2018 MLB Win Totals

March 15, 2018

First off, I’m no expert. I might even be a terrible sports bettor. There’s evidence of that. In 2016, I had a year so brutally bad betting on baseball games that it bordered on self-destructive. I could have closed my eyes and picked randomly and my results would have been better. 100%. It was an incredible bad run.

On the other hand, I’ve actually won money betting on sports five of the last seven years. Unfortunately, that epic 2016 wiped out any chance I had at having a career profit in this form of gambling. The reason I have been successful in other years is because I am quite good at fantasy baseball (which I tally as sports betting) and I am quite good at making season long wagers, including betting on team win totals. When I say I am quite good, I just mean my results have been good. It’s not like I’m putting any super in-depth effort into my calculations. I look at the totals and if I find a side I think is more likely than not to come in, based on the superficial evidence that I have, I bet it.

Unless it’s the Seattle Mariners. In that case, I always bet with my heart and I always bet the over and I basically always lose.

With that said, these are the 2018 totals I have played so far this year. I’m posting these because it’s fun and I want to write about them, not because I think I’m a genius and think you should bet them too. But if you want to sweat with me, by all means, let’s gamble! I realize not everyone goes to Vegas as often as I do, but betting the totals in the spring is one of the best parts of going to Vegas at this time of year.

Detroit Tigers under 68 wins – 2.3 units to win 2 units

This is a pretty low total, but the Tigers won 64 games last year and lost Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila, and Justin Wilson since the 2017 trade deadline. I expect Miguel Cabrera to have a bit of a bounce back season, but this roster is undoubtedly worse than last year’s version. Outside of Cabrera, Nicholas Castellanos is the only real impact bat they have left and the rotation behind ace Michael Fulmer is filled out with has beens and never have beens. That doesn’t mean they will win less games, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team lose 100 games in 2018. For what it’s worth, Fangraphs has the Tigers projected for 70 wins and PECOTA has them at 68, so there’s no huge edge here, I just expect them to suck royally.

New York Yankees over 93.5 wins – 2.5 units to win 2 units

I love the Yankees this year. Wait, did I really just type that? Love? The New York Yankees? Ew. But seriously, this roster is stupid good. They won 91 games last year and emerged as legit World Series threats way ahead of schedule. Yes, Luis Severino emerged as an ace and Cy Young candidate, plus Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge have MVP potential already, but the rest of the prized Baby Bombers are still working their way up. This team is primed to be contend for a long stretch of title runs. Oh, and this winter Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins gifted the Yanks with NL MVP winner Giancarlo Stanton. Because that’s what they needed – another MVP threat capable of a 60 homer season. The lineup is absolutely loaded and the additions of Neil Walker and Brandon Drury provide the Yanks with above average depth in the infield while prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar continue their development. I actually think the rotation is underrated behind Severino and I think most pundits agree the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. The Yankees are the most improved team in baseball since the end of last season and they were already a 91 win team. Fangraphs has them projected for 95 wins and PECOTA has them at 97. This total has already moved up to 94.5 and I would be really surprised to see the Yankees win less than 94 games. A lot would have to go wrong.

Miami Marlins under 65 wins – 1.3 units to win 1 unit

The Marlins did win 77 games last year, but also jettisoned four All-Star level players in Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton this offseason. Those guys combined for 19.5 WAR – or roughly two Mike Trouts. The remaining lineup isn’t the worst. J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, Cameron Maybin, and Starlin Castro are capable major leaguers, but health is definitely a concern on the Marlins. The rotation is absolutely terrible. Fangraphs has the Marlins as a 64-win team and PECOTA has them at 66. There’s definitely a sweat here, but it’s worth noting the betting line has dropped to 63.5 wins. The Marlins are projected to be the worst team in baseball and it’s not hard to imagine them trading away more of their best players and losing 100+ games. The projection systems typically don’t predict 100 win teams or 100 loss teams, but they obviously happen and the Marlins are primed to lose 100 in 2018.

Pittsburgh Pirates under 73.5 wins – 1.1 units to win 1 unit

As we near the regular season, this is probably the play that I’m liking the least. I knew I wanted to play the under on the Pirates even before they traded away Andrew McCutchen, but by the time I was able to bet it, the line was much lower than I was hoping for. As 2017 opened, it looked like the Pirates had one of the best outfields in baseball and two of those guys are still with them team. Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte both had down seasons in 2017 – and both could bounce back. Corey Dickerson takes over for McCutchen, but the rest of the lineup is basically the same as last year’s 75 win team. The rotation lists Ivan Nova as the ace – which no team should want – and behind him are capable, but still mostly unproven arms. I don’t think the Pirates will be good this year. They aren’t going to flirt with .500. But if I could go back in time, I probably wouldn’t make this play. It feels like action for the sake of action. Fangraphs has them at 75 wins and PECOTA has them at 78. Even Westgate in Vegas had them at 74.5 wins last time I looked. Still, there’s hope on the horizon as the Pirates managed only 75 wins when they still had McCutchen and ace Gerritt Cole. They are definitely worse in 2018, but if Polanco and Marte have healthy seasons, they could easily finish with 75 or more wins. Not a great play and not really one I’d recommend today.

Washington Nationals over 92 wins – 2.5 units to win 2 units

The Nats are still absolutely loaded. They have potential All-Stars at every position except catcher and center field. Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner will probably all get NL MVP votes – and any one of them could feasibly win it. Daniel Murphy has been on an insane run since the 2015 postseason, also putting up MVP-type numbers, but he’ll open the season with injury question marks. The Nats also have Victor Robles, a top 5 MLB prospect, ready to take over in center, possibly as early as this year. The rotation is anchored by three time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, still one of the two or three best pitchers in all of baseball. #2 Stephen Strasburg has also cemented his status as a top 10 MLB starting pitcher and perennial CYA candidate. Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez are the #3 and #4, a back end that most teams would be jealous of. The Nats could probably use another starter, but their rotation is already very good and primed to win playoff series. The bullpen added Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler to help out drastically in an area that was a weakness before last year’s trade deadline. The Nats are still in their window of World Series title contention and the NL East doesn’t project to have any other playoff candidates, so 92 wins seems low for a team this loaded that has won 95+ in four of the last six seasons. The projection systems disagree, however, with Fangraphs projecting 90 wins and PECOTA at 89 wins. On the other hand, the betting line is now up to 94.5 wins, so I actually love my bet.

Boston Red Sox over 90.5 wins – 1.15 units to win 1 unit

One of the benefits of the extremely slow hot stove season was that as soon as rumors of an impending signing emerged, I tried to fire a bet before Vegas adjusted their lines. The second J.D. Martinez was rumored to go to the BoSox I locked in at 90.5. Their over/under is now at 92. The Red Sox won 93 games last year even though Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts had relative down season and David Price missed a huge chunk. All three of those guys should be more productive this year and Boston added JDM’s monster bat and get a full season from rising star Rafael Devers. Andrew Benintendi is already an established stud and probably a future superstar. He should be better in 2018 also. Dustin Pedroia will start the year on the DL, but I don’t think that matters much. Eduardo Nunez will open the year as the starting second baseman and he’s actually probably the better player at this point in their careers. Chris Sale anchors the rotation and remains one of the three best pitchers in baseball. This is still a very good baseball team, although I do not think they are as good as the rival Yankees. I would be shocked if the Red Sox didn’t lock up one of the two Wild Card spots this year. Fangraphs has them at 93 wins and PECOTA has them at 89. I don’t expect this bet to be much of a sweat.

Kansas City Royals under 71.5 wins – 1.15 units to win 1 unit

I bet this before the Royals re-signed Mike Moustakas, so I wasn’t thrilled when I saw that take place. It really seemed like the Royals were going to lose all of their important free agents. Still, the Royals lost 5 of their 10 most valuable players – including by far their two best in Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain – and 13.6 WAR total from a team that managed 80 wins last year. The lineup is substantially worse than last year’s version and losing Jorge Bonifacio to an 80-game suspension didn’t help things. The rotation is rounded out with #4 and #5 types after ace Danny Duffy. PECOTA hates the Royals, projecting a paltry 65 wins and Fangraphs much more positive 71 wins still falls below this total. The actual betting line has dropped all the way down to 68.5, so another one I got in when the price was right.

Tampa Bay Rays under 78.5 wins – 1.05 units to win 1 unit

On paper, this team looks absolutely terrible. If you look at their projected starting lineup and ask yourself if you would want any of these guys starting for your favorite team, the answer would be no. Maybe Kevin Kiermaier? His defense is truly amazing, but his bat is just okay. The Rays lost or traded away 6 of their 8 best players from last year’s 80 win team. The Rays are also projected to open the season with a 4-man rotation and a bullpen day, an unprecedented strategy in the modern day as far as I know. There was some excitement surrounding top prospect Brent Honeywell, but he will miss all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. With the Rays moving all their most valuable pieces, it’s a bit of a wonder that Chris Archer is still with them. It’s my hope that the selling process continues and Archer finds his way out of Tampa before the end of the season. The arms behind Archer have potential, but are still mostly unproven at this point. 78.5 wins felt like a gift, but Fangraphs sees the Rays as a 78 win team and PECOTA has them at a ridiculous 83 wins! That is crazy to me. This roster looks like garbage to me right now and it will probably be even worse by the trade deadline. The books seem to agree. The line has dropped all the way down to 74.5 wins and the juice is even higher at -115 for the under. I feel like I crushed this bet and wish I had put more money on it.

Oakland Athletics over 75.5 wins – 2.1 units to win 2 units

I 100% made this bet because of this article. I wasn’t targeting the As as a potential play, but if a sportswriter picks what he thinks is the absolute best over/under play, what am I going to do? Not bet it? Yeah right! I agree the As are underrated, especially since they don’t have anything approaching a star player outside of maybe Khris Davis? But then you look at the projected starting lineup for Oakland and compare it to someone like, say, Tampa Bay that is projected for more wins and Kiermaier in center field would be the only clear upgrade if these teams were to make straight up swaps of their position players. The rotation is also underwhelming but respectable. There’s almost no chance this team will win as many as 80 games, so this could be quite the sweat, but I think it will come through. Fangraphs projects 80 wins (!) and PECOTA has the As at 76. Interestingly, the betting line has dropped to 74.5, which is tempting to pile on, but I’m going to holster my itchy trigger finger on that.

Chicago Cubs over 93.5 wins – 2.2 units to win 2 units

The Cubs had a World Series hangover for most of the first half in 2017 and still managed to finish with 92 wins. They posted 97 and 103 wins the two seasons before that and this roster hasn’t seen much turnover since they became perennial title contenders in 2015. Yu Darvish replacing Jake Arrieta seems like a wash, at worst, and the Cubs now get a full season with Jose Quintana as their #4. Goodness, Quintana might be the ace if he played for the Mariners. Tyler Chatwood, Mike Montgomery, and Eddie Butler provide the Cubs with solid rotation depth if a starter goes down. I’m kind of perplexed by the decision to make Brandon Morrow the closer. I mean, I can see signing the guy, but it’s hard to imagine him closing out games for the Cubs for an entire season. I’m certainly targeting Carl Edwards Jr. in my fantasy leagues with the hopes of picking up 15+ saves to go along with his already sexy ratios. Fangraphs has the Cubs at 94 wins and PECOTA has them at 92, so this total seems like the perfect line, but the Cubs have averaged 97+ wins over the last three years and I see the 2018 version being right on par with that kind of win total. This is a team that feels like they have something to prove this year.

Toronto Blue Jays over 81.5 wins – 1 unit to win 1.05 units

Fangraphs coerced me into this play. They have the Jays projected for an absurd 87 wins. I don’t see that happening, but it hardly needs to for me to win this bet. They just need to be better than .500 and if Fangraphs thinks they will be 12 games above .500, a bet on the over can’t be that bad. PECOTA feels differently; they have the Jays projected for 80 wins and the books have dropped this total to 80.5. A healthy Jays lineup actually looks pretty decent. Randal Grichuk and Curtis Granderson are definitely not sexy additions, but they should be better than what amounted to the least productive corner outfield combo in all of baseball last year. Teoscar Hernandez isn’t currently listed as a starter on the Jays depth chart, but I’ve read fantasy magazines that have projected him for a 20/20 season in 2018, so… seems like they should be aiming to get him some playing time. Justin Smoak will probably regress from last year’s 38 homer season, but whatever the Jays lose from his production should be made up for by having a healthy Josh Donaldson for a full season. The rotation is solid and underrated and Roberto Osuna has emerged as one of the best closers in all of baseball. The biggest obstacles the Jays face is age and injuries. Troy Tulowitski and Devon Travis are always hurt, plus Aaron Sanchez has had some difficulty staying healthy. The Blue Jays did acquire Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte to provide infield depth for their constantly injured starters. The Blue Jays had a massive down year in 2017 and won 76 games. It’s not hard to imagine them improving my six wins if they can stay healthy and get more production from their corner outfielders. If Donaldson gets traded at any point this season, this bet is toast.

Philadelphia Phillies over 76.5 wins – 2.3 units to win 2 units

I’ve been wanting to be the over on the Phillies all offseason but I felt like the line was too high. As soon as I heard rumblings that Jake Arrieta was signing with the Phils, I finally pulled the trigger. Interestingly, the line hasn’t moved at all since the Arrieta signing became official and Fangraphs actually lowered their projection from 76 wins to 75 wins. What? I can’t really make any sense of that. The 2018 Phillies remind me a lot of the 2015 Cubs before that season started, but they don’t have quite the same pedigree. The Phillies don’t have an Anthony Rizzo or a Kris Bryant, but they have good, young players all throughout the 25-man roster and a lineup full of a potential breakout candidates. Even with the Arrieta signing, Aaron Nola is still the best pitcher on this team and Jerad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez have shown flashes of brilliance in the past. In all likelihood, the Phils are going to make a massive free agent acquisition during the next offseason and emerge as legit contenders in 2019, but I wouldn’t be all that shocked to see them win 80 games in 2018 and be players for a Wild Card spot deep into the season.

Seattle Mariners over 81.5 wins – 1.15 units to win 1 unit

Ugh. I hate it already. The Mariners were fringe Wild Card contenders last year before they got off to a horrible start and then had an epic amount of injuries and fizzled out on their way to a 76 win season. As a homer, part of me will always think these guys have a chance. I still love the lineup, but it’s getting old and the window of contention is closing rapidly and the Mariners have very little help on the way from their farm system. If everyone was starting the season healthy, I think the 2018 Mariners could contend for the second Wild Card spot this year, but the roster has already been riddled with injuries. Granted, Ben Gamel is the only starter projected to miss more than a few days of the season at this point, but half the roster is dinged up or rehabbing right now. It already looks like more of the same and it’s very difficult to remain optimistic as a Mariners fan. I think Nelson Cruz has one or two All Star level seasons left in him, but I’m less sure about Robinson Cano. He’s always struck me as one of those guys that just doesn’t care that much. James Paxton could be one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, but he’s yet to put together a full season. Felix Hernandez has looked like toast the last couple years. Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, and Marco Gonzales are upgrades over the AAA rotation the Mariners used for most of 2017, but it kind of boggles my mind that the Ms didn’t make a push for Lance Lynn or currently available Alex Cobb. They sure could use another starting pitcher. Fangraphs has the Mariners at 81 wins and PECOTA has them at 82 and their over/under total hasn’t budged since the very first lines were released. Since this team seems to be cursed with never-ending injuries, part of me is tempted to bet the under and eat the juice, but the fan in me is probably just going to ride it out and root for my team like always.

Los Angeles Angels 20-1 to win the World Series
Milwaukee Brewers 25-1 to win the World Series
Chicago Cubs 9-1 to win the World Series

I don’t realistically expect either the Brewers or the Angels to win the World Series, but they both seem like teams that could make the playoffs and I like to fire off on a couple of long shots every year (I decided to skip the Mariners this year). I got the Rockies at 33-1 and the D’backs at 100-1 last year and having a freeroll into the Division Series was pretty exciting. The Cubs are perfectly capable of winning the World Series though and 9-1 seemed pretty favorable for a perennial contender. In fact, their odds went to 7-1 after signing Yu Darvish. I will probably fire more World Series bets when the postseason starts.

Nolan Arenado 23-1 to lead MLB in homeruns

I was so close to getting an epic bet in here. Venetian had MLB prop sheets dated February 20th that had Rhys Hoskins at 200-1 to lead MLB in homers and these clowns still had these papers available in their sports book last week. Unfortunately, when I tried to place the bet, I was told that Hoskins is now at 20-1 (as he should be) and I had to hold back tears at the missed opportunity. $50 to win $10,000?!? For a guy that hit 18 homers in 50 games last year? That’s a 58-homer pace! He’s 24 and still developing. Man, that would have been special. Still a long shot, but not a 200-1 long shot. Dammit! Arenado, meanwhile, has averaged 40 homers a season for the last three years and I suspect we haven’t seen his best power season yet. This is a tough bet in a world that includes Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, but Stanton has extensive injury history and Judge was spectacular in 2017 but still has less than 800 MLB at bats under his belt.


One comment

  1. […] Here’s a link to my initial write up on my plays before the season: 2018 MLB Win Totals […]

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