Oddsmakers offer little value when attempting to find teams to go OVER their projected win total. But our expert handicapper believes the Nats and Red Sox may be the best bang for your buck.
MLB odds makers place bettors at a disadvantage when ferreting out undervalued teams in the MLB win totals market. The Atlantis Race and Sports Book in Reno, Nev., typically one of the first shops to release over-under win totals for the upcoming season, posted its offerings several days ago. As is the case every year, league-wide totals sum to 10 more wins than are possible. But that can’t damper my spirit, nor the challenge, of predicting which teams will eclipse their expectations.
One rule I follow in looking for OVER possibilities is to avoid those that hit 90 or more wins the previous season. For decades, win-total margins have been shrinking in MLB—and in most professional sports for that matter. If a team reaches 90 or more, it was probably with a little dose of luck, and bettors can expect such teams to regress, or not be as fortunate, the following season. Look at the teams posting this number or more over the last several years. The ones in bold are those that followed it up with another 90-win season:
2014: Orioles, Tigers, Angels, Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers
2013: Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Indians, A’s, Braves, Cardinals, Pirates, Reds, Dodgers
2012: Yankees, Orioles, A’s, Rangers, Nationals, Braves, Reds, Giants
2011: Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks
2010: Rays, Yankees, Twins, Rangers, Phillies, Braves, Reds, Giants
This does not mean these clubs can’t beat oddsmakers win expectations. In fact, only the Giants are required to hit the number in the prices posted in the above link. Nonetheless, I avoid these teams when looking for value in futures bets with the expectation most may go backwards in the upcoming season. The teams to reach 90 or more in 2015 include the Blue Jays, Royals, Mets, Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, and Dodgers.
With this in mind, my two best bets for going OVER their projected win totals are as follows:
The Nats are equipped with the best pitching top to bottom in all of MLB. Not only do they have arguably the best five-man rotation, but Max Scherzer, Steven Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez make up the dreaded three-headed monster often vital for playoff success. The pen is loaded, too, anchored by the much-improved set-up option Shawn Kelley and veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Scoring runs will be the team’s Achilles Heel—and injuries. Outside of OF Bryce Harper, projected to hit third, no one in the lineup strikes fear among opposing pitchers. 1B Ryan Zimmerman and new signing 2B Daniel Murphy are expected to bat behind one of this generation’s greatest players; combined the two may struggle to hit 25 home runs on the season. The Nats were a different team when Harper crossed the plate last season. They averaged 6.0 runs per game when he scored a run or more, going 52-27. When the 23-year old failed to notch a run, Washington put up just 2.6 runs a contest and went 25-49 straight up. 3B Anthony Rendon, Zimmerman, and Harper, each have an ugly history with injuries, and will need to avoid the training room for this club to reach its full potential. Nevertheless, the great staff can more than make up for any offensive deficiencies throughout the course of the season.
Unlike the AL where there are a slew of World Series contenders, the picture in the NL is a little clearer with five or six legitimate candidates. The Nats and Mets comprise the two representing the NL East. Although the Marlins are better, the rebuilding Braves and Phillies give the division one with the greatest talent disparities between clubs. I’m betting the Nats notch 90 victories or more this season, and particularly like the value in the OVER 87 wins.
MLB Pick: Over 87
Best Line Offered: at Bet365
Boston Red Sox
I chugged a bunch of the Red Sox Kool-Aid. I admit it. This club pieced together a new identity in record time following its post-World Series meltdown, and bettors have to like what they saw at the end of last season. In its final 30 games, Boston’s +1.03 scoring margin was fourth best in the bigs behind the Cubs, Rangers and Nationals.
They are constructed a bit like the Royals: they have a deep and talented bullpen (Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, etc.), above average starting pitching (made stronger with the addition of former Cy Young winner David Price) and a contact-oriented approach at the plate. The team’s 18.4 percent strike out rate was fourth fewest in MLB last season. Many advanced projection sites expect the lineup to post 4.5 runs or more a game, a lot considering the pitching-friendly strikezone of recent years. If the Sox reach the playoffs, the may have the “flavor of the month” formula for postseason success à la K.C.
The AL is full of mediocre teams, and outside of maybe Oakland, nearly every one has a chance at the playoffs. In the East, the Blue Jays will likely regress at the plate, the Orioles are moving backwards, the Rays have a shoddy pen, and the Yankees lack a strong rotation. Advantage Red Sox. OVER 85.5 wins is the MLB pick.
MLB Pick: Over 85.5
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker