These are a few weeks old at this point, and they may have moved slightly since they were published, but VegasWatch did their annual post with over/unders from the online sportsbook Bet Online on February 20th. For the most part, they line up with conventional wisdom – the sports books are pretty good at what they do – but there are a few that stand out as opportunities for someone who might want to win a friendly contest with their friends. Not for money, of course. That would be wrong.
Anyway, here are three opportunities to take the over and three opportunities to take the under and potentially do okay.
Take the over.
Cleveland at 75.5
This one’s just weird to me. Even if you don’t think their rotation will perform up to the projections, it’s still clearly a solid starting five, and the bullpen is pretty good as well. Toss in a healthier Shin-Soo Choo, an expected bump in production from Carlos Santana, and a full year of Jason Kipnis, and the offense has some nice pieces in place. There are holes, certainly, and the Indians probably need a lot of things to go right to contend for a playoff spot, but 76 wins is too low for a baseline. I’d peg them closer to 80, and wouldn’t even object with something closer to 82 or 83. This is probably the one line that I disagree with the most.
Miami at 81.5
I didn’t love the Buehrle and Bell signings, but there’s little question that those additions – plus that Jose Reyes guy and a potentially healthy Hanley Ramirez – should make the Marlins quite a bit better in 2012. This seems like something of an overreaction to the team’s 72-90 record from a year ago, but this is going to be a very different club than the one the Marlins ran out in 2011, and most projections have the Marlins as a mid-80s win team. 82 is possible, but I certainly wouldn’t consider it the median.
Tampa Bay at 87.5
Yes, the AL East is tough, and the Rays won’t have an easy schedule this year, but I’d probably have set this closer to 90 or 91. The Rays have one of the elite pitching rotations in baseball and enough talent on the position player side of things to be a real contender. In any other division, they’d be a pretty easy call for 90+, but even taking their schedule into account, getting to 88 shouldn’t be that hard.
Take the under.
Kansas City at 78.5
As nice a group of young players as the Royals have, I just don’t think they’re ready to win this year. Even with improvements from Moustakas and Hosmer, the offsetting regression from Gordon and the loss of production in center field will keep the offense from taking a significant step forward. If the Royals are going to get to 79+ wins, they’ll have to do it on the backs of a real improvement on the pitching side, and I just don’t see enough talent in the rotation to justify that kind of leap forward. This would be a good line for the 2013 Royals, but for 2012, I’d peg them as more low-to-mid 70s, and that makes this a pretty easy under.
Philadelphia at 95.5
96 wins is a tall order for any team, much less a team in a division with three other legitimately talented clubs. I don’t know that I’d project any team in baseball for 96 wins in the NL East, and the Phillies have enough question marks that this just seems overly optimistic. The rotation is going to be hard pressed to repeat their 2011 dominance, especially without Oswalt, and even an imported Papelbon won’t be a significant upgrade over what Madson gave the team a year ago. The Phillies will probably win 90+, but I’m stopping short of going over 95. That’s just a really high bar for any team, and there are too many issues with this roster to justify this kind of middle ground.
Los Angeles Dodgers at 81.5
To be honest, I don’t have a really strong conviction about this one. These lines are really good – or at least very close to what I think is reasonable for most teams – and I struggled to find a third line where it just looked significantly too high. I think the Dodgers are probably a high-70s win team, so 82 is certainly within the realm of possibility, but the team got monster years from Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw and still only managed 82 wins a year ago. They have to expect some regression from those two, and I’m not sure I see enough talent in other positions to help compensate for those two being really good rather than great. There’s also a decent chance that they could be sellers at the deadline, and even if they played like a .500ish team in the first half of the year, they could struggle down the stretch if they traded away guys like Andre Ethier. I’d still peg them for 77-79 wins, but that’s far enough below the line to qualify them for this final spot. I just wouldn’t be quite as aggressive with this one as the others.
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