For those sports fans living in cold-weather climates, arguably the best four words of winter are: “pitchers and catchers report.” Indeed, spring training camps open starting Feb. 12 and the first Las Vegas sportsbook has released its 2017 MLB wins totals.
Don't take these MLB win totals at sportsbooks as necessarily a barometer of what will happen in the coming season. For example, last February the Chicago Cubs were given a total of just 89.5. They led the major leagues with 103 victories – their most since 1910 – and won the franchise's first World Series title since 1908. The 2017 Cubs, who are back largely intact other than closer Aroldis Chapman (a midseason acquisition) and outfielder and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, have the highest total for this year at 95.5.
"I was short on them last year," Atlantis Casino sportsbook director Steve Mikkelson told ESPN's Chalk. "My concern was that the team was so young. But after watching them in 2016, they are solid top to bottom. They have tremendous depth and won 103 games last year. If any team can take an injury or two and come back, it's this team. I like the Wade Davis acquisition, and Kyle Schwarber is coming back as well."
The Cubs are the MLB betting favorites at all of SBR Forum's top sportsbooks to repeat as World Series champions so it's no surprise they have the highest wins total. The noted MLB statistical site FanGraphs projects the Cubs to finish 94-68 this season.
FanGraphs has the Los Angeles Dodgers finishing with the majors' best record at 95-67, while Vegas has the Dodgers at 91.5 wins, third-most. No. 2 on the list is the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians at 92.5. The Tribe blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Fall Classic to the Cubs. Cleveland does look better on paper with the return to health of starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and the addition of Blue Jays free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who has 193 homers over the past five seasons, second only to the Orioles' Chris Davis (197). Encarnacion also is the only player in the majors with at least 30 homers in each of the past five seasons. If there was one weakness on the 2016 Indians, it was power. Problem solved.
The Indians have a higher win total than Boston (90.5), even though the Red Sox are American League pennant favorites in MLB betting. They of course traded for Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale in the offseason but did lose future Hall of Famer David Ortiz.
Las Vegas didn't open any team with more than 90 wins last February (Giants were tops at 90). The lowest number was the Atlanta Braves at 65. They won 68. This time around, the San Diego Padres have the fewest wins projection at 64.5 after winning 68 a year ago. FanGraphs projects the “Fathers” to finish 66-96.