The 2009 MLB season is set to get underway Sunday night when the defending World Series champs host the Braves in Philadelphia. The rest of the majors will take the field for Opening Day on Monday with games all day and night.
With this in mind, bettors only have a few days to get down on future wagers and plays on team's season win totals, so let's examine those numbers and offer a few suggestions.
BetSportsWeb.com has the Yankees installed as the plus-350 "chalk" to win the World Series (risk $100 to win $350). They have plus-125 odds to win the AL pennant and a season win total of 94½ "over" (minus-125). That price means gamblers would have to risk $125 to win $100 on "over" bets, while "under" wagers would result in a $105 payment on $100 of risk.
Certainly, the Bronx Bombers had an outstanding offseason with the acquisitions of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. However, we've seen GM Brian Cashman open up the checkbook like this before with mediocre results (think of busts like Carl Pavano and Gary Sheffield in recent years).
You can't buy chemistry and who knows if the oft-injured Burnett will stay healthy? I've been a big fan of Burnett for years, as he has some of the nastiest "stuff" in the majors when he's on his A-Game. But his numbers always seem to come up shy of his potential, as evidenced by just 87 career wins in 10 seasons.
And there's also the "A-Rod Curse." Before Rodriguez was brought in, the Yankees were on a roll, winning four World Series titles in a five-year stretch. With A-Rod, who I like to call "Mr. April," there are zero titles, drama galore, and a me-first character in the clubhouse that not many teammates like or respect. Long story short: Avoid making any sort of future investment in Joe Girardi's second Yankees team, and stay away from any temptation to wager "over" 94½ wins with this squad.
The Red Sox have the second-shortest odds to win the Fall Classic at plus-450 (risk $100 to win $450). Terry Francona's club has an "over/under" win total of 94½ "over" (minus 135). What does that tell us? Well, for starters, gamblers at BetSportsWeb.com have been more active with "over" bets on Boston compared to the Yankees, as evidenced by the more expensive minus-135 price tag for the Red Sox.
It says here that Francona has the best starting rotation in all of baseball. Assuming John Smoltz will eventually get healthy and be able to contribute (late May or early June is the target date), this rotation is literally seven-deep, which is unheard of. Boston has proven veterans in Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, and Tim Wakefield, in addition to up-and-coming studs like Dice-K and Jon Lester.
The Red Sox have plus-350 odds to win the AL pennant. Next up in the AL pecking order is the Angels, who are plus-500 to make the World Series and plus-800 to win it (at BetSportsWeb). Mike Scioscia's squad has a season win total of 88½ "over" (minus-120).
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Los Angeles' AL version lost Teixeira after trading for him at the deadline last year, but it still has plenty of pop in the lineup with Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, and newly-acquired Bobby Abreu. However, Scioscia has to be extremely concerned about his injury-riddled rotation.
Jon Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar will all start the season on the disabled list. Lackey and Santana aren't expected to be out for an extended period of time, but don't be surprised if the Angels come out of the gate slow in the first month of the season. And, lest we forget, they lost Francisco Rodriguez as their closer after he posted 62 saves in 2008.
Now let's switch gears and talk about the National League. The "chalk" in the Senior Circuit is both the Cubs and Mets, both of whom have plus-300 odds to make the World Series (risk $100 to win $300). Both clubs are also plus-800 to win the Fall Classic.
Is this finally the year for tortured Cubs fans? They have a win total of 91½ "over" (minus-125). Sweet Lou's squad has a solid rotation with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, and Ted Lilly. The bullpen has often been an issue through the years for Chicago and it is hoping Kevin Gregg can be the solution. The hard-throwing righty collected 51 saves as the Marlins' closer in 2007 and 2008.
Although the Mets have the same odds as the Cubs in terms of futures, New York's win total is less at 88½ "over" (minus-120). This team is looking to forget about the last two seasons in which it led the NL East for most of the year only to blow big division leads in the final weeks of September.
Francisco Rodriguez should bring big-time stability to the Mets at the closer's spot. They are hoping Johan Santana can stay healthy and produce 20 wins or more at the top of the rotation. But there are plenty of question like whether or not Carlos Delgado has much left in the tank, or if John Maine and Mike Pelphrey can enjoyed breakout campaigns?
The Phillies, last year's improbable World Series champs, have plus-1150 odds to repeat (risk $100 to win $1,150). They have a win total of 88½ (minus-115 either way). The nucleus returns intact with the exception of Pat Burrell's departure to the Tampa Bay Rays, but I'm not sure that Raul Ibanez isn't an upgrade in left field, especially defensively and hitting for a better average.
Speaking of the Rays, who shocked the world with last year's run to the World Series before coming up short, they have a win total of 88½ "over" (minus-150). I'm not crazy about laying a minus-150 price but if you can find a more inexpensive number (even if it means the total is 89 or 89½), I recommend giving Tampa Bay strong consideration for an "over" play.
Why, you ask? Well, I don't think the Rays were a one-year fluke and there's one reason why, pitching. Tampa Bay has a stable of talented young arms that now have postseason experience. I'm talking about Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and James Sheilds. Also, third baseman Evan Longoria is a serious MVP candidate.
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By Brian Edwards
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