2011 MLB Preview: It's a Safe Bet That These 10 Teams Have Stupid Vegas Odds

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIMarch 11, 2011

2011 MLB Preview: It's a Safe Bet That These 10 Teams Have Stupid Vegas Odds

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    LONG POND, PA - JULY 31:  A pair of fuzzy dice hang on the rear-view mirror of the #14 Old Spice Swagger Chevrolet, driven by Tony Stewart, prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway on July
    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Opening Day is almost upon us, and that means it's time for the most important projection system to release its predictions.

    I'm not talking about Bill James or CHONE or ZIPS—I'm referring, of course, to the Las Vegas over-under odds for how many games each team will win in the 2011 season.

    Looking at the standards they've set to bet against, one thing is clear: Whoever put these together didn't do his or her homework.

    A smart investor could easily take advantage of a number of inefficiencies in this market.

    In other words, some of these over-under decisions are so obvious that betting on them would be like counting cards or rolling loaded dice.

    With a little help from the PECOTA and CAIRO projection systems, I've come up with a list of 10 teams that are good bets to finish either far above or way below the over-under lines.

No. 10: Texas Rangers—OVER

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    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 02:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers bats during the spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 87.5 wins

    Last year: 90 wins

    PECOTA: 91 wins

    CAIRO: 92.7 wins

    Sure, the rotation looks much less foreboding without Cliff Lee, and you can't expect Josh Hamilton to repeat his 8.0 WAR from 2010.

    Still, the Rangers won the pennant last season despite injuries to Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Hamilton and down years from Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon.

    Plus, reigning AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz is probably moving to the rotation, and Adrian Beltre is sure to be an impact player in Arlington.

    A slip below 88 wins isn't out of the question, but this seems like a lowball to me.

No. 9: New York Yankees—OVER

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees warms up against the Texas Rangers in Game Four of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 19, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Rangers won 10-3.  (Ph
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 91.5 wins

    Last year: 95 wins

    PECOTA: 100 wins

    CAIRO: 92.1 wins

    Say what you want about the Yankees' age or inconsistency or pitching (as a Red Sox fan, I eat that stuff up), and I think PECOTA's 100-win prediction is way off. But does anyone really think they can't win at least 92 games?

    Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett—they're never going to be their old selves again, but it's more than reasonable to expect them to bounce back somewhat.

    Plus, if things don't go well, they'll trade for whatever spare parts they need midseason. These are the Yankees, after all.

    I sure hope New York slips this far in 2011, but I'm not betting on it.

No. 8: Cincinnati Reds—OVER

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    GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 20: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds poses during their photo day at the Cincinnati Reds Spring Training Complex on February 20, 2011 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 85.5 wins

    Last year: 91 wins

    PECOTA: 93 wins

    CAIRO: 87.2 wins

    People seem to think the Reds will crash and burn in 2011, and I'm not quite sure why.

    Can Joey Votto sustain his Pujolsian pace? Probably not. But with further development from youngsters like Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs and a pitching staff that has nowhere to go but up, they could conceivably be even better this year.

    They'll get a good challenge from the Brewers, but in my eyes the Reds are still the team to beat in the NL Central. They'll easily beat the odds here.

No. 7: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—UNDER

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01:  Pitcher Jered Weaver #36 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reacts after called for a balk against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty I
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 83.5 wins

    Last year: 80 wins

    PECOTA: 78 wins

    CAIRO: 77.1 wins

    Finally, we get to an overrated team.

    The Angels were expected to make a big splash on the free agent market this winter, but in the end the only big name they brought in was Vernon Wells—and that cost them Mike Napoli, so don't expect that to be a big boon to the team.

    Kendry Morales will be back, but he wasn't playing as well as he did in 2009 even before his injury. Plus, they lost Hideki Matsui and Juan Rivera.

    It's possible that the Halos will climb back over .500 this year, but I doubt anyone outside of Los Angeles would take the "over" on this one.

No. 6: Baltimore Orioles—UNDER

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    SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 03:  Catcher Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles fouls off a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Ed Smith Stadium on March 3, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 75.5 wins

    Last year: 66 wins

    PECOTA: 62 wins

    CAIRO: 76.9 wins

    Yes, the Orioles have a revamped infield. Sure, their young players have another year of seasoning under their belts.

    Still, I say there is no way Baltimore wins 76 games this year.

    Even if you think Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis haven't burned out and Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee still have something left in the tank, their pitching isn't nearly good enough for them to do this well.

    If nothing else, just remember that they play in the AL East.

No. 5: Houston Astros—UNDER

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    HOUSTON - AUGUST 31:  Michael Bourn #21 of the Houston Astros breaks toward second base against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park on August 31, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  Houston won 3-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: 73.5 wins

    Last year: 76 wins

    PECOTA: 76 wins

    CAIRO: 66.9 wins

    Let's do an experiment: Close your eyes and count how many Astros players you can name.

    How many did you get? I bet the average fan outside Houston can't name five. Extreme kudos if you got more than a dozen. Remember, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt don't count.

    Despite the unscientific nature of this test, I think it proves a point: The Astros simply don't have very many memorable people on the team.

    They've got two solidly above-average position players (Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence) and a pair of decent starting pitchers (Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers). Simply put, they don't have the talent to beat the odds here.

No. 4: Chicago Cubs—UNDER

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    MESA, AZ - MARCH 09:  Alfonso Soriano #12 of the Chicago Cubs swings at a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the spring training baseball game at HoHoKam Stadium on March 9, 2011 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 81.5 wins

    Last year: 75 wins

    PECOTA: 70 wins

    CAIRO: 75.8 wins

    The Cubs' major moves this winter were adding Carlos Pena and Matt Garza to offset the losses of Derrek Lee and Tom Gorzelanny, respectively.

    Both moves were net gains for Chicago, but not by much—certainly not enough for them to improve by seven wins in 2011.

    Throw in regressions to the mean for Marlon Byrd and Carlos Silva and continued aging from Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome, and I'd take the under even at 75 wins.

No. 3: San Diego Padres—OVER

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    ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 17: Chase Headley #7 of the San Diego Padres reacts to striking out against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on September 17, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 76 wins

    Last year: 90 wins

    PECOTA: 90 wins

    CAIRO: 83.1 wins

    Okay, so the Padres lost Adrian Gonzalez, and some guys were playing over their heads last year. That doesn't explain a 14-win drop in expectations in the span of one season.

    The difference between their 2010 performance and the maximum of 75 wins that anyone taking the under is expecting is the same as the advantage the Atlanta Braves (91-71) had over the Astros (76-86).

    I don't share PECOTA's optimism that San Diego will be as good as last year, but you'd have to be awfully pessimistic to not take the over on this one.

No. 2: Tampa Bay Rays—OVER

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23:  Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a double in the sixth-inning against the New York Yankees  on September 23, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 85 wins

    Last year: 96 wins

    PECOTA: 98 wins

    CAIRO: 87.9 wins

    After losing Carl Crawford, Matt Garza and Carlos Pena, I don't think anyone (except PECOTA) seriously expects the Rays to finish higher than they did in 2010.

    But if you're taking the under here, that means you're expecting Tampa Bay to lose a dozen more games in 2011.

    Johnny Damon is no Crawford, but the Rays will get plenty of production from left field, especially once top prospect Desmond Jennings gets the call.

    Jeremy Hellickson could very well out-pitch Garza this year, and even a moderate bounce-back from Manny Ramirez would likely make him better than Pena was last season.

    It would take a series of catastrophes to set Tampa back this far.

No. 1: Philadelphia Phillies—UNDER

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 23:  Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies runs off the field after turing a double play against the San Francisco Giants in Game Six of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Citizens Bank Park on October 23, 2010 in Phila
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Over-Under: 97 wins

    Last year: 97 wins

    PECOTA: 94 wins

    CAIRO: 93.7 wins

    Let's start with the obvious: Betting that any team will win 98 games—as anyone taking the over would be doing—is insane.

    It's a lot easier for things to go wrong than it is for things to go right, and a lot has to go right for a club to be this good.

    The Phillies are getting a lot of love for their pitching staff, and rightfully so. But Philadelphia is no longer an elite offensive team, so throwing Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee out as the starter won't guarantee a victory.

    In addition, both PECOTA's and CAIRO's projections came out before we found out how serious Chase Utley's injury is. Those would go down significantly if adjusted for the absence of the Phillies' best player.

    Given this uncertainty, even 90 wins isn't a safe bet for Philadelphia. This, right here, is easy money.

    For more of Lewie's work, visit WahooBlues.com. Follow him on Twitter @LewsOnFirst or @WahooBlues.