2011 MLB Preview: It's a Safe Bet That These 10 Teams Have Stupid Vegas Odds
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.
No. 10: Texas Rangers—OVER
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.