Bovada released its over/under numbers for the 2014 Major League Baseball season on Wednesday. The star-studded Dodgers check in atop the list at 92.5, followed by the Cardinals (90.5) and Tigers (89.5). Bringing up the rear are, again, our beloved Astros at 62.5. Also of note, Vegas has the American League East looking like this: Tampa (88.5), Boston (87.5) and the new-look Yankees at (86.5).
Let’s take a quick look at three over and three unders that look appealing on paper in late February.
Indians over 80.5: This one baffles me. The Tribe won 92 games last year. Is losing Scott Kazmir and Chris Perez’ vaporizer in free agency really going to trigger a 12-win difference in the wrong direction? Cleveland might not win the American League Central, but they should be at least .500. The Indians rotation is surprisingly effective despite the lack of a marquee No. 1 starter. John Axford at the back end of the bullpen might worry you, but Cleveland doesn’t have the feel of a one-year wonder.
Nationals over 88.5: Washington finished a “bad” year in 2013 and still won 86 games. The Nats will be better with Doug Fister in the starting rotation. Figure that Bryce Harper does more to stay healthy over the length of the 162 game season, while Ryan Zimmerman bounces back to form. The Braves (87.5) haven’t done much to improve in the winter, aside from retaining their own players. It helps the Nationals that they play in a division with the Mets, Marlins and Phillies. Those three teams, along with the Cubs, are pegged to have the lowest win totals in Vegas. The Nationals got a lot of preseason hype last year and fizzled, so that could worry you but there’s a lot of talent for first-year manager Matt Williams to work with here.
Phillies over 76.5: Is Philadelphia going to contend for a World Series or even a Wild Card berth? Probably not, but a year ago they won 73 games when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Ruben Amaro Jr.’s winter plan that included handing lots of money to older veterans like Marlon Byrd or A.J. Burnett isn’t one for long-term success, but it does improve the team for 2014. If and it’s a big if, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and the other Phillies veterans are healthy a return to respectability and .500 isn’t out of the question.
Tigers under 89.5: Admittedly I’m a pessimistic Tigers fan, but it feels like the new-look Tigers are due a regression. Not only did they lose Fister, but it’s hard to figure Max Scherzer repeats last year’s Cy Young season. Although he pouted and seemed indifferent, the Tigers will miss Prince Fielder, for his presence alone. Miguel Cabrera will be hard-pressed to win a third straight MVP with Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson hitting behind him. Brad Ausmus might be a little more progressive than Jim Leyland and the Tigers might have more team speed, but the power that’s driven them to three straight ALCS appearances will be hard to replace. The Royals and Twins in the Central Division figure to be improved, making life even harder on the Tigers. (Note: Justin Verlander’s rekindled romance with Kate Upton should have no bearing on the Tigers win total.)
Reds under 84.5: Billy Hamilton is going to steal a lot of bases, but he’s not the on-base guy that Shin-Shoo Choo was hitting in front of Joey Votto. Mat Latos might not be ready for Opening Day. Brandon Phillips downward trajectory continues. Maybe the Reds get a post-Dusty Baker bounce but I don’t see it.
Mariners under 81.5: Seattle won 71 games in 2013. Is free-agent Robinson Cano, new manager in Llyod McClendon and a bunch of young, unproven players like Taijuan Walker going to represent a 10-game improvement? A pitching staff anchored by Felix Hernandez is nice, but the Mariners are still relying on the likes of Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley too much to make inroads against the Athletics and Rangers or even the Angels.