A’s may be ready to pass Astros

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Spring training has been underway for several weeks and Opening Day is just a fortnight away on Thursday, March 26.  

Over these next two issues, I’ll share my general thoughts on the two leagues, beginning this week with the American. My brief commentary will focus on teams I believe will exceed or fall short of their Season Win Totals using numbers from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of this past Sunday.

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AL EAST

The Yankees are deservedly the overwhelming favorites to win the Division (-500) and AL Pennant (+125). At 7-2 they are second only to the 3-1 Dodgers to capture the World Series. 

But they’re already dealing with injuries to three of their biggest bats – Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, all of whom have a recent history of injuries – and to pitchers James Paxton (out until May or June) and Luis Severino (out for the season). The value in playing the Yankees may be Under their Season Wins Total of 99.5. Ace starter Gerrit Cole is a huge addition but the injury concerns that could linger or recur suggest the mid 90’s is a realistic range. 

Boston unloaded contracts in the off-season, including trading former MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. Ace Chris Sale is still recovering from injury and starters Rick Porcello and David Price are gone, creating huge voids to fill. The 2018 World Series champs may be hard pressed to exceed this season’s 83.5 projected wins after winning just 84 last season. 

Toronto’s intriguing with an emerging roster filled with second generation major leaguers. Given Boston’s woes, the challenges facing the Yankees and the ineptitude of Baltimore I expect the Blue Jays to exceed 76 wins and challenge Tampa Bay for second place. The Jays are worth taking at +800 to make the playoffs, most likely as a Wild Card. 

AL CENTRAL

This is the AL’s most competitively priced division at the top with Minnesota (-150), Cleveland (5-2) and the White Sox (4-1) all priced at less than 5-1 odds to win the division. 

The White Sox have received a lot of support with a Wins Total of 84.5 despite winning no more than 78 games since 2112 and not topping 72 since 2016. That’s asking for too much improvement too soon. 

With a reconfigured starting rotation, Cleveland, winners of between 91 and 102 games the past four seasons, is an attractive play for Over 85.5 wins. The bottom of the Division is very weak with both Detroit (58) and Kansas City (66.5) both expected to show slight improvement over last season’s 47 and 59 wins. 

Minnesota won 101 games in 2019 but between just 59 and 78 the prior four seasons. Because of the weakness of the Tigers and Royals the Twins could achieve 92 wins which would still represent a solid decline from last season while exceeding its Wins Total of 91.5.

AL WEST

Houston will be hard pressed to approach its success of recent seasons, and not just due to their cheating scandal.  Cole is gone and Justin Verlander is a year older. And there is pressure on the offense to prove they can produce without sign stealing. Despite winning 107 g ames last season a solid case can be made to play Under 94.5 wins. 

Oakland has quietly won 97 games each of the past two seasons and should be at least as strong this season, making for a play on Over 89.5 wins and +130 to make the playoffs.  

The Angels are upgraded significantly with new manager Joe Maddon and the addition of 3B Anthony Rendon. The addition of veterans Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy strengthen the rotation with player/pitcher Shohei Ohtani the wild card.  

Maddon might be worth half a dozen wins. But after winning 85 or fewer games since their 2014 Division title, including just 72 last season, asking them exceed 85.5 projected wins would be asking too much. 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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