Over/Under Suggestions (For Entertainment Only)

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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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

41 Responses to “Over/Under Suggestions (For Entertainment Only)”

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  1. GTW says:

    What odds would you give the O’s breaking .500?

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  2. Barkey Walker says:

    “Tampa Bay at 87.5 … I’d probably have set this closer to 90 or 91.” I think this is a good estimate of this site’s (read Dave’s) pro-Rays bias: 90 to 91 – 87.5 = about 2.5 to 3.5 wins.

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    • Snarky von Snarkle Pants says:

      You might want to replace “Rays” with “good process” to avoid sounding so douch-y

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      • adohaj says:

        Given your snarky comments there is no denying this site has a love affair with the rays. whether it’s good or not is up for debate.

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  3. Yirmiyahu says:

    Four of those bets seem pretty obvious. But Tampa Bay winning 87.5 games and Kansas City winning 78.5 games seem like pretty reasonable projections to me.

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  4. Joe Peta says:

    Dave, I think you’ll love these – Saber-based previews of every AL team (Phila coming later today) through the prism of the Vegas’ over/under line. Huge agreement with you on the Royals due to some very hidden saber factors. Other strong unders include Detroit and Tampa — again for some less obvious saber-based reasons.

    Oak/Clev/and Chicago rate as strongest overs and the Red Sox, not the Yankees should be favored in the East. Love to hear the thoughts of others.

    30 Teams in 30 (Week) Days are all contained here: http://tradingbases.squarespace.com/blog/2012/3/1/2012-preview-kansas-city-royals.html

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    • Steve Balboni says:

      Good stuff there Joe. I like the contrariness with TB, I won big on their over last year, but that defense has to regress from historical greatness. Vegas seems less tuned to non-pitching defense effects and your Detroit analysis seems spot on. Can’t wait for your Phillies write-up, I took a bath on the under last year.

      (Real interesting background on the As/Giants Santa Clara kerfuffle. I lived there during Haas’s ownership and the St. Petersburg nonsense and I remember it that way, too.)

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      • Joe Peta says:

        Thanks, my friend. Phillies posted here: http://tradingbases.squarespace.com/blog/2012/3/15/2012-preview-philadelphia-phillies.html

        I agree with you about the subtle things Vegas (and even some sophisticated analyists) do not pick up on. Outfield assists and DPs started are skill-based, of course, but not generally repeatable (See KC essay.) Those high-leverage/small sample plays have a huge impact on actual wins but they are hidden at year end.

        TB’s 2011 defensive efficiency can not possibly improve and could still be league-best and regress to the point that the bats will have to create 30 more runs just to stay on par with last year’s 90 wins, etc.

        I also don’t think many realize how much bullpen WAR regresses to the mean every year. It’s almost always more accurate to insert last year’s league avg. bullpen WAR, for every team’s projection, than its actual WAR from the year before. (Yes, even the Yankees, although, as always, Rivera helps mute the regression effect.) That makes Atlanta and Washington stronger under candidates than others might “see”. (It’s also why Arizona’s worst-to-first last year wasn’t nearly as surprising as many think.)

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      • Steve Balboni says:

        Joe Sheehan and your general comments on Philly at that link remind me of the Lakers (especially today). Jerry Buss once said he runs that team as part of his “love affair with L.A.”, as a nuptial duty. And since my childhood, he’s delivered a championship at least every fourth year (!) and missed the playoffs maybe twice; they hang no banners for conference or division titles.

        It’s not wonder that Boston and Phillies fans have appeared in droves this past decade. Its inconceivable to fans of the Pirates, Reds, Florida, Expos, etc. how much it helps to have an owner smart enough to install and listen to competent management, passionate enough to sacrifice personal wealth, and humble enough to let players dominate the stage (good for their egos).

        Sorry, I’m all verklempt over saying good by to Fisher (5 Titles) and hello to 2012 relevance. What is this post about, Houston’s O/U line?

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  5. Yirmiyahu says:

    Do you think that team projections and betting odds are taking into account the added Wildcard spot? Theoretically, win projections should be less extreme because the extra wild card will mean that more teams will have a shot, or at least behave as if they have a shot. At the trading deadline, that means there will be fewer teams having a fire sale and fewer good players available to acquire. Late in the season, it means that there will be fewer teams conceding the season and playing all of their prospects.

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    • E says:

      That’s a really good point. I’ve seen plenty of analysis on how the new WC slot will affeft the playoffs, has anyone seen anything on how it will it’s potential change in the player market? My thought would be: a stud on a noncompeting team in 2011 had a higher chance to get traded. In 2012, that same team thinks they are slightly more competative so the stud stays. I could see that affecting some player’s numbers, and their value.

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      • Newcomer says:

        That and the new CBA restricts draft compensation for free agents. Teams only get compensation if they had the player for the full season, increasing the value of keeping an impending free agent while decreasing the value of acquiring one.

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  6. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    Over/Under on games started at 3B by Miguel Cabrera?

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  7. Baltar says:

    The oddsmakers do not actually predict or project how well various teams will fare in any sport in a single game or a whole season. They simply try to split the betting 50/50. When I lived in California, I would often drive to Nevada for the weekend, bet against the popular teams and for the unpopular teams, win at blackjack (card-counting of course) while waiting for the games to finish, and collect my winning tickets.
    While I, like Dave, would never advise anybody to gamble, this is the way to win if you choose to do so.

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    • Baltar says:

      “collect on my winning tickets”

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    • Steve Balboni says:

      There is definitely some thumb scaling for popularity, but the lines mostly reflect athletic reality because Vegas would get crushed by professionals.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      You’re right that betting odds are made in an attempt to predict the betting 50/50. But most of the money that is gambled is put down by smart people. Sure there are a lot of bets made by fans for the sake of entertainment, but as far as dollar amounts, the vast majority of the money put down is by experienced and knowledgeable gamblers.

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    • evo34 says:

      I’m willing to bet against you being either a successful card counter or a successful sports bettor.

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  8. MoreHR's&LesNorman says:

    Why is Alex Gordon’s regression treated like a stated fact by the sabermetric community? He’s a supremely talented, 28-year old player. He certainly could regress, but isn’t there also a solid chance that his 23 home runs increase to 30? Yes, his BABIP was high last year, but it would not be surprising to see the K% come down, the BB% rate go up, and/or the power increase.
    I know I’m picking out a small point in your overall argument, but I have seen “Alex Gordon’s regression” stated over and over, and each time, I scratch my head…

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  9. steven says:

    “Cleveland at 75.5

    This one’s just weird to me”

    It’s weird to me too, how do you reckon winning half a game?

    Seriously, though, I don’t see it as a done deal that Detroit wins that division, though I would agree they’re a favorite. Both Minnesota and Cleveland have a decent amount of upside.

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  10. TK says:

    interesting that the opening lines had the average team winning 81.5 games (for those of you who are arithmatically challenged, the average will be 81), yet there has been as much movement on the overs and the unders. This is obviously because most people bet on their teams and bet on them to do better. It is also because betters in general take the over more than the under.

    Further broken down, it has the NL being almost dead even and the AL being about 15 games over .500

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    • Eric R says:

      “interesting that the opening lines had the average team winning 81.5 games ”

      If there are generally more over bets than under, would it make sense for the average to be a little high to even that out a little?

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      • Steve Balboni says:

        Don’t forget the vig, that KC under line may look tempting, but what if it costs you -130 and the over is +110?

        The odds and the vig provide extra fun when you bring your baseball acumen into a sportsbook. Sure, last year it analysts easily picked the Giants and Colorado as Division favorites, but it’s an extra step to ask whether they offered value at -110 and +120; was that really better than San Diego and Arizona at +1000 and +2000?

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      • TK says:

        Yes, but I still think it’s interesting.

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    • Newcomer says:

      Technically, the average should be slightly under 81. Rainouts between non-contenders in September are usually not made-up, and so sometimes a couple teams end the season with 161 games played (see WAS and LAD in 2011).

      Then again, with all of the 163rd games we’ve had recently, they might balance out. :-P

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  11. Matt says:

    I like the over on the A’s, big time. This is a .500 team and possibly better.

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  12. Nik says:

    When is the last time the Phillies hit the Under? People overestimate the rest of the NL East.

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    • Steve Balboni says:

      Where were you last year to save me a painful lesson? There was NO WAY that 2011 team wins 97 with Utley & LIdge hurt, aging Howard, Ibanez and Rollins, etc, etc. Ouch.

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  13. Kevin says:

    Milwaukee Brewers at 81.5? Their rotation is the same as last season and Gallardo and Greinke both figure to improve at least minimally. They improved at 3B and SS and their bullpen is far better than what it was to start 2011. I don’t think the loss of Prince Fielder results in 15 less wins.

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  14. Eric Dykstra says:

    The Indians O/U is 79.5 now, Miami at 85.5, KC at 76.5, Philly at 93, and Dodgers at 81 even (with better odds on the over).

    You can’t take month-old odds and criticize them like this.

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    • evo34 says:

      I agree. This article is a month late. The author should get current lines (readily available online) and then give his views.

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  15. Will H. says:

    I think the most obvious play based on the linked numbers is over on the Nats (at 81). And so did Vegas, as now it’s at 84…

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  16. Jesse says:

    Im curious where your lines are from. Because if betting were legal and If i had an account at a certain site they would have these lines

    Cle: 78.5
    TB: 86.5
    KC 80.5 (but @ -180!)

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  17. Xeifrank says:

    My simulator which ran each game of the actual 2012 season 100K times outputs the following win totals for the teams Dave C selected.

    Indians: (Sim 77.7) << agree
    Marlins (Sim 82.0) << slight agree
    Rays (Sim 83.1) << disagree
    Royals (Sim 75.7) << agree
    Phillies (Sim 91.9) << agree
    Dodgers (Sim 78.0) << agree

    Good job! :)

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  18. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    for the record Dave, those lines are either dated or generous. Was in LV about 12 days ago hit a few of the sportsbooks. Cleveland was i think above the 75 wins on all the boards that I saw, to the point i stayed away from it. The most interesting one i saw was that betters pushed KC upto 80.5 at the wynn. The Under though was -120 or something slightly more punitive than normal, but I still jumped on it.

    I also took the rays at 18-1 to win the world series (figuring, if you believe playoff series are crapshoots, that they have about a 20% chance of being division winners, 60% chance or so of grabbing one of the wildcards and thus being a 16-1 dog, and 20% chance of missing, makes this seem priced maybe +EV.) I of course went home and realized my math slightly sucked and it was slightly -EV.

    I took the tigers at 9:2 to win the AL central. As long as they have a 90% chance of winning the AL central, this should be reasonable.

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  19. Rex says:

    Wait, so where can we actually bet on these, tryin to get some scrilla

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