By the time you are reading this column the arrival of spring will have been officially validated with the utterance of just two magical words: “Play Ball!”
Barring postponements, the 2015 Major League Baseball season began this past Sunday night at Wrigley Field where Chicago’s Cubs lost 3-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals. There were 14 more games played Monday.
Wagering on baseball involves the purest form of betting as your goal is to just pick the winner. Point spreads are not involved, save for run line betting, a topic to be discussed in a future column.
In theory, the Money Line reflects the percentage chance a team is given by the linesmaker of winning the game. Hence a team given a 60 percent chance of winning would be priced at -150. The bookmakers’ edge is in the takeback on the underdog.
Using the preferred “10 cents” line the underdog would be priced at +140. Using the odorous “20 cents” line the underdog would be priced at +130. The best advice anyone can dispense for betting on baseball is to shop around for books that offer the smallest gap between favorites and underdogs, generally the “10 cents” line, which is prevalent at the better sports books in Nevada.
NL East: Considered to be the one runaway division, with the Washington Nationals expected to finish first by a comfortable margin. The season win total for the Nats is roughly 94 games. With the deepest starting rotation in all of baseball, Washington has the ability to withstand the inevitable injuries that seem to occur to every rotation at some point during the season and it would not be a surprise if the Nats approach 100 wins.
Both Miami and the New York Mets should vie for second place but neither should threaten the Nationals. The Mets will rely on a solid young pitching staff that will have Matt Harvey back after missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, although another solid young starter, Zach Wheeler, will miss all of the this season due to the same injury.
The Marlins will be without young sensational starter Jose Fernandez until perhaps June due to his recovery from TJ surgery. The Mets rate the slightest of edges over the Marlins for second place. Atlanta is effectively committed to a rebuilding program.
NL Central: St. Louis has the pedigree and track record to suggest the team will make the needed moves during the season that will enable them to win the division. Pittsburgh may be a tad overrated with questions about their pitching staff. Few teams were as active as were the Chicago Cubs in the offseason who,
in addition to luring Jon Lester to anchor the rotation, got arguably a top five manager in former Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon.
A revamped and maturing farm system gives the Cubbies backup depth and assets to suggest a second place finish behind the Cardinals. Cincinnati and Milwaukee will both rely more on offense than pitching for any success they will have with Cincinnati a bit stronger on the mound than the Brewers and likely to finish ahead of the Brew Crew.
NL West: It got interesting when the San Diego Padres traded for Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel to solidify the back end of what is a strong pitching staff. A revamped outfield should add offense and the Padres should now pose even more of a threat to the powerful and high payroll Los Angeles Dodgers for the Division title.
Defending World Series champion San Francisco should fall back a bit this season with a weaker offense sans Pablo Sandoval and a rotation that may be showing some wear and tear even though World Series stud Madison Bumgarner figures to have another solid season.
Arizona and Colorado should battle to avoid the division cellar.
AL East: Could turn into a four team race with only Tampa Bay the team not likely to contend. The Rays still have a decent pitching staff but will be weaker on offense and will greatly miss the presence of former manager Joe Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman.
Baltimore is not flashy and they won more than 90 games (96) for the second time in three seasons last year with the brilliance of manager Buck Showalter and his ability to manage his roster playing a key role.
Boston is considered the favorite to win the division. Toronto was dealt an early blow with the loss for the season of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. There is enough talent for the Yankees to win as many as 90 games if they stay relatively healthy.
AL Central: Detroit has been top dog for many years but the Tigers’ fortunes may decline this season. Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox are better and Kansas City, losers in seven games in last season’s World Series, may not decline as much as many observers expect. The team that may have the most potential for improvement is Minnesota.
AL West: Could produce the best team in the league as there is a widespread belief this is the season in which Seattle puts it all together and wins the division. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim should offer the stiffest challenge to the Mariners but questions about the depth of the Halo’s pitching staff should prevent them from topping the Mariners despite a much better offense.
Oakland went “all in” last season but came up short and their offseason moves seem to indicate 2015 will be a rebuilding season. Houston has a bright future with a host of young talent. Texas is in decline.
As seen from here the division winners are forecast to be Washington, St. Louis and the LA Dodgers in the National; Baltimore, the Chicago White Sox and Seattle in the American.
In the National League the call is for San Diego and the Chicago Cubs to earn Wild Cards with the Padres advancing to the Divisional round. Ultimately the call is for the two big payroll teams to meet for the pennant with Washington getting by the Dodgers to advance to the World Series.
The call in the American League is for both Wild Cards to come from the AL Central with Cleveland besting Kansas City. The AL pennant is forecast to feature Baltimore facing Seattle with the Orioles advancing to the World Series and an I-95 World Series against their neighbors to the South, Washington.
The depth of that Washington rotation will be too much for the Birds to overcome and the call is for Washington to win the World Series in 6.
Here are three series this weekend, one in the National League, one in the American League and the interleague.
San Francisco at San Diego: PLAYS – San Diego -125 or less, or as underdogs of any price, in any matchup; Giants +130 or more not facing James Shields or Andrew Cashner; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup.
Boston at NY Yanks: PLAYS – Yankees -125 or less, or as underdogs, in any matchup; Boston +140 or more in any matchup; OVER 9 or less in any matchup.
Tampa Bay at Miami: PLAYS – UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup; Miami as favorites of -130 or less in starts by Mat Latos or Dan Haren; Tampa Bay as underdogs of +150 in any matchup.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]