As the 2018 MLB season approaches, it's time for the fourth annual exercise in which I pick five overs and five unders for the season. What are overs and unders, some might ask? We're talking about the gambling lines on the win totals for each of the 30 teams for this coming season.
Something to keep in mind here is that these over/unders set by Bovada are done with the goal of the house making money, so they are pretty spot-on in most cases and nothing will seem like an obvious bet at all. You only need to be right by a half-game or one game in order to win. There won't likely be many blowouts.
I guess the point of that paragraph was to brace you for a few of the picks below and to point out that if I pick a team to win fewer than 94 games, in no way does it mean I think that team sucks. Remember, a team can still win 93 games and the World Series and I'd still have hit the under.
First up, the over/unders! Study with impunity.
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Remember, you are betting "over" if you think the team wins more than it's over/under line and under if you think it'll win fewer. Thanks to some of the teams not having the "half-win" in there, we could have some pushes (ties). That's annoying, no?
Away we go.
The Cubs won 92 games last season and. This version will be a lot closer to the 2016 version that won 103 games. I'll say somewhere in the 98-win range, which clears the already-high hurdle in getting to the over.
The Nats won 97 games last season with a brutal late-inning bullpen through two months, Trea Turner only playing 98 games, Adam Eaton only playing 23, Bryce Harper only playing 111 and Tanner Roark having a down year.
The Nationals have won 95-plus games in four of the last six seasons and after this year, it'll be five of seven.
Red Sox, 91.5
In 2017, the Red Sox won 93 games despite having one of the worst power profiles in the AL. They now have J.D. Martinez in the middle of that order and I figure a few of the holdovers will hit for more power anyway. Perhaps it's Andrew Benintendi and/or Mookie Betts. Keep in mind a full season of Rafael Devers helps here as well.
Further, David Price battled injury all last season, making just 11 starts and five relief appearances. At age 32, he's not too old to have a big-time bounce-back season and we'll call for one here.
I feel like the Giancarlo Stanton trade along with the Yankees slightly improbable run to the ALCS last season has made the Red Sox far too underrated heading into this season. Don't sleep on them getting to the mid-90s in wins.
The Giants were atrocious last season, thanks in part to injuries. Brandon Belt only played in 104 games, Mark Melancon only managed 32 appearances and, of course, Madison Bumgarner missed roughly half the season after his dirt bike accident.
It's reasonable to expect returns to form from everyone listed above. It's also reasonable to believe Jeff Samardzija (4.42 ERA against a 3.61 FIP) gets a bit better luck.
Oh, and the Giants upgraded from Denard Span to Austin Jackson in center while replacing a scrap heap with Andrew McCutchen (flipping Hunter Pence over to left field to replace said scrap heap and leaving Cutch in right). Third base was set to be an issue, but now it's manned by Evan Longoria. Tony Watson is on board to setup for Melancon, too.
With better luck when it came to health and performance, the Giants were naturally going to get back closer to .500, but the outside additions push them up at the very least into the low-80s in wins.
I've gotta grab something from the lower-tier and this is more a gut feeling than anything. They figure to be one of the most powerful offenses in the league and there's enough talent in the rotation to see this team getting to around 80 wins.
Sure, they weren't good last year, but they still got to 75 wins and there's room for improvement in several areas. A repeat of 75 would be good enough for a win here.
. That's why I'm going under here, in addition to the rest of the division being strong.
So I'm a "hater," right?
Hey, if you want to think that, it's cool with me. The Dodgers win totals from 2013-16: 92, 94, 92, 91. I understand the personnel is different, but I'm just outlining that they can end up with fewer than 96 wins and still be plenty successful. They were out of their minds for a few months last season -- one of the greatest runs in MLB history -- pushing them up to 104. I'm seeing a return to the low-to-mid-90s and slightly under while winning the division again.
I've reversed course. In my pre-preseason power rankings, I had the Yankees second and the Red Sox seventh, but I've changed my mind. I'm going with the Red Sox to take the AL East by something like one game.
Why the mind changing? Well, for one thing, J.D. Martinez signed after I worked up the rankings. For another, I can't get past the risks the Yankees are taking at second base and third base, not to mention Stanton's extensive injury history and the possibility of a bit of a sophomore slump for Aaron Judge.
The Yankees are still awesome, but I'm looking more in the 91-92 range for wins this year. That's good enough for me to peg this one.
I have the Rockies as the fourth-best team in a loaded NL West. It's certainly possible for a division to have four teams with a winning record, but it's not likely. There's some level of gut feeling involved here, too.
And, frankly, I didn't love many of the unders. I needed a fifth pick (these are ordered by the over/under figure, not in the order of likelihood of hitting).
Two pennants and a World Series title, though. Flags fly forever and the memories will never fade, Kansas City.
The Padres greatly overachieved their run differential last season, winning 71 games (their expected W-L with a negative-212 run differential is 59 wins). They are also in a division with four legitimate playoff contenders while not-yet-ready to turn the corner. The talent just isn't there yet. Keep an eye on phenoms Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias in the minors this season, leading a top-notch farm system (ranked number one by some outlets). They could be part of a turnaround along with veterans like Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers within the next few seasons, but it's not here yet. I'll go with about 65 wins in 2018 and that might be generous.