The sun is up, temperatures are in the upper 70’s in Florida and Arizona on March afternoon’s and MLB baseball handicappers are breaking down the betting odds for the upcoming season.
It is time to start looking at the division races and how the MLB odds shape up on the various teams. The AL West will be the focus and we agree with 5Dimes.com and other sportbooks the race at the top of the division should go deep into September before being decided with possibly two teams headed to the postseason.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (+160)
Last year, being swept by Kansas City certainly soured what was an impressive 98-win season, which was the best in the big leagues. The Angels do have holes in trying to replace Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton in the batting order and the starting pitching while strong, will need a healthy Garrett Richards and an improved C.J. Wilson to stay at the front of the division. However, manager Mike Scioscia is a master manipulator and has the kind of roster where he hit and run and take the extra base to place pressure on the opposing team and solid bullpen led by closer Huston Street. This Anaheim crew will be tested and barely win the AL West.
Seattle Mariners (+160)
The MLB odds alone say Seattle will be on the heels of the Halos this season and there will no short supply of those making MLB picks that will pick the Mariners to finish first. The 16-game improvement proved Seattle is on the rise and their commitment by adding the right pieces like Robinson Cano last year and Nelson Cruz for the upcoming season. The offense should be better and average more than 3.9 runs per game and if the pitching is equal to last season, the M’s will make a run. Of concern is skipper Lloyd McClendon calling on seven different relievers to make 50 or appearances. That has only happened once before in baseball history. Pencil the Mariners in no worse than second place.
Oakland Athletics (+400)
The Athletics were well on their way to third consecutive division crown and GM Billy Beane made trades to go ‘all in’ to reach the World Series and for reasons unknown, Oakland fell apart and limped into the wild card game and blew a four-run eighth inning lead to Kansas City and was unceremoniously sent home. Beane changed the complexion of the A’s in trading commodities and not signing free agents and his team will return to their more familiar underdog role. Manager Bob Melvin will still have parts to mix and match like he has in the past, just not as many talented pieces. The pitching should still be a plus, but the difference between third or fourth place could well come down to the production of Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist and Brett Lawrie. Move the A’s to the fourth slot.
Texas Rangers (+550)
Thought to be an 85-win team by MLB odds makers a year ago, injuries imploded the Texas season. The rehabbed Rangers feel they can return to last year’s expectations and having Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland back healthy to go along with Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Chin and Adrian Beltre should help. Texas still has questions elsewhere in the batting order and the rest of the pitching staff, to say nothing of first-year Jeff Banister who has been in Pittsburgh the last four years. I’ll call the Rangers to sneak up to third place, but only if they move up from 14th in American League fielding percentage from 2014.
Houston Astros (+2000)
After three straight seasons of losing 100+ games, the Astros had a massive 19-game improvement to 70 wins last year and better days are ahead. Houston showed when Jose Altuve, George Springer and Chris Carter were swinging the lumber, this team can score runs. Unfortunately at this point, they have other weaknesses on the diamond and the pitching staff will be the next area which has to grow for the Astros to become a .500 squad. The starters have depth if not much top of the rotation hurlers, but Houston must find answers for a bullpen that has 74 blown saves the past three years. Back to last place this season, but not for long.