We’re still six weeks from opening day, but the first sports book over/unders were released the other day, and while this is not an endorsement of gambling, it can be fun and informative to look at how the Vegas proprietors see each team stacking up before the season. So, let’s take a look at the early numbers.
There’s no obviously absurd numbers in there, and overall, it matches up pretty well with my expectations. That said, there are definitely a few teams where I’d lean towards the over or the under.
This is the easiest call on the whole list for me. The Red Sox had a lousy 2012 season, but I just don’t see too many reasons to expect them to be a below .500 team. The offense should be well above average, and depending on how healthy Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz stay, Boston might be one of the better hitting teams in baseball. The questions are mostly in the rotation, but it’s not like Ryan Dempster, Clay Buchholz, and John Lackey have never been good pitchers. There’s a lot of risk in the group, but there’s some real talent there too, and the bullpen is deep enough to make them not carry to heavy a workload. Even in a tough division, I’d probably pencil Boston in for somwhere around 85 wins, which gives a strong cushion for an over here.
If you don’t buy into R.A. Dickey or Melky Cabrera, this is probably about right, but I think both Dickey and Cabrera are in for pretty solid seasons, and I’d have the Blue Jays closer to 90 wins. The divisional strength holds them back to some extent, but that can be overstated, as the division is more balanced than incredibly hard. There isn’t a monster 100 win team here that’s going to beat everyone else down, so while there’s not a patsy either, I’m not sure the AL East is dramatically better than other good divisions, and there might be too much of a drag on the top AL East teams here because of the perception of the divisional strength.
I’m not counting on the Indians as division winners, but I’d put them as closer to an 81 or 82 win team than a 78 win team, and that’s a pretty decent margin for a comfortable over here. We’ve talked about how the Indians roster gives them significant match-up flexibility, and I think that could translate into an ability to outperform their individual talent levels. If there’s a team out there where the sum might be greater than the whole of its parts, it’s probably the Indians. They might be a 78 win team if you just look at the 25 guys by themselves, but with some platoons and maximizing each player’s strengths, I think they could finish with a winning record.
Chicago Cubs: 72
I’d be more confident in this one if I thought the Cubs would keep their current roster together all year. I like their rotation a lot, but it seems inevitable that Matt Garza is going to get traded once he proves healthy, and it’s possible that the team could end up moving other pieces at the deadline as well as they continue to focus on rebuilding with youth. I’d stil probably peg them for a few wins better than this, but I wouldn’t be too confident in the peg, knowing that the roster we see today probably won’t stay together all that long.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 90
There are only three teams in baseball with a 90 win O/U. The Nationals are the best team in the game and the Tigers play in the weakest division, so the the other two are understandable, but I’m not quite as sold on the Dodgers being at this level. There’s some serious star power at the top of the roster, but I don’t love the cast of role players around them, and I think both the Giants and Diamondbacks are going to provide some real competition for the division title. For a good-not-great team in a division with some other pretty decent clubs, a 90 win over/under just seems a little high. It’s not crazy, but I’d probably go 87 or 88, which makes this a slight under for me.
Chicago White Sox: 80.5
Looking at the White Sox roster, I just don’t see a lot of places where we should expect significant improvement. Alexei Ramirez should hit better, and Jeff Keppinger should be an upgrade over the black hole they had at third base last year, but those aren’t going to be monstrous gains, and I see more downside from guys regressing than upside from guys improving. Alex Rios should be worse. Paul Konerko will probably be worse. A.J. Pierzynski‘s career year will be replaced by guys who won’t match that production. Maybe getting John Danks back will improve the rotation a bit, but that could easily be off-set by worse seasons from Jake Peavy and Chris Sale, who don’t really have anywhere to go but down. I don’t hate the White Sox roster, but I’d have a hard time pegging them as a .500 team right now.
As always, treat these guesses as nothing but entertainment, and be wise with your money. Disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer. The end.