When TheSportsNotebook did the preseason previews for each major league baseball team, we included the number Las Vegas posted as the Over/Under for win totals. With nine days left in the regular season, let’s check in on who were the winners and losers when it came to meeting the expectations of the betting markets. TheSportsNotebook does this method, not because we’re evaluating everyone’s bets, but because measuring a team by how they did against reasonably informed expectations gives a fair gauge on how we should perceive a team’s season.
With that in mind, I’ve broken the teams into five categories. The easy winners and big losers (teams that are, or likely to end up over or under their number by at least 15 games) are set at one extreme, and then a broad middle class of teams ahead of the curve or behind the curve. As you’ll see in a lot of cases, I’ve played election-night reporter and called the result when it seems pretty obvious. But there is a fifth category of three teams whose final fate is still very much up in the air. Here’s the breakdown…
THE BIG WINNERS
Baltimore (69.5)—The Orioles have already won 88 games and are well-poised
Oakland (72)—Oakland’s on 86 wins and set to beat the number by at least 15, and possibly 20.
AHEAD OF THE GAME
Washington (84)—At 93 wins already, the Nationals could end up one rung higher, though I like to see teams beat their number by at least 15 for the top tier.
Chicago White Sox (74.5)—Chicago’s hold on the AL Central might be slipping, but at 82 wins, they’ve been home free on the Over for some time.
Atlanta (86.5)—Atlanta’s already there, with 88 wins.
Pittsburgh (73.5)—Pittsburgh’s fans are disappointed right now, but the bettors are happy, with 75 wins already in their back pocket.
Cincinnati (88)—The Reds had relatively high expectations this year and with 92 wins, they’ve met them.
San Francisco (87)—Ditto the Giants, with 89 wins already on the books.
Texas (92)—Another terrific job for Ron Washington, as 91-win Texas looks set to go Over and clinch the AL West almost simultaneously.
Seattle (72)—A nice season for the Mariners when measured against expectations. They’re on 71 wins and should clear the number.
San Diego (73.5)—One more win. The next Padre win means you can take the Over ticket and get paid.
NY Mets (72)—The Mets are like Seattle—the kind of team who gets their due credit when we use this framework for evaluation. At 70 wins, they faded from the playoff race, but measuring them against the win totals reminds us of how low the expectations were to begin with.
St. Louis (84)—Only two more wins get the 83-win Cardinals over the hump.
LA Dodgers (79)—Los Angeles is right there with St. Louis in more ways than the wild-card race—they need two wins to push, three to get their people to the window.
BEHIND THE CURVE
Minnesota (72)—At 64-90, I suppose the Twins could close on an eight-game win streak and get a push, but we’re calling this one for the Under.
LA Angels (92)—Another team that can close with a rush—the Halos have one loss to give—and in this case, they really need just such a push to make the playoffs.
Toronto (81)—You could make a case that the 67-win Blue Jays belong a rung lower, but if they play winning baseball the rest of the way, the Jays would at least cut their deficit into single digits.
Detroit (93)—The Tigers have 81 wins and are officially out of the running for the Over, after being sluggish most of the year.
Kansas City (80.5)—At 70-83, the Royals are climbing their way out of the bottom rung, but have still been out of the running to meet expectations for most of the summer.
Cleveland (79)—Even with sub-.500 expectations, the Indians are still a big disappointment, having only 64 wins to date
Philadelphia (92.5)—For much of the year, the Phils were one of the worst in meeting their win total, and at 77-76, they’re still out of it, but at least the final number’s on a pace to respectability.
Chi Cubs (74)—The Cubbies have 59 wins and are well off the pace, but a break-even showing the rest of the way could at least cut their margin under nine.
Houston (64)—You know expectations were bad when you sit on 50-104 and still aren’t even close to the biggest disappointment.
Arizona (86)—The best the Diamondbacks can do is push, and that takes a nine-game win streak to close the season.
THE BIG LOSERS
Boston (90.5)—The Red Sox are on 69 wins. If nothing else, they never gave their bettors false hope. .
Miami (84)—Miami’s only got 66 wins and they’ve been in the tank lately to top it off.
Colorado (81)—With a 59-94 record, the Rockies are currently the league’s biggest disappointment.
UP IN THE AIR
NY Yanks (93.5)—New York is 89-64 coming into Tuesday night, so they’re not home free. You would think they can win five of nine can cash in, but that’s not a guarantee.
Tampa Bay (88)—The Rays are 83-70, and need to go 5-4 to get a push. At least their facing must-win for the playoffs, so Tampa will be motivated to hit the number.
Milwaukee (85)—Milwaukee has to go 6-3 in the last nine to break even and win seven to cash in—pretty much about the same as their playoff hopes.
During the final week of the season, as TheSportsNotebook tracks the playoff race each day, we’ll also track how the Yankees, Rays and Brewers are doing in their pursuit of the number, although in all three cases, what they need for the playoffs is pretty close to what they need to clear the Over.
And in the interests of full disclosure, I made my own picks in the preseason previews on 28 teams, leaving out the Yankees & Red Sox because I loathe the former, love the latter and refuse to taint it with cold-blooded betting analysis. Of the teams that are in, I’m 14-12, and have the Under with Tampa Bay and Over with Milwaukee. Although in the interests of double full disclosure, the one I liked the most was the Twins and the Over and that one’s on the verge of being history.