Last month, the Vegas oddsmakers released their MLB over/under win totals for the upcoming season. This is always a favorite event of mine as you can decipher some things from the totals because Vegas has a knack for being eerily accurate and making money, of course.
Now these aren’t a prediction on teams win totals as Vegas is in the business to make money and sometimes they will go low or high on some to invoke action one way or the other. Plus once the money starts to fall one way or another and injuries happen, the numbers will fluctuate a bit. But let’s take a look at where the numbers for the NL Central opened up at according to Atlantis sportsbook in Reno, Nevada:
What sticks out to me is the gap between the three top teams and the two bottom is not as significant as most are probably expecting this year. Last season, the third place Cubs were 29 games ahead of the Brewers and 33 games ahead of the last place Reds. This year according to the O/U totals, there would only be about a 16-game difference between third place and fourth place. Vegas is banking on the Brewers and the Reds to be a bit better from last year’s numbers and the top three teams coming back down to Earth.
The next thing that sticks out is the low totals for the top. Winning 95+ games is no joke and last year we had three teams in this division 100, 98 and 97 games. There’s always regression in baseball and Vegas is telling me that the top teams will not match their feat from last year and regress closer to the mean. Last year was an aberration for sure. Three teams in a division don’t all win 97+ games, it just doesn’t happen. We won’t see that again for a while. With that said, I like these numbers from a Pirates perspective. A lot of money is going to be dropped on the Cubs over, guaranteed. The general public will think “Hey the Cubs won 97 games last season and they got better with Lackey, Heyward and Zobrist and their prospects will be even better this year so of course they’re crush that 89 mark!” Well Vegas makes a good living off this kind of thought and they know what they’re doing. The Cubs had no pressure or expectations on them last year, this year they do big time being the overall favorite for the World Series title. Also, can Jake Arrieta match his historic performance? Will they all stay healthy? It’s unlikely and that’s why this number comes in at 89. Playing in the MLB’s toughest division hurts a little too. If all the money goes in on the Cubs over, we can relax a bit that their win total will be close to 89 and possibly even under it. That suddenly makes the division very winnable.
So what should we expect from the Pirates and Cardinals since Vegas has them separated by just a half game? Expect a similar, close, down-to-the-wire race all season long. All three teams each have their strengths and will be battling it out in what should be an exciting three-team race. It’s telling that the Cardinals and Pirates are only at 87.5 and 87 O/U win total when the past three seasons, they’ve both had win totals over that amount. The Cards won 97, 90 and 100 games the past three seasons while the Pirates won 94, 88 and 98 games. Leads me to believe that 95+ wins won’t be happening for either team this year. The Cards magic may finally be running out and a mid-80 win season may be in order. I see the Pirates coming close to the 87-90 win total and depending on injuries, may hit the over here and hopefully win 90 which could still legitimately win the pennant if the Cubs falter.
I’ll close on the current World Series odds for each team:
Cubs are 4-1. Good thing Vegas isn’t build on favorites winning.
Cardinals are 15-1
Pirates are 18-1
Once again, the Pirates and Cardinals are set close to each other by the oddsmakers. Pirates chances went up a little from last year as they were 25-1 last season. I would know because I held the 25-1 ticket for the Pirates to win the Series last year from the Venetian sportsbook.
Brewers are 120-1. Yikes
Reds are 150-1. Um, yeah.