Thursday, February 11, 2021

For Entertainment Purposes Only, 2021 v0.9


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Part of the season-preview package around here is a set of recommendations for the season win total over/under bets that have become popular in recent seasons. Those are based on my official predictions that come out around Opening Day. In the last few years, in response to demand, I’ve also done some early versions once the numbers are published. Looking back, those came out on January 9 in 2019 and January 15 a year ago.

I’d have done the same this year, but the lines have only come out this week. Like the teams themselves, the bookmakers seem to have been waiting to see if the season would be delayed, shortened, or both, and perhaps also waiting to see how major offseason storylines -- Trevor Bauer, Nolan Arenado, the NL DH -- played out. This week, we finally got some numbers to use, as the Wynn became the first book to publish a set.

The value in doing these now is that the early numbers are usually where the value lies, betting them before they get moved by sharp bettors willing to let their money float for nine months. In theory [long pause for effect] I should be a sharp in this context. Well, in 2018 my three early picks went 3-0. In 2019, they went 2-1. Last year, my only recommendation was the Mariners under 67.5 and they didn’t come anywhere near...oh, fine, we won’t count that one, on your little “technicality.” It’s a small sample, but pairing these with my official picks -- 5-0* in 2018 and 2019 -- you can make your Newsletter subscription money back pretty easily on just two issues. That doesn’t even count my occasional longshot prop hits, like Christian Yelich to win the MVP at 200-1.

(*Maybe 4-0 with a refund depending on how the 2018 Marlins bet (U63.5, final record 63-98) is graded.)

So what jumps out from the Wynn numbers? Too much, to be honest.

Pirates under 62.5 wins. The Pirates were 19-41, a 51-win pace, in 2020. They traded away their best power hitter and most reliable starting pitcher and their starting pitcher with the highest 2021 upside. Their big winter pickup is Brian Goodwin. I have said a number of times that going under the lowest number on the board is usually a bad idea, but in recent years, that actually has not been the case. Today's worst teams are worse than the posted numbers. This is my favorite early pick.

Similarly, I’d recommend the Orioles under 64 wins. The Orioles are just as bad as the Pirates, with what could be the worst starting rotation we’ve seen in a long time. They’ll play the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays 57 times and might go something like 11-46 in those games.

Five other picks jump out at me, but I’m going to resist making a full recommendation on any of them. See, all five are among the 12 teams that I have yet to cover this offseason:

A’s under 84
Brewers under 83.5
Diamondbacks under 76
Mariners over 71.5
Marlins over 67.5

Now, that’s mostly because these five teams have been inert all winter, so I haven’t had the impetus to write about them. That all five come from that group of 12, though, makes me wonder if my initial reactions to these numbers are missing something I’ll find by digging deeper. So they’re a light pass for me, but if you want action, take a closer look at them.