during the course of the regular season. Teams play each team in their division a total of 19 times. Each team also plays one home series and one away series against ten other teams in its league. A series is 6-7 games. A team will also play a series of games against one of the division’s from their rival league, rotating each season. It is a complicated system that nevertheless works, with some 2,430 regular season games played each year. The three divisional champions plus the two losing teams with the strongest records from each league then progress to the Post Season or playoff games.

Post Season (MLB Playoffs)

The Post Season, also referred to as the MLB playoffs begins with the two Wild Card Games, in which the two non-winning teams from each league duke it out in a one-off game for the right to make the Division Series. The winning team in each of these games progresses to a Series matchup against the strongest divisional champion of their league. In the image below, one can see how the two strongest losing sides in the American League, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros played a one-off match, with the Astros then going on to face the Kansas City Royals in a best-of-five-game Division Series matchup. The Kansas City Royals had won the American League Central Division with a 95-67 record, the best of the three division winners in the AL.

The winning teams from these Division Series encounters then progress to the League Championship Series games, also known as the League Pennant Series. Still with us? Great. To reach a Pennant Series is a tremendous achievement for any MLB team, and to win a League Pennant is second only to taking the World Series itself. The New York Yankees have won the American League Pennant a record 40 times. The Yankees have then gone on to win the World Series 27 times – also a record.

The winners of the two League Pennant series’ then face each other in the World Series itself, which is also a best-of-seven game series. And that, in a nutshell, is Major League Baseball!

A Brief History of Major League Baseball

Baseball is America’s oldest professional team sport, and the one that is intrinsically linked to the heart and soul of what is perceived to be Americana. Virtually every US sports fan – or fan of US sports – regardless of age is familiar with the colossus that is Major League Baseball. Names like the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals and Giants are as iconic and easily familiar to most Americans as Ford, Coca Cola and Micky Mouse.

More than any other US sport, the history of baseball is littered with legendary names dating back to the turn of the last century. Players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio have become more than just baseball players, they have transcended their sport to become cornerstones of American history.

MLB Origins

There is a popular belief that baseball is a derivative of the English game of rounders, although this is unfounded. The earliest origins of baseball date back to the 1790s, and the first mention of “rounders” in England comes in the form of a children’s book in 1744 in which it is called “base-ball”. Go figure!

Whatever its origins, baseball certainly thrived in America – unlike rounders in Britain. By the mid-1800s America had its first baseball leagues, and even began paying its players. The National League was founded in 1876, and the American League followed in 1901. The first ever World Series was played in 1903, where the Boston Americans overcame the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3.

The Black Sox Scandal

Baseball somehow survived the worst betting scandal in US sports history - the notorious ''Black Sox Scandal'' of 1919, when the Chicago White Sox team attempted to fix the World Series. Following a lengthy trial, eight of the White Sox team would be banned for life.

One, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, would later be found to be innocent of all charges. He was played by Ray Liotta in the movie “Field of Dreams.” The subsequent investigations and regulations ensured that such a scandal could never happen in American professional sports again.

Babe Ruth and “Murderers’ Row”

In 1919 the most dominant team in the MLB was the Boston Red Sox, and so sure were they of their continued domination of the sport, they sold a hitter named George Herman Ruth Jr. to a wannabe team named the New York Yankees. At the time, the Red Sox had won three of the previous five World Series’ while the Yankees hadn’t even won a divisional title.

Needless to say, that player was the legendary Babe Ruth, and he would lead the Yankees into their first great era, including the legendary “Murderers’ Row” team of the late 1920s, named because of the fearsomeness of the Yankees’ opening six hitters; Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri. The 1927 Yankees team is still rated as the greatest of all time.

The Yankees would remain the dominant team in MLB long after Babe Ruth was sold in 1935, and the arrival of Casey Stengel as their head coach in 1949 would lead to a five-year stretch where the Yankees won the World Series every season. By the late 1960s the Yankees were in a comparative decline, and while they have continued to win Pennants and World Series’ over the ensuing decades, those wins have been comparatively few compared to their Golden Era. The Yankees’ last World Series victory was in 2009.

No team has ever dominated MLB quite like the Yankees did. There have been multiple Word Series winners; the St Louis Cardinals have 11 wins, while the San Francisco (formerly New York) Giants have won eight, as have the Red Sox, but those tallies pale in comparison with the Yankees’ 27 World Series victories.

The Curse of the Bambino Lifted

The three largest franchises in MLB are the Yankees, valued at $2.5 billion by Forbes, the LA Dodgers ($2 billion) and the Boston Red Sox ($1.5 billion). Incredibly, after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, they couldn’t seem to win another World Series for decades, hence the birth of the “Curse of the Bambino” theory. The curse was finally broken when the Red Sox were bought by US billionaire John Henry (owner of Liverpool FC) and in 2004 they finally won their first World Series in 86 years. The Red Sox have since won two more, most recently in 2013.

An even longer losing streak was broken the following year when the Chicago White Sox finally managed to lay their “Black Sox” hoodoo to rest by winning their first World Series in 88 years.

MLB Since 2000

The dawn of the millennium saw a familiar name winning the World Series – yes, you guessed it, the New York Yankees. That said, the Yankees would win just one more Pennant and one World Series thus far this century, in 2009. This millennium the San Francisco Giants have won three World Series, as have the Red Sox, while the St Louis Cardinals have won two. The reigning World Series champions are the Kansas City Royals, who lost the 2014 World Series to the Giants 4-3, but made amends by winning in 2015, defeating the New York Mets 4-1.

Winning a World Series must rank as one of the great – if not greatest – pinnacles in any team sport, not to mention toughest. Just think about it for a moment; a winning team must have played a grueling 162 league matches just to win their divisional title (or finish a strong runner-up). They then must progress through possibly three rounds of the Post Season playoffs - meaning approximately 13 more matches - to win the League Pennant title.

Then, with next to no recovery time, the victorious team must pick themselves up once more and do battle in what is the biggest test of all – the best-of-seven game World Series. Talk about a super-human effort. No wonder some of these guys revert to steroids!

MLB Betting Odds

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Divisional MLB Favorites 2016

Here is a rundown of the bookies’ MLB betting picks to take the divisional titles in the American and National Leagues. Also included are the teams favored to finish in runner-up spot, indicating the bookies’ 2016 MLB playoffs predictions

American League MLB Betting Odds

In the American League Central, the Kansas City Royals are favored to top the group ahead of the Cleveland Indians.

In the American League East, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are joint favorites to win the title.

In the American League West, the Houston Astros are tipped ahead of the Texas Rangers to finish on top.

The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are joint favorites to win the American League Pennant and progress to the World Series.

National League MLB Betting Odds

In the National League Central, the Chicago Cubs are favored over the San Francisco Giants to win the division.

In the National League East, the New York Mets are slightly favored ahead of the Washington Nationals to finish top.

In the National League West, the San Francisco Giants just edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers as favorites to win the division.

The Chicago Cubs are favorites to win the National League Pennant ahead of the San Francisco Giants.

World Series MLB Betting Preview

Despite the fact that the Kansas City Royals are the defending champions and have reached the last two World Series, the bookies don’t have them among their main MLB favorites, placing them joint-fourth to win in 2016.

Clear favorites to win the World Series in 2016 are the Chicago Cubs, mainly because they have strengthened their team roster with David Price, Zack Greinke, Craig Kimbrel, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.

Joint second favorites are the San Francisco Giants, the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. The Giants and the Red Sox won the World Series’ in 2014 and 2013 respectively. The Blue Jays are highly rated because of the quality and spirit of their team.

MLB Predictions 2016

In 2015 the Toronto Blue Jays topped the American League East division ahead of the Yankees. They then edged out the Texas Rangers in the playoffs before losing to eventual World Series winners Kansas City in the American League Pennant series.

The Blue Jays nevertheless earned rave reviews for the quality of their team throughout, from hitters to pitchers to catchers. This year their team which includes such standouts as Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and Marcus Stroman is more experienced and look even better. Simply put, the Blue Jays were already the best team in the MLB last year - but they didn’t realize it. In 2016 they know just how good they are.

In a year in which another team clad in blue - Leicester City - are tearing up the Premiership and heading for the title, look for the Blue Jays to defeat the Boston Red Sox in the American League Pennant series.

The Chicago Cubs look unstoppable in the National League, and will defeat the New York Mets in the NL Pennant Series, setting up a World Series between two teams that haven’t graced MLB’s showpiece for many decades. The Blue Jays last haven’t won a World Series since 1977, while the Chicago Cubs last lifted the trophy in… wait for it… 1908! Unfortunately for Cubs fans, they will have to wait a little longer.

The Toronto Blue Jays will win the 2016 World Series.

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