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Quick: Does Cliff Lee + Roy Halladay + Roy Oswalt + Cole Hamels = 98 wins? Care to put money on that?Sportsbook.com finally unveiled their MLB wins totals on Thursday, and hopefully baseball fans and gambling addicts alike took notice.
Baseball is the sport that lends itself best to advanced analytics. The ability to break down the game into easily defined fragments – pitches – that primarily involve just two players isolates many lurking variables. Combine that with the relative consistency of players from year-to-year and the enormous 162-game sample size, and betting these over/unders is practically science.
In fact, before he generated political polls for The Times, Nate Silver developed a system called PECOTA that spits out individual player and team predictions based on statistical algorithms made possible by baseball’s congeniality with analytics. That system gained a following when it nearly predicted the 2008 Rays’ rise from worst to first in the AL East (it predicted a second place finish).
We’re not going to go into that level of analysis, but the point is it can be done (or, at least, purchased from Baseball Prospectus).
So while you whip out your calculator and pull up our offseason MLB transaction tracker for a quick refresher, let us take you through some of our favourite bets.
- Red Sox 95.5 Maybe it’s the author’s Yankee bias, but the Red Sox seem overrated. No doubt, Adrian Gonzalez was a huge acquisition. However Boston’s Crawford signing adds minimal utility to the existing Red Sox lineup. His defence in left is unnecessary in what little green separates the infield from the Monster, and his speed on the basepaths helps, but will be called upon sparingly because big bats follow him in the lineup. The Sox rotation has only two known commodities, Lester and Bucholz, and a very weak bullpen. Under
- Orioles 77.5 The Orioles showed glimpses of improvement under Buck Showalter, going 34-23 in the second half. But Showalter told us at the Winter Meetings that even he doesn’t put much stock into the late season success. Yes, the Orioles will be better, but Derrick Lee and Vlad Guerrero alone don’t comprise a 12+ game improvement. Baltimore needs a complete staff, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Under
- White Sox 85 Someone has to win the AL Central, and with uncertainty surrounding the Twins and TIgers, and the Indians and Royals stuck in reverse, we think it will be the South-siders. They figure to have a healthy Jake Peavy and they added Adam Dunn to an already potent lineup. Last year, they managed 88 wins despite sitting 9 games under .500 in mid-June last year, and should be counted on to at least match last year’s total. Over
- APAthletics 83.5 The A’s quietly won 81 games last season, and made the kind of under-the-radar improvements this offseason typical of Billy Beane. They acquired Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, and David DeJesus to bolster the fourth worst lineup in the AL last season. Combine the new-look offence with a top young pitching staff and a declining division adn the A’s should approach the 90-win plateau. Over
- Phillies 97.5 Originally listed at 98.5, wise Sportsbook.com bettors forced Philly down an entire game within hours. Too bad. Our best advice now is to get in on this before it drops another game. Yes Philadelphia has a loaded rotation, but betting that the team wins 98 game is a bet that everything goes right. And between injuries and the overlooked departure of their longtime No. 5 hitter, Jayson Werth, the Phillies are far from perfect. Especially considering that slugger Ryan Howard just hasn’t been himself since the 2009 postseason. Under
- Cardinals 82.5 Vegas had St. Louis at 87.5 before Wainwright injured his shoulder. And while that necessitates and adjustment, Sportsbook.com may have overcompensated. The Cards still have a sneaky good rotation anchored by Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook, and a fairly deep lineup with Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Colby Rasmus. And you know pitching guru Dave Duncan will find a diamond fourth starter in the rough. Over
- Reds 85.5 Cincinnati won 91 games last year, and frankly, they should hae won more. They went most of the season without ace Edinson Volquez and reliever Aroldis Chapman, and while Joey Votto and Jay Bruce progressed as expected, Drew Stubbs did not. Considering his hot September, he could be primed for a bounce back 2011. And of course, there’s a stable of young arms including Sam LeCure, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Johhny Cueto, and ol’ steady Bronson Arroyo. Over
- Los Angeles Dodgers 83 The Dodgers underperformed last season, and we’re confident new manager Don Mattingly can change that. Their young nucleus – Andre Etheir, James Loney, and Matt Kemp – is too good to struggle for another season. And the offseason addition of Jon Garland will stabilise the back end of the Dodger rotation. Everyone will focus on the “distraction” in the owners’ box, but as long as the players get paid, they’re not affected. Over
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