Baseball is perhaps one of the toughest sports to bet. Sure, basketball games have a lot of garbage time and free throws that result in backdoor covers. But you really never know what’s going to happen on a day-to-day basis in the MLB. But the season as a whole? We’ll at least try.
I’m joining with Alex Kolodziej–resident gambling, daily fantasy, Q and A and randomness person–to go through the win totals of each team and predict the over/under. For those new to this, Vegas decides a total win amount for each team. We’ll start with the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose total is 71.5. Over means more than 71.5 wins, under means less than 71.5 wins. There’s your free lesson for the day.
Of course baseball is unpredictable, but we’ll go ahead and give you the right answers anyway–at least I will. Hurry off to your local ‘guy’ or log online and cash in your vacation money when October rolls around. The wait will be worth it.
We’ll start with the National League today. Tomorrow we will go over the American League.
Arizona Diamondbacks – 71.5
Alex Kolodziej: Tough sledding here for the Snakes as they linger down the scroll of NL West squads with a win total a shade over 70. The main difference between 2014 and the 2015 season will be the pitching rotation. Arizona coveted a decent starter in Wade Miley a season ago; however, the southpaw concluded the year with eight losses in his last 10 starts and will look to build comfort as he’s welcomed into the Red Sox organization.
While Paul Goldschmidt’s name should be in talks of NL MVP, assuming the first baseman remains healthy, I can’t visualize enough of a supporting cast for the Diamondbacks to even be a sleeper. I’ve lost enough sleep over Mark Trumbo looking at strike three with two outs and runners in scoring position; therefore, I’ll side with the public on this one and vote for the under at 71.5.
Tommy Stokke: The Diamondbacks won 64 games last year, and I don’t see how they got any better. Patrick Corbin won’t be back to start the season, Josh Collmenter is starting Opening Day and the team has more outfielders than outfield positions. When those extra outfielders get moved, I don’t see them being moved for immediate impact talent, which makes me lean even more towards the under. Too many questions in the rotation, with low-risk decent-reward starters and Archie Bradley. A lot of growing pains this year. I’m going under.
Atlanta Braves – 73.5
TS: I don’t think I was a live the last time the Braves were projected to finish with a number one wins in this vicinity. They did win just 72 games in 2008, but before that they haven’t won under 73 games since 1994. So I was barely alive.
The team traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis this offseason, so that doesn’t really help this year. But the scouting report on the Braves says they have the pitching to compete in games, but the great unknown is if they’ll be able to score.
You can do a lot worse than a starting trio of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Shelby Miller. The end of the rotation will be made up of Trevor Cahill and Eric Stults. If Stults can hold up and Cahill can turn back the clock to 2010, the rotation will definitely keep the Braves in ballgames.
But the offense. Take away Freddie Freeman, and there aren’t many hitters that will scare you. They’ll have to play small ball to get runs on the board or count on Nick Markakis playing well and Jonny Gomes providing pop.
Looking around the division, the Phillies won’t be competitive, but the other three teams could vie for playoff contention. Throw in the likelihood of the Braves moving veterans at the trade deadline to get younger, I’ll take the under.
AK: I’ll tag along on the under here. Another team that will rely upon their pitching staff, Atlanta possesses a pretty solid 1-2-3 with Teherán, Wood, and newcomer Shelby Miller. Naturally.
While they cut ties with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Tommy La Stella and Evan Gattis, that opens up gaps for fresh faces to emerge into the lineup (cough, Nick Markakis). Not enough slugging or extra base expertise for 2015, in my opinion.
2015 should loom large for a guy like Melvin Upton Jr., who batted a nauseating .208 a year ago, but also note the Braves will miss the outfielder until early May.
If this total (73.5) lied a bit higher into the upper-70’s, you could make a case, however, the questioning number pretty much says it all–I’ll take the under.
Chicago Cubs – 82.5
AK: Ah, the Cubbies. One squad that Vegas will continually root against is the Cubs. Chicago climbed all the way up to 5-1 odds to be celebrating under confetti once November is among us.
You have to hope for Lester heading an improved rotation with Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, while Jeff Samardzija moves across town to U.S. Cellular. As for the sluggers, Anthony Rizzo cemented his name as a regular a season ago, and complementing the lefty first baseman will be the likes of youngsters Jorge Soler, Javy Baez (eventually) and Arismendy Alcantara.
You have to enjoy the youth that Theo Epstein’s grouped in the Windy City, but I’m going to give the Cubbies a year or two under their belt until the real noise initiates. While it may come down to the latter months, I’ll still grab the under here as I feel it’s a tad inflated with hype.
TS: I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say anything bad, per my contract. I’m supposed to be the resident Cubs fan here. I am exactly that, but I’m not as high on Chicago as my counterparts are.
I love everything they’ve done and the direction they’re headed. But to get to 83 wins is asking a lot from young, mostly unproven guys. There is no guarantee Kris Bryant will tear the league up when he gets promoted. There’s no guarantee Soler stays healthy, or that he won’t be the .243 hitter he was in August following his monster start.
The pitching staff is nice, but it’s lacking. We don’t know that Jason Hammel will be the guy he was for the Cubs last year, or the guy he was the rest of his career. He’s a steal on the free agent market, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to this year’s totals. Travis Wood is a question mark at the end of the rotation, and so is Kyle Hendricks in his first full season. And I’m on board the Kyle Hendricks train.
The stars have to align, and a lot of things have to go right. I’m taking the under–just slightly.
Cincinnati Reds – 77.5
TS: Nothing went right for the Reds last season, yet they still managed to win 76 games. Joey Votto missed most of the season due to injury, Jay Bruce wasn’t the Jay Bruce we’re accustomed to seeing. Mat Latos and Homer Bailey both missed time, and Bailey wasn’t effective.
This year, Votto is healthy, I anticipate Bruce will be better than last season–at least my fantasy team hopes he will be. It’s the hitting that I think will keep the team above this number. The pitching will miss most of what Alfredo Simon was last season, and the starting rotation isn’t very deep. Cueto could be traded before year’s end.
Wait. Cueto could be traded before the end of the year and the rotation isn’t deep? Okay, I’m going under.
AK: Will Joey Votto be 100 percent? Can Cueto produce another monster year for an inconsistent Reds team?
Questions and red flags alike are hoisted for Cincy as they’ll fall under the radar in the NL Central, but they still have some pop in their lineup with Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and slugger Devin Mesoraco.
The pitching staff resembles a pure crapshoot, and aside from Cueto, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey, a ton of slack will need to be snatched by Jason Marquis (can’t believe he’s still alive) and ex-Marlin Anthony DeSclafini, a righty who struggled in the Miami rotation.
Another toss up in regards to the Reds but I’ll take a shot at the over, as I believe if any sleeper poses as a threat in the NL, it’ll be Cincinnati.
Colorado Rockies – 71.5
AK: The Rockies must have felt a sense of desperation on the mound when they acquired Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick, a pitcher who nearly eclipsed the 4.70 ERA mark in 2014. So aside from Jorge De La Rosa, expect the bottom-half of the rotation to hinder the performance of a pretty young team (tell me you haven’t heard that one before).
If Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can play upwards of 140 games in 2015, they’ll provide possibly the best 1-2 punch in not only the NL, but the MLB as a whole. The Rockies’ starting lineup contains some lethal hitters (Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon), but keep an extra eye out for left fielder Corey Dickerson as he hopes (as does the Colorado organization) to build off a stellar year (.312 BA with 24 HRs).
It’s never easy to back a team that struggles on the mound, but given Arenado has matured as a hitter and Dickerson lessens the pressure off a potentially healthy Tulo, the Rockies can outhit any squad on any given night.
TS: That sounds like you’re taking the over. I am too, and it’s on the hope that the pitching staff isn’t atrocious. Eddie Butler won’t start the season in the rotation, but I don’t think it’ll be long before he’s there along with Jon Gray. It might only be 73 or 74 wins, but that’s still more than 71.5. It’s a rotation that can keep the Rockies afloat behind what should be a pretty powerful offense. Plus, they get to play Arizona often.
Los Angeles Dodgers – 92.5
TS: I’m taking the over for a few reasons. One, the division won’t be that strong. I think the Giants (spoiler alert) will regress. The Rockies and Diamondbacks aren’t ready to compete, and I don’t think the Padres are winning 90 games. That leaves a lot of winnable games in the division. Plus, with Magic Johnson and Co. writing the checks and Andrew Friedman paying the bills, it seems clear that the team will make whatever moves necessary to finish on top of the division and set up for a World Series run.
AK: No surprise that the Dodgers nearly head the entire MLB with a projected 92.5 wins (can you win half a game?) but LA is the frontrunner to emerge out of the West, and for some pretty reasonable reasons.
Everyone and their mother knows what you’re getting with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but the 3-4-5 won’t be nearly as stacked as a team like Washington (A playoff clash would be oranges, apples, and also bananas).
Brandon McCarthy’s reincarnation in New York clarified his slot as a dangerous starting pitcher, however, who knows how he’ll fare in the NL. Yasiel Puig will be primed for an MVP-type season in 2015, but will the protection be there if he’s hitting in the three-hole?
A heavy amount of offensive production lies within Carl Crawford and veteran Jimmy Rollins given Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp find comfort in new homes, and the Dodgers will turn towards newcomers Yasmani Grandal and Howie Kendrick to spark a powerful lineup.
93 wins is still a reach with a team that could play deep into November, so I’ll go bold here and take the under with Los Angeles.
Miami Marlins – 82.5
AK: Now here’s some hype I can buy, and it’s not solely based around Giancarlo Stanton and the dollar bills he’ll be swimming in with his long-term contract.
The Marlins quite possible stretch the outfield with the best three in baseball via hitting (Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna) and also add some power with former Giant and 2006 Mr. Olympia Michael Morse.
The pitching looks to be fruitful if José Fernandez can recuperate in the middle months of the season following Tommy John surgery. Throw in young hurlers Henderson Alvarez (12-7, 2.65 in 2014) and Tom Koehler, while adding Mat Latos to the rotation, and you’re set.
Miami provides a ton of balance with speed (Gordon, Yelich) and power (Stanton, Ozuna, Morse), so if you’re in need of a team willing to dethrone the Nats in the East, look no further. I’ll snag the over with the Fish and their flamboyant stadium.
TS: This might turn into the anti-sleeper. So many people are calling the Marlins sleepers, that they’re wide awake by now. I will also take the over. It’s a deep lineup that can beat you in many different ways. It’s a rotation that is five deep. The additions of Mat Latos and Dan Haren add depth before Jose Fernandez comes back. I don’t see many holes, and again, we’re talking about a lot of games with the Braves and Phillies.
Milwaukee Brewers – 78.5
TS: The overall improvement of the division scares me on this one. The Brewers were the best team in the division last year until September. If they’re that again, they’ll hit the over. But the Cubs are better, the Reds will be better and we haven’t talked about the Cardinals or Pirates. I don’t know that the Brewers improved at all.
They traded Yovani Gallardo and are relying on Jimmy Nelson to perform, which he really didn’t after being called up last season. I don’t think the bullpen will hold down every lead, and those blown saves add up. Give me the under.
AK: The Brew Crew opened eyes around baseball the 2014 season after an astounding 9-2 to start, but that was quickly vanished in the latter months. Milwaukee was unable to rejuvenate following a 3-16 stretch towards the end of August.
Their top four projected starters (Lohse, Garza, Peralta, Fiers) all carried sub-4 ERAs throughout the 2014 campaign, but with the offensive firepower in the NL Central heating up, it’ll be a tough task to resemble those numbers in ’15.
The Brewers will seek the same season from catcher Jonathan Lucroy, while they hope Jean Segura can follow up an efficient 2013 season after the down-season the prior year.
Milwaukee produced some great offensive output in 2014, but will need much of the same–if not more–in 2015. I don’t like anything about the Brew Crew this upcoming year, therefore, I recommend going under the projected number of wins as well.
New York Mets – 81.5
AK: Mets fans have patiently awaited a breakthrough season, and they very well may get that in 2015 with Matt Harvey back.
One player won’t make a team, but Harvey’s looked outstanding in spring training. The righty is fanning hitters and keeping pace with the velocity on his fastball. The Mets contain the NL Rookie of the Year in Jacob deGrom, and while the pitching staff remains young, they’re still a decent bunch with Bartolo Colon, Jonathon Niese, and potentially the highly-touted Noah Syndergaard.
A team plagued by reliever issues in 2014 will hope to halt the staggering with exceptional starting pitching. I think the Mets are more than capable in ’15.
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud came on strong to conclude the season with 10 of his 13 dingers coming in July or later, so if you can get either he or a guy like Wilmer Flores or Juan Lagares to add contributions to a lineup with David Wright, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, and veteran Michael Cuddyer, you’ll be able to battle it out for a Wild Card slot in 2015. I’ll happily take the over here as Citi Field erupts in cheers with every David Wright double.
TS: All this David Wright talk, yet he was their 6th best offensive player last year in terms off oWAR. Here are my concerns with the Mets. I don’t like their bullpen, which is key to most playoff-caliber teams. I don’t love their starting rotation yet. Colon is the Opening Day starter, and Harvey is likely on an innings limit. Zack Wheeler is out, and Dillon Gee is in. Who knows if Rafael Montero is the answer in the rotation or if Syndergaard is either. If the Phillies are going to lose 100 games, and the Braves will win less than 73.5, someone has to win in the NL East, right?
I think the Mets will win, but I don’t think they win 82 games or more.
Philadelphia Phillies – 67.5
TS: Maybe Ryan Howard won’t be terrible. Maybe Chase Utley will be really good. But after that, it’s really ugly. If you think the offense is ugly, don’t look at the pitching staff, especially once the Phillies move Cole Hamels. Under.
AK: Not exactly sure what the Phillies have planned for the upcoming year as they dealt a handful of their clubhouse leaders away in hopes that they can stack their youth and get some fresh faces into the lineup.
Chase Utley ages, Ryan Howard continues to struggle and Domonic Brown may have very well been a one-and-done type outfielder back in 2013. Too many immature players inserted into the starting lineup with guys such as Darin Ruf and Cody Asche, it’d almost be too much pain to endure to take the over. Under for me.
Pittsburgh Pirates – 84.5
AK: Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and Starling Marte will headline the Bucs in 2015, but I’ll mainly be searching for another guy to emerge as a star for Pittsburgh, whether it be Gregory Polanco or Jordy Mercer.
Gerrit Cole, once healthy in 2014, threw lights out for a stable rotation that will see the likes of Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano in the staff for ’15.
The Pirates have built extremely high hopes for the fans waving yellow flags spanning the recent years–I doubt they’ll ease up in a tight-knit race with the Redbirds. Give me the over.
TS: I think the Pirates are the most talented team in the NL Central, and I think they win the division outright. They’ve got a deep and versatile lineup, and a deep pitching staff. If an injury occurs within the pitching staff, the Pirates have depth in the minors to make up for it. Over.
San Diego Padres – 84.5
TS: I’ll drink the Padres Kool-Aid. I’m down on the Giants, the Diamondbacks aren’t very good and the Rockies–while Alex says they’ll win 127 games–aren’t going to top 80 wins either. One of those situations where someone in the division has to win.
That’s going to be the Padres.
I like to start with pitching, and James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy is strong, especially in PETCO Park. Brandon Morrow has upside, and that’s what you want from a fifth starter. If that doesn’t work out, finding a fifth starter is the easy part.
Sure, the outfield might be a disaster defensively, but they can hit to make up for it. The aggressive offseason from the front office won’t stop during the season. If there’s a way to get better in-season, they’ll do it. Give me the over.
AK: Expectations should climb for the Friars with the offseason moves they made, basically manufacturing a new outfield with Kemp, Upton and Myers. Oh, and they acquired James Shields from the Royals. He’s pretty decent.
Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and Ian Kennedy (along with Shields) mark one of the most underrated rotations in all of baseball, but I can’t say I’m entirely sold. Yeah, the offense boosts with the acquisitions, but playing in such a large park like Petco, defense may pose an issue. Hell, you’re talking a team that won 60/61 games if they had the lead once the scoreboard operator changed the inning number from six to seven. This team will give the NL West a run for its money, but not in 2015, so take the inflated number at 84.5 and wager on the under.
San Francisco Giants – 83.5
AK: The Giants only make noise in even years, right? Please get out of here with that nonsense. The reigning champs won’t lay down because of useless trends, and they’ll come out firing once more in 2015.
Madison Bumgarner may be the best pitcher in baseball, Buster Posey will be in talks of NL MVP once again, but they’ll need Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, and Angel Pagan to step it up to provide some magic once more.
The Dodgers should grasp the attention in the Bay Area, but I’ll still take the over at a reasonable number.
TS: Alex, please read that to yourself. “They’ll need Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan to step it up to provide some magic once more.”
There’s the problem right there.
Bumgarner wasn’t a household name prior to the playoffs. One great month doesn’t make him the best pitcher in baseball. Look at the rest of the rotation. If you take the over, you’re trusting Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong over 162 games. That’s not mentioning Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain coming off injury.
Hunter Pence is set to miss a big chunk of the season, and the Giants are set to miss the playoffs and regress. This line is begging people to take the over. I won’t do it.
St. Louis Cardinals – 88.5
TS: Do I think the Cardinals can win 90 games? Of course. But can Adam Wainwright, or anyone else on the staff not named Lance Lynn, stay healthy? That I’m not so sure about. There are questions with the bullpen, specifically Trevor Rosenthal as the closer. A lot rests on John Lackey and Carlos Martinez in the back of the rotation as well.
There are plenty of unknowns in the lineup as well. Is Jhonny Peralta the leading home-run hitter again with 21? Is Matt Holliday still capable of carrying an offense? The addition of Jason Heyward helps the on-field loss of the late Oscar Taveras. But it’s a lineup that doesn’t scare me, and a pitching staff held together with a glue stick. I’ll take the under.
AK: The Cubs endure most of the attention in the NL Central, so the Birds are just going to call it quits and look forward to 2016, huh?
Add in Jason Heyward from Atlanta, open up each contest with the most dangerous lead-off hitter in Matt Carpenter, and let veterans Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday do the rest.
The pitching takes a slight step backwards, but when your roster contains a steady diet of disciplined hitters with a dose of mature ball players that have a knack for shifting into the next gear once October hits, it’s tough for me to stay astray.
Birds. Over. Square play. I don’t care.
Washington Nationals – 93.5
AK: Most prominent pitching staff for 2015, no other way to word it. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Tanner Roark and now add Max Scherzer to the mix and you have a starting rotation that could win each night out. No weak links.
I’ve awaited a Bryce Harper monster year and still have yet to receive my wish, but given the outfielder’s been injecting Muscle Milk directly to his forearms, I’m predicting that year to be 2015.
You won’t need much offense with a pitching staff like that, but if Denard Span can continue getting on base and Anthony Rendon builds off a 2014 breakout year, the Nats will have no problem being crowned champions. Take the over as Washington heads all clubs at 93.5 wins.
TS: I think I like the over, too. Playing in the same division as perhaps the two worst teams in the National League helps. Having the best pitching staff in baseball with Roark and Lucas Giolito as insurance policies on the mound or via trade helps, too. The Nationals could even move Zimmermann, Strasburg or Doug Fister and have enough pitching to move right along.
The health on offense is the question. Rendon will start the season on the DL with Jayson Werth. Harper plays all out, but that results in a lot of injuries as well.
This is turning into nitpicking. Take the over.
NL East Best Bet Division Winner
TS: The Marlins are +600 to win the division, and to me, that’s the best value. Taking the Nationals at -400 seems absurd, even if you are sure of it. The Marlins have the capability of winning the division, even if the Nationals don’t stumble. You’re looking for value with future bets, and this is the best you’ll find in the division.
AK: Love the value that’s being offered with Miami and New York alike, but the cynics and skepticism revolving around Washington and their guard crumbling down once playoffs near should give the Nats a chip on their shoulder.
While I’m not proud of siding with the favorite here at -400, I mentioned that there shouldn’t (stress the word shouldn’t) be a reason Washington shouldn’t be favored to win every home game, aside from a showdown with Kershaw. Nationals to win the division may be a time where I ask my father the code to his retirement safe.
NL Central Best Bet Division Winner
TS: The Cincinnati Reds won 90 games two seasons ago, and is the team all that different? At the +1200, the Reds are the longshot of the division. But in a division that seems like it will be competitive, but with no runaway winner, why not take that chance that things will go right for the Reds? And yes, I picked the Reds to finish under their projected total above. But if you’re going with a long shot, this isn’t a bad idea.
AK: You may as well invite your high school friends over for a reunion where you gossip about music class and sip cheap, light beer over a bonfire, only to result in binge drinking and that Reds ticket being tossed in the smokey Kingsford charcoal, because the division belongs to Steel Town in 2015. Pirates +240.
NL West Best Bet Division Winner
TS: I wanted to take the Rockies, but I know you will. The Dodgers are -200 to win the division, so that’s not enough value for me. I’ll take the Padres at +350.
AK: The NL West is just a boring division. Here’s the thing: I like absolutely NOTHING about the G-men in 2015. Nothing. Every player sent to the dish bats lefty, weighs 180 max, and sports a terrible Jheri curl or the goatee of a 14-year old.
This pick sprouts solely from my original choice in that I hate them. Count ’em out and Bochy laughs himself to sleep, only to dream of Travis Ishikawa bloop singles and the thought of a +500 W when the division lands in San Fran.