From the Jim Hurley Network Staff
Contributing Sportsbook Editor
The 2013 Major League Baseball season officially began Sunday Night when the Texas Rangers took on the Houston Astros in what is a NEW divisional rivalry in the AL West. The Astros have switched leagues to create a perfect balance of 15 teams per loop. That means there will be at least one Interleague series going on at all times this season!
We wanted to take the opportunity to run the final "projected win total" numbers from the legal wagering markets. All the baseball pundits and TV talking heads have weighed in with their expectations. We all know that those guys would go broke if they had to bet their own opinions in Las Vegas! Let's see where numbers settled in the markets at the launch of the new season.
The numbers you see by each team reflect the ranges of available options in Las Vegas and offshore. Those in the markets obviously show for the best numbers. If they like Over, they attack the lowest available number. If they like the Under, they attack the highest available number.
AL EAST (market victory ranges)
Toronto 88.5 to 89
Tampa Bay 85.5 to 87
NY Yankees 84.5 to 85
Baltimore 78 to 78.5
This was a very tricky division for the markets. Toronto made significant offseason moves to give themselves a real chance to move forward. Most notable among those was the acquisition of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey from the NY Mets. Can his knuckler work in the tougher league in a ballpark that has better lighting? That's a question mark. Tampa Bay is a question mark because they lost some pitching. The Yankees are a question mark because their old ballplayers are breaking down. Boston is a question mark because the franchise is still recovering from a recent implosion. Baltimore is a question mark because nobody thinks they can go 29-9 in one-run games again.
What a mess! Handicappers should pay very close attention to this group because somebody's going to explode out of the gate much more impressively than expected...while at least one, and maybe two teams are going to plummet to a pace below 70 wins because the negatives outweigh the positives by so much. Our sources are telling us that Yankees "Under" was a popular bet amongst market sharps.
Chicago White Sox 80-81
Kansas City 77.5 to 79
Cleveland 77 to 78
Minnesota 67.5 to 68
Detroit is seen as the league power, granting that 92-93 wins is low for a power in that circuit. The rich teams no longer have the ability to buy 100 wins. Detroit has actually spent a lot of money to put themselves in the position they're in. Justin Verlander on the mound. Sluggers in the lineup. Detroit is the best on paper...but a key injury here or there and they fall back to the pack quickly.
Who's the best of the rest? Not much separates the next three teams in projected victories. Kansas City is finally spending money, and added James Shields, Wade Davis, and Erwin Santana to its rotation. Let's see if the Royals can get into at least a Wildcard discussion after missing the playoffs for so many years.
LA Angels 91.5
Texas 86.5 to 87.5
Oakland 84 to 84.5
Seattle 77.5 to 78
Houston 58.5 to 59
Josh Hamilton left the Rangers to play for the Angels. If he's going to be at his best...then that basically wins the division for the Halos. If he's still having off-the-field issues that seriously cut back his on-the-field production...then Los Angeles is going to be very disappointed in their investment.
Don't forget that Oakland actually won this division last year with a 94-68 record, while Texas faded to the Wildcard spot at 93-69. We expect a lot of fireworks again this season. That has to kill ESPN and the East Coast media who want everything to revolve around the Yankees and Red Sox!
Houston has a chance to be historically bad. But, that would be nothing new to them. Keep an eye on the Astros early to see if the market has overreacted to their probable doom...or if this collection of cast-offs and glorified minor leaguers throw in the towel early.
Washington 91.5 to 92.5
Atlanta 87 to 87.5
Philadelphia 84 to 84.5
NY Mets 74 to 75
Miami 63.5 to 64
Stephen Strasburg is back on the mound, which makes Washington the favorite to go to the World Series right there. The Nats better hope their "resting" of him late last season and in the playoffs pays off this season! Atlanta has the horses to compete given their 94-win campaign in 2012. Philadelphia is in the same boat as the Yankees and Red Sox. The old guys are breaking down, frustrating the East Coast media guys who though this was going to be a dynasty.
Miami? The less said about that debacle the better! The media and the markets greatly overestimated their chances to be competitive last season.
St. Louis 86 to 86.5
Milwaukee 79.5 to 81
Chicago Cubs 72.5 to 73
Talent is spread thinly enough right now that the market can only project 90-92 wins for the expected division winners. Cincinnati made it to 97 victories last year, and didn't take any meaningful hits. If their studs are healthy, you may want to bet them as a 97-100 win team until the lines catch up. Aroldis Chapman is lethal as a closer, meaning late leads are almost automatic victories.
The race in the middle of the pack could be fun. St. Louis took some hits in the offseason. That market estimate is based more on respect for the franchise rather than the names in the lineup book. Pittsburgh had a great run last year, peaking at 16 games over .500 in early August. We think there will be another surprise out of this group in 2013.
LA Dodgers 90.5 to 91.5
San Francisco 88
San Diego 74
The LA Dodgers are doing their best to become the NL's version of the New York Yankees. The problem is, they're going whole hog and overpaying injury prone players, or guys who they're hoping will "bounce back" from recent slumps. Good luck making that work! The market respects the roster...but the volatility here must be monitored. If the talent plays to full potential, this is a 95-100 win team. If the woes continue, that market estimate is 10 wins too high.
San Francisco largely stood pat in the offseason, confident that other teams making changes were likely to mess things up rather than improve. Nothing wrong with standing pat from a 94-win regular campaign that resulted in a World Championship! We think the Giants should be getting more respect than you're seeing here.