MLB win totals are always fun because it’s a season-long bet. At any point during a six-month span, I can turn on a game for a team that I’ve bet on, either to go over or under the win total, and I’ll have a rooting interest. Giving yourself a reason to watch the games is often why people bet on sports, but the main reason should be because you see value in the market. So here are three MLB win totals that I think have value, and wanted to bet before the number changed.
Arizona Diamondbacks OVER 83.5
The Arizona Diamondbacks made multiple big splashes this offseason, adding to what was an already above average club which won 85 games in 2019. The big moves the Diamondbacks made in the offseason were signing Madison Bumgarner for five years, and trading for outfielder Starling Marte.
Mad Bum isn’t quite the ace he used to be, but he was one of just 15 pitchers who threw over 200 innings last year and did so with a 3.90 ERA, 4.72 K/BB rate, and 1.13 WHIP. Now, the advanced metrics think he’s more of a low 4’s ERA guy than high 3’s. But no matter how you slice it, he stabilizes the top of the Diamondbacks rotation after Arizona traded Zack Greinke to the Astros midseason last year.
Diamondback’s Starting Rotation Shows Promise
With the addition of Bumgarner and the return of Luke Weaver from injury, the Diamondbacks starting rotation starts to look like one of the better ones in the National League. Robbie Ray should follow Bumgarner, and both Zach Gallen and Luke Weaver have the upside to be top of the rotation starters. The rotation is rounded out by the always steady Mike Leake, and Merrill Kelly will likely move to a bullpen role.
One of the bigger holes on this team heading into the offseason was corner outfielder, and they adeptly filled that spot with Kole Calhoun. You’d probably be surprised to know that Calhoun hit 33 home runs a year ago. On the whole, his numbers weren’t great, but his .792 OPS is at least acceptable. From 2014 to 2017 Calhoun put up WAR totals in the mid 3’s, compared to 2.5 WAR last year. If he can stay in the 3 WAR range this will be a solid signing for Arizona.
The Marte trade is the move that puts this team over the top for me, and a repeat of 85 wins or more seems likely. Marte is coming off his best year as a hitter, as he slashed .295/.342/.503 with 23 HR and 25 SB in 31 attempts. He has the potential to be a 4+ win player for the Diamondbacks.
Putting aside what the move does for the team on the field, it establishes that the Diamondbacks will be buyers in 2020 and trying to make a playoff run. So, adding reinforcements midseason appears more likely.
The key to this win total will be how much Ketel Marte can replicate his unbelievable 2019 season. And if the Statcast numbers are correct, Marte’s 2019 season was not a fluke. His expected batting average of .299 was in the top 6% of the league, and his expected wOBA of .405 was top 3% of the league. Overall, we have to expect regression from the 7.1 WAR Marte put up in 2019, but I think Arizona more than made up for that with their offseason additions.
St. Louis Cardinals UNDER 88.5
The St. Louis Cardinals are a team on the decline, and yet they’re being priced as the favorites in the National League Central. This offseason the Cardinals have not added a single player that played in MLB last year, but they lost outfield thumper Marcel Ozuna in free agency. The team did win 91 games a year ago, but there is plenty of reason to expect regression beyond just losing Ozuna.
Starting Rotation is Due for Regression
The first reason is the Cardinals ace, Jack Flaherty. Flaherty is one of the best pitchers in baseball, let alone one of the best young pitchers in the game. But there is zero chance he can replicate his numbers from a year ago. Flaherty put up a sparkling ERA of 2.75, but his FIP was 3.46, his xFIP 3.64, and his SIERA 3.68. Flaherty will be a nice #1 in the rotation, but he’s clearly a mid 3’s ERA guy, rather than a sub-3.00 ace.
The next reason for decline is the rest of the Cardinals rotation. Miles Mikolas is solid, but no batter fears facing him. And then there’s Dakota Hudson, who similarly to Flaherty far outpitched his peripherals. It was even worse for Hudson, who looks like a promising young pitcher if you just look at his 3.35 ERA. But a closer look at his 4.93 FIP, 4.55 xFIP, and 5.08 SIERA reveal an incredibly lucky pitcher in 2019.
The Cardinals are Downright Old
2020 will be the year the Cardinals’ luck runs out. The last reason I have for fading St. Louis is age. The next pitcher in the Cardinals rotation, Adam Wainwright, is 38-years-old and will turn 39 in August. As with the rest of the Cardinals pitchers, Wainwright’s 4.18 ERA last year looks to be a fortunate result. When the wheels fall off, it’s going to be ugly for Wainwright.
Catcher Yadier Molina will turn 38 in July and is coming off a 1.2 WAR season. Matt Carpenter is a shell of himself, succumbing to injuries and at 34 coming off a 1.2 WAR season, the arrow is pointing firmly down. Dexter Fowler will also be 34 this season and is coming off a 1.5 WAR season. Lastly, Paul Goldschmidt is also on the decline at 32, and is coming off the worst offensive season season of his career, and was worth just 2.9 WAR in 2019.
The Cardinals will get promising outfielder Dylan Carlson up from the minor leagues this year, and the multi-talented Tommy Edman showed skills in 2019. But beyond those two players, the outlook looks bleak for the rest of this Cardinals team. I think the upside for this team is 89 wins, which is what it would take for this bet to lose. The downside though, is much lower.
Chicago White Sox OVER 83.5
This is going to be a trendy pick because it would be impossible to ignore all the offseason moves the White Sox made. Here’s a list of what the Sox did this offseason:
- Signed C Yasmani Grandal
- Traded for RF Nomar Mazara
- Signed SP Gio Gonzalez
- Signed SP Dallas Keuchel
- Extended OF Luis Robert
- Signed DH Edwin Encarnacion
- Signed RP Steve Cishek
Keuchel and Gio aren’t the most exciting signings, but both would look excellent at the back of a rotation. Currently, the rotation looks like Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Gio Gonzalez, Dylan Cease. Giolito blossomed into an ace last year, and Cease has top of the rotation upside. Reynaldo Lopez is still trying to figure out how to pitch, but if he falters the Sox can turn to one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Michael Kopech. Additionally, upside-laden Carlos Rodon should be returning from an injury at some point in 2020.
White Sox Potential 2019 Lineup
- Yoan Moncada – 3B
- Tim Anderson – SS
- Jose Abreu – 1B
- Yasmani Grandal – C
- Edwin Encarnacion – DH
- Eloy Jimenez – LF
- Nomar Mazara – RF
- Luis Robert – CF
- Nick Madrigal – 2B
Madrigal likely won’t open the season with the team, but he has elite bat to ball skills as a former top 5 draft pick and would be an ideal #9 hitter in his rookie year. Luis Robert has 30/30 upside and is a top 5 prospect in baseball. And don’t forget Eloy Jimenez who was second only to Vladamir Guerroro, Jr. on prospect lists a year ago. Add that to newly signed thumpers Grandal and Encarnacion, combined with the breakout seasons a year ago from Moncada and Anderson, and you get one of the best lineups in the American League.
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