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2017 American League Over/Under Predictions

With baseball season upon us, we took a look at the over/under for each AL and NL team, using Oddsshark.com as a guide.

 

Baltimore Orioles – 80.5

The AL East is rather difficult to predict for this upcoming season, with each team in the division expecting to contend for a playoff spot this season. The Boston Red Sox are the favorite of the group to win the division, but they’re a David Price long-term injury away from falling closer to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles are in an interesting spot. They have one of the best bullpens in the league, powered by Zach Britton and Brad Brach, respectively. They also have a lot of question marks in their starting rotation. If Dylan Bundy can live up to his prospect allure, things could break right for the Orioles.

 

Fangraphs has them winning 81 games in 2017, a half game in front of the projections. However, that doesn’t take into account the fact that they could be trade deadline sellers if the ship sinks fast early in the season. It’s tough to say if they’d be open to trading Manny Machado yet, but it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he will depart via free agency after the 2018 season. It might be wise to field offers on the superstar third baseman if things go south. They could also trade starting pitcher Chris Tillman, who is set to hit free agency at the end of the season. They’ve outperformed projections every season since 2012, though this year could be the year that changes.

 

Verdict – Under

 

Boston Red Sox – 92.5

 

For a team that just won 93 games last season and then went out and added Chris Sale, this projection could seem a bit light to some. They also lost David Ortiz, who in his last season with the club posted a 4.4 WAR. It’s reasonable to expect a regression from Jackie Bradley, who just set career highs in almost every major offensive category. Rick Porcello is another candidate for regression, as his peripherals suggest that he was somewhat lucky last year. It’s hard to run out a .269 BABIP every season, especially when it’s well below his career average. As mentioned prior, if David Price were to miss a significant amount of time, the Red Sox could see themselves in a very tight race for the division crown. With that being said, it’s nearly impossible to predict the severity of injuries this early on. Luckily, they have depth at the position, so they’d be able to stay afloat if he misses a large portion of the season.

For now, the Red Sox still possess the best team in the AL East. Powered by AL MVP runner-up Mookie Betts, and the emergence of uber prospect Andrew Benintendi and early AL Rookie of the Year favorite, it’s tough to see anyone stealing the division from under them. Last season, they actually underperformed according to their Pythagorean expectation. It had them winning an additional five games, pulling them up to 98 wins on the season. We don’t need projections to tell us that this is the best team in the division. We have common sense for that.

 

 

Verdict – Over

 

Chicago White Sox – 69.5

It’s really interesting to see how much can change in a year. Let’s not forget the hot start the White Sox go off to in 2016, which prompted them to trade for James Shields in an attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Things didn’t shake out that way, and now Chris Sale pitches for the team with different colored socks. We’ll likely see Yoan Moncada at some point this year, but we some growing pains are expected with the top prospect. While they have some interesting pieces including Tyler Saladino and Tim Anderson, the expectations are very low for this club. It’s more than likely that we’re finally going to see Jose Quintana get traded before the deadline, which could further hamper their win total. Let’s not forget that Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier will likely get traded at some point this season, as well. It’s hard seeing this team eclipse 69 wins (nice).

 

Verdict – Under

 

Cleveland Indians – 92.5

The 2016 American League champions are heading into 2017 with huge expectations surrounding the team. The rotation should be one of the best in baseball, if not the best. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t doubts about the stability of the group. Carlos Carrasco could break down at any point, and he’s already shown signs about it this spring and in the past. Danny Salazar still struggles with limiting base runners, though his ability to miss bats is nothing to question. Trevor Bauer showed flashes of dominance last year, though, and his basic statistics weren’t as good as advanced metrics would suggest they should have been. Adding Edwin Encarnacion to the mix in place of Mike Napoli should give the offense more firepower than they possessed a year ago, as well. Not to mention they have Andrew Miller in their bullpen, who is the most dominant reliever in all of baseball. The Indians are the team to beat in the American League, though the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox aren’t too far behind.

 

Verdict – Over

 

Detroit Tigers – 82.5

 

The Tigers are in a pretty weird spot. They don’t have much organizational depth, as former GM Dave Dombrowski traded the farm in an effort to compete. A few ill-advised moves lost offseason have hurt them as well, including the contract they handed Jordan Zimmermann. Justin Upton hasn’t lived up to his contract, either, but it’s easier to see him bouncing back than Zimmermann. They still have Miguel Cabrera, who remains one of the best pure hitters the game has ever witnessed. Though, it’s tough to see them making a whole lot of noise. The Indians will likely run away with the division, which leaves the Tigers fighting for a Wild Card spot. The American League is rather top heavy, with a few teams distancing themselves from the pack, and about eight teams hovering around mediocrity. Starting pitcher Daniel Norris could finally breakout this year, which would be a huge boost for the team’s projections.

 

If things don’t go well for the Tigers, they could be one of the teams we see selling off pieces at the deadline. Justin Verlander is an obvious trade chip, though it’s hard to imagine them getting anything substantial in return without eating a large portion of his contract. Miguel Cabrera could be on the move as well, though his contract would also be difficult to move. I have them at 84 wins, which would put them slightly over their projected 82.5 wins. The bullpen is an absolute mess, which could hold them back a bit. Also, water is wet.

 

Verdict – Over

 

Houston Astros – 89.5

There is so much to like about this time. For one, they possess a dominant bullpen led by closer Ken Giles. Fangraphs currently has their bullpen ranked as the sixth best in baseball. Their offense is arguably the best in the game, with above avergage players at every position. After a disappointing finish to last season, they went out and brought in Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to add some firepower to the offense, while also serving as a mentor to the younger players in the clubhouse. They have a true MVP candidate in Carlos Correa, who is still just 22 years old. The thing that scares some people away from this team is their starting rotation. While it’s still a solid group, health is always a concern with this bunch. Lance McCullers could be in line for a breakout campaign, but he’s never thrown more than 125.2 innings in a season. Dallas Keuchel projects to bounce back after his down year last season, but it’s starting to look like he isn’t the same pitcher that won him the AL CY Young in 2015. Luckily, since the bullpen is so deep, they will have some reinforcements if their starters run into trouble early on in a game.

 

The Astros are the favorite to win the American League West this season, though they should worry some about the Seattle Mariners stealing the division from under them. As long as these bats click, which they should, they’re going to be a very tough team to beat.

 

Verdict – Over

 

Kansas City Royals – 76.5

 

The Royals are two years removed from their World Series run, but this team is night and day compared to what it was in 2015. Eric Hosmer, barring a last minute contract extension, is set to hit the open market after this season. Realistically, he could end up being one of the big names on the trade market come July if the Royals fall too far behind. Mike Moustakas is set to hit free agency at year’s end as well, so he could end up being on the move with Hosmer. Jorge Soler, whom they acquired from the Chicago Cubs when they dealt Wade Davis, remains interesting, but he is already set to miss the start of the season with an oblique injury. Danny Duffy could swing some CY Young votes this year, but the biggest issue remains his health. If he can stay healthy the entire year, the sky is the limit for the southpaw.

 

The problem is, they have key players set to test the open market and a budget that can’t afford to keep the gang together. Not to mention, they have aging stars on the roster that most likely won’t have the seasons they did a year ago. Thanks to the White Sox and Minnesota Twins, the Royals won’t end up at the cellar of the AL Central, but they’ll be a very underwhelming third place team.

 

Verdict – Under

 

Los Angeles Angels – 79.5

 

The Angels cling on the relevancy year in and year out thanks to having the best player in the world on their roster. Mike Trout somehow continues to surprise us, but it’s a shame that his best years seem to be getting wasted on a team with limited financial flexibility and a weak farm system. Given the little resources they have, they still had a solid offseason, bringing in solid pieces that could potentially put the team over the hump and into contention for a wild card spot. Slotting Danny Espinosa in at second base give them an unbelievable defensive one-two punch up the middle, as Andrelton Simmons remains a wizard with his glove at shortstop. Albert Pujols remains a solid bat at DH, and C.J. Cron could breakout any day now.

Realistically, if they want to take the next stop, they’re going to need their young starting pitchers to stay healthy and produce for them. Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, we’re looking at you. If a few things go their way, they could sneak into contention. An in season upgrade could be made in left field, though it would likely have to come on the waiver wire rather than the trade market.

 

Verdict – Slightly over

 

Minnesota Twins – 74.5

 

The Twins are in the midst of a rebuild. Brian Dozier probably should have been traded over the offseason, when his value was at an all-time high. He’s going to remain one of the best second baseman in the game, but expecting him to continue what he did in the second half of last season would be somewhat foolish. Miguel Sano could finally reach his full potential this year, so long as he cuts down on the strikeouts. The outfield pieces are intriguing, as this could be the year Byron Buxton takes the next step offensively. Max Kepler is a solid piece, as well.

 

There’s not much room for optimism with this squad, and they will likely be fighting for a top three pick in next year’s first year player draft.

 

Verdict – Under

 

New York Yankees – 82.5

 

After being deadline sellers this past season, the Yankees seemed locked and loaded for the future. They have enough pieces that could help them compete this year, but it’s likely going to be a season of growing pains for the “baby bombers.” Greg Bird seems poised for a big season, as he’s put any doubts to rest that his shoulder surgery could sap his power. Gary Sanchez should tear the cover off the ball again, but some regression is expected with the second year backstop. They have top prospects Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier waiting in the wings, though it’s unclear when they’ll be called up. A midseason trade of Brett Gardner could open up a spot for Frazier, but that’s just speculation on my part.

The team is rolling with four starters in the rotation for until April 16th. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, and Luis Severino have all been named to the rotation. The final spot will come down to Chad Green, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell. Despite many believing they’ll fall below .500, it’s easier to see management making sure they at least stay relevant throughout the season. There are a lot of mediocre teams fighting for that second wild card spot, and the Yankees will likely be one of them.

 

Verdict – Over

 

Oakland A’s – 73.5

 

The A’s are one of those teams that like to shatter expectations and outperform their projections. This year won’t be one of those years. Sonny Gray is already sidelined with a strained lat muscle, and won’t be back on the mound for at least a month. The club was largely relying on Gray, their ace, to bounce back this year after a disappointing 2016 campaign. Jharel Cotton could prove to be a front-end starting pitcher, but he will have to rely on his secondary pitches to get him there.

 

There really isn’t a lot to be excited about with this team. More than anything else, they’re hoping that Sonny Gray can get back on the mound sooner rather than later. If he can prove to be more like his 2015 self, they can trade him (if they want to) prior to the deadline. He just has to prove he is healthy and effective. 73.5 is a fair prediction for the team, but I’m going to go slightly under, estimating they’ll piece together 72 wins.

 

Verdict – Slightly under

 

Seattle Mariners – 85.5

 

The Mariners are going to be chasing the Astros in the AL West, as mentioned prior, but there is that slight chance they could sneak into first place and win the division. They have a secret weapon in Mitch Haniger, who could be a key to their 2017 success. The early returns on Felix Hernandez have looked good, and he’s even been throwing his fastball slightly harder than he did last year. With Drew Smyly sidelined for the next 6-8 weeks, the team will have to hope the rotation can sustain the loss. James Paxton seems primed for a huge season, and could become the team’s true ace by seasons end. The outfield defense should be much better, too, considering they have three center fielders covering the grass.

 

As long as Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz continue to put up monster numbers, it’s tough to see this team falling out of contention. That, paired with a rotation that should be better than it was in 2016, could catapult them to the top of the AL West.

 

Verdict – Slightly over

 

Tampa Bay Rays – 77.5

 

This projection is a surprise to me, especially considering the fact that the Rays have the best outfield defense in baseball. That’s what happens when you employ Kevin Kiermaier. Because of the outfield defense, the starting rotation automatically improves. And the rotation isn’t even bad! Chris Archer is an ace. Alex Cobb was lights out before he had Tommy John surgery, and it looks as if he’s fully recovered. Jake Odorizzi is arguably one of the best #3 starters in the game. Jose De Leon will be promoted at some point too, and for a team that loves pitchers with plus changeups, he should thrive in the rotation.

 

They just signed Derek Norris, who is an above average catcher and should only help the starting rotation. Corey Dickerson should bounce back somewhat this season, and now that he’s out of the outfield, his foot will surely benefit from it. The bullpen is solid too. The AL east is so tough to predict, but I see the Rays being one of the teams that is competing for that second wild card spot.

 

Verdict – Over

 

Texas Rangers – 84.5

 

After winning the division the past two seasons, the Rangers are likely to take a step back in 2017. The main reason for the regression is due to the fact that the Rangers set a record for wins in one run ballgames. History shows that this kind of run is unsustainable, which is why the Rangers are projected to regress. On top of that, the starting rotation has many question marks. The offense should be fine, though, and a full year of Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate can only help things.

 

Putting your faith in A.J. Griffin and Dillon gee doesn’t seem like a good idea, which is why I have them placing third in the division. They, like so many others, will likely compete for a wild card spot, but the division leading Rangers seem like a thing of the past.

 

Toronto Blue Jays – 85.5

 

People seem really down on the Blue Jays this year. This projection does not. While they lost Edwin Encarnacion, replacing him with Kendrys Morales is a fine option. Morales remains a solid hitter, and his Statcast numbers suggest that big things are ahead. Jose Bautista resigned for a one-year deal, and he showed us in the World Baseball Classic that his power hasn’t gone anywhere. Josh Donaldson is one of the best sluggers in the game, and he pairs that with one of the best gloves at third base. Aaron Sanchez was sensational, and it’s reasonable to believe he will get even better this year. Marcus Stroman could realistically take a step forward, as well. As long as this time can do their best to stay healthy, they’ll give the Red Sox a run for their money at the AL East crown. I put them at 85 wins, right in line with the projection.
Verdict – Slightly under (85)

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