MLB Betting: 5 Over/Under Win Bets That Offer Elite Value
Published on February 16, 2018
With all due respect to famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, there’s no sweeter sight in the middle of a long winter than baseball players getting back to work.
Spring training for the 2018 Major League Baseball season officially got underway Monday as Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers and catchers reported to their facilities in Bradenton, Florida. The rest of the big league teams followed suit with their pitchers and catchers over the next couple of days, and they’ll be joined by the position players as soon as February 18.
The Arizona League and Grapefruit League exhibition campaigns get underway a few days later, and the first pitch of the 2018 MLB season will fly March 29. Yeah, I know that’s still about 6 weeks away as I write this article, but it’ll also be here before we know it.
Online betting sites won’t be caught unprepared, that’s for certain. In fact, sites like BetOnline have already posted season win totals for all 30 teams in The Show, even though notable free agents like Jake Arrieta, J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer have yet to sign on the dotted line.
Here’s a look at the season win totals for every team, courtesy of BetOnline:
Projecting MLB season win totals can be tricky. No sport has as much variance and parity as baseball, where almost every team wins between 40-60% of their games each season.
The key is to look for value. With that in mind, here are 5 MLB over/under win bets that I personally believe have the greatest potential upside in 2018.
After coming off back-to-back appearances in the American League Championship Series, the Blue Jays regressed badly last season to win just 76 games and finish 17 games out of top spot in the tough AL East. That, combined with the off-season exodus of demonstrative slugger Jose Bautista and the lack of any big-name signings, has lowered the expectation bar in Toronto to the point that simply finishing above .500 would cash this ticket.
The Jays are not without their flaws, and I don’t expect their offense to be anywhere near as explosive as it was in the days of Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. But if the starting rotation can simply stay healthy (something that was an issue last year), the foursome of Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada stacks up well against any other rotation in baseball.
Toronto has also made much-needed upgrades to its defense and team speed. This year’s Jays won’t be as flashy, but they’ll be a lot more fundamentally sound. The fact that management didn’t deal 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson over the off-season suggests they believe they’ve got a shot at the playoffs once again this season, and I agree.
Whether it’s a letdown in intensity, a lack of motivation or simply regression to the mean, the World Series hangover in baseball is real.
Even though last year’s champions always look invincible in the spring, many of them go on to underachieve the following campaign. No team has won consecutive World Series since 1999, and 4 of the last 5 teams to win it all (2012 Giants, 2013 Red Sox, 2014 Giants, 2015 Royals) went on to miss the post-season entirely the following year.
With Jose Altuve and George Springer in the midst of their prime, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman just entering it and a deep rotation led by Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, it’s hard to imagine the Astros bottoming out in 2018. But in order to go under this high season win total, they don’t need to.
Houston could still have a pretty strong year and finish short of 97 victories (the organization has won more games than that just twice in its 56-year history), especially if the AL West is more competitive this season.
Just like winning the World Series can take some wind out of a team’s motivational sails the following year, losing it can also make the following season a grind. That might explain why the Indians, coming off a heartbreaking 7-game loss to the Cubs in the 2016 Fall Classic, were a mediocre 31-31 over their first 62 games in 2017.
Once the Tribe got rolling, however, they were flat-out dominant. A 22-game winning streak from late- August to mid-September got everyone’s attention, but Cleveland was 71-29 overall in its final 100 games. The Indians outscored their opponents by 196 runs in July, August and September alone, and 38 of their 102 victories on the year came by 5 runs or more.
In other words, Cleveland’s 102-60 record last year was no fluke, and I don’t see many reasons for them to win 8 less games this season. Sure, they’ve lost a couple key components from their bullpen, but the starting rotation returns completely intact and the core of their lethal offense is still in place. With the rest of the AL Central in rebuild mode (other than the Twins, who will be hard-pressed to repeat last year’s success), expect Cleveland to fatten up on divisional play while still being good enough to beat all comers from other divisions as well.
So the Orioles don’t have any starting pitching. What else is new? Despite not having a legitimate ace in the Buck Showalter era (or even since Mike Mussina in the 1990s), Baltimore has still managed to win 75+ games in 6 straight seasons, including 3 playoff appearances.
Even if the O’s don’t shore up their rotation by signing one of the available free agents before Opening Day (Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would look pretty darn good in orange and black), this team can still rake. Baltimore hit the fifth-most homers in baseball last season and posted the eighth-best team batting average, which actually makes their 4.59 runs scored per game (16th in MLB) look a bit unlucky.
The Orioles also continue to have underappreciated advantages in the bullpen. Their relief corps was 12th in bullpen ERA in 2017, but those numbers are inflated by some bad stats from guys in mop-up roles. Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens and Zach Britton sported a combined record of 12-3 and each had an ERA under 3, while Brad Brach and Darren O’Day are other reliable arms Showalter can call on in close games.
They won’t come close to playoff contention in the AL East, but expect the Orioles to continue to posting a better record than their rotation suggests they should.
Maybe it’s because of Derek Jeter’s status as a media darling, but I don’t think everyone fully appreciates how bad the Miami Marlins are going to be in 2018.
Jeter and company aren’t just rebuilding the Marlins. They’re doing a total gut job, shipping out basically anyone with experience and a decent salary, apparently with the main objectives of losing as little money and as many games as possible. We’re talking Major League, but in real life.
It’s a shame, because the Marlins had actually built perhaps the best young outfield in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. Now, after the Miami fire sale, the Marlins outfield this season will be manned by 4 guys who have a combined total of 164 career plate appearances in the pros.
Even if the pitching is decent, this team isn’t going to score enough runs to win games. And if they do, Jeter is probably going to trade away any players responsible for winning games in exchange for more prospects. I’m sure Jeter’s got a long-term plan here (“Trust The Process” comes to mind), but it’s going to be a long, long, long year for Miami baseball fans – if they still exist.
When it comes to betting MLB season win totals (or even sports betting in general), I think a contrarian approach is always a good way to go.
That’s the mentality behind backing Overs on the Blue Jays and Orioles while going Under on the Astros. Toronto and Baltimore’s stock is pretty low at the moment after poor years in 2017, while Houston’s has soared following a World Series title.
But sometimes, the easy answer can be the right one. I think the success of the Astros and the big moves by the up-and-coming Yankees has overshadowed just how good the Indians are in the American League, and there’s no way to fully appreciate just how bad the Marlins are shaping up for 2018.