MLB Coverage: Reviewing American League Win Props

Now that the calendar says August, and MLB’s July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, we can set the tone for the season’s final eight-plus weeks. While the playoff races in both the American League and National League are the most important way to do that, there’s one other race that shouldn’t be overlooked—it’s the race each team has against itself to meet their Over/Under win total from the preseason.

A staple of TheSportsNotebook’s preseason MLB coverage, as it is in the NFL and NBA, is to make a pick on each team’s win prop. Here’s an update on how the American League looks. I’ve broken each team down into four categories.

If a team’s winning percentage projects out to missing the win prop by 10-plus games they’re in the Landslide category. It would take a serious collapse or surge to change the final result. If the range is from 5.5-9.5 games it’s listed as Solid. If you’ve got it right, you’re looking good, but it wouldn’t take anything historic for that to change. Teams whose current pace shows them within 1-5 games of the final number are Within The Margin Of Error, to borrow a phrase from political polling. And if a team is either even, or within a half-game, the betting markets are simply Dead On.

Here’s how everyone sorts out in the AL, complete with full disclosure on how TheSportsNotebook’s picks are faring…

Over: Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland
Under: Toronto, ChiSox, LAA
: At the start of the year a friend and I looked at the betting odds for teams to win the AL East and saw both the Red Sox & Orioles at 8-1, and figured the wisest wagering strategy would be to simply take both of them. That’s looking pretty good right now.

Whether Baltimore makes the playoffs or not, the fact that their 89-win pace is beating the market by ten games shows how much doubt Buck Showalter and his troops have played through after the miracle turnaround in the 2012 season.

And guess who the biggest disappointment is? It’s not the Blue Jays or Angels. Nope, the White Sox are missing the number in the wrong direction by a bigger number than anyone in all of baseball. It’s for this reason that I really like this measuring stick. I believe we let teams like Chicago off the hook too easily—the fact they weren’t expected to be playoff contenders (their preseason number was 80.5) isn’t a reason to go completely in the tank, at 61.5.

If you’re a White Sox fan, tell me you wouldn’t feel differently about this season if you could turn on the TV set each night knowing you had a 50/50 chance at winning, and could at least dream of the playoffs.

For the record, Boston’s 14-game cushion on the number is the largest in the American League, though not all of baseball. Although I suppose anyone who remembers 1978, knows the Red Sox can blow a 14-game lead after the All-Star break.

TheSportsNotebook is 4-2 on these teams, misfiring on Tito’s Tribe and Chicago.

Over: Tampa Bay, Oakland
Under: None
Tampa & Oakland are within a half-game of moving into the landslide category. It would be shocking if either goes under, with the Rays only needing to win 87 games, and the A’s shooting for 85. TheSportsNotebook had the Over in both cases, moving me to 6-2 on teams who look good.

Over: Kansas City, Texas
Under: NY Yanks, Houston, Seattle

Comment: Even though Houston’s number was only 59, their current win pace of 54 games has them missing by more than any other team in this group. Kansas City’s 4 ½ ahead of the 78.5 win pace Vegas gave them credit for, and everyone else is within three. For the record, the Yankees need to win 87 games to go Over.

TheSportsNotebook’s showing here is 3-2, and two of the teams I’ve got right are the Astros and Royals, where the margin is strongest. Hopefully at least three of these five battleground states pull through on Election Day.

DEAD ON: Minnesota & Detroit
The Tigers’ recent hot streak pushed them to a 93-win pace. That would give them the Over on their 92.5 number, although my projections round up. The same goes for Minnesota, who needs to reach 69 wins.

Even though I picked Detroit to win the World Series, I went Under. This seeming contradiction can be explained by the difference in betting strategies. When you pick the league as a whole, you take some chances—in this case that the Tiger bullpen would come through.

When you pick Over/Unders you stay cognizant of how far a team might slip—in this case, I felt if things didn’t work out for Detroit they could slide to the mid-high 80s, a pace they were on most of the year. Whereas when a number is 92.5, there’s not a lot of room to go higher.

The American League side of this has worked out well, with my projected record at 9-4-2, and the bulk of the wins coming on teams whose positions look more secure. Lest this come off as bragging, my National League picks were much more mediocre, at 6-6-3. In that light, please click here to read the National League win prop landscape.