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2017 MLB Over/Unders to Target

Giancarlo Stanton's unreliable health is one reason to avoid the Marlins in 2017. (Photo: Corn Farmer, via Flickr)

The MLB win totals were released a few weeks ago, and sure enough, websites all over raced to highlight which teams they thought were being overvalued and which ones were getting slighted. I, unfortunately, was late to the party. Not because I was busy researching or there were too many demands on my time, I was simply in hibernation. It’s a yearly tradition; stuff ones self with biscuits and gravy, DVR the Super bowl, then pass out in a recliner for three months.

Now that I’ve woke from my slumber with the clear head and focus that only a voluntary coma can provide, I give you the MLB win totals you should be targeting for the 2017 season.

Chicago Cubs: Over 95.5

Fish meet barrel. Barrel meet fish. Now, since fish has been introduced to such a small, confined space, and cannot go anywhere in which water is not present, it would be very easy for a cruel person to say, fire a gun into barrel and hit said fish. But instead of partaking in that simple activity, wasting both a perfectly good fish and barrel, why not instead bet on the Chicago Cubs to win a lot of games this year?

Here’s why winning this bet is comparatively as easy (if not easier) than discharging a firearm into a cask filled with aquatic life: the Chicago Cubs were excellent at baseball last year. In fact, by almost any metric, you could say they were the best at it. The Cubs won 103 games, outscoring their opponents by 252 runs, a number that put their expected win total closer to 109. Last year’s team was “unlucky” to win as many games as they did.

Nearly all of the key contributors from the 2016 Cubs will be returning this year to do more great baseballing: only outfielder Dexter Fowler and pitchers Jason Hammel and Aroldis Chapman have left for browner pastures. While it’s difficult to measure the impact one player can have on a team, baseball nerds have tried to make it easier with their handy little WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat. Fowler had a 4.3 WAR for the Cubs, while Chapman and Hammel each had a 1.1.

So theoretically, if Chicago just replaced them with average talent, you could expect a six or seven-win decline, which would still clear the 95.5 mark.

Is that the proper way to utilize WAR? Probably not. But I’m just trying to illustrate that it will take a lot more than losing a couple players to keep this team from being awesome this year. It might take a case of smallpox spreading through the pitching staff or the ivy walls collapsing on top of all their outfielders to make the UNDER a realistic play. Until then, take the Cubs and the OVER. And stop shooting fish.

St Louis Cardinals: Over 84.5

I thought making the playoffs every year was the Cardinals’ birthright? But, much like incredible acting talent should’ve been Charlie Sheen’s birthright, sometimes prenatal promises don’t pan out.

Enough shots at already beaten-down actors and spoiled fanbases: you don’t need St. Louis to end their one-year postseason drought in order to clear this bet. All that’s required is a similar season to 2016. So why are experts predicting the Cards to regress?

Sure, the team lost exciting young pitcher Alex Reyes to surgery before the season even began, but he only contributed five starts in 2016. The rest of their rotation returns. Besides an excellent year from Carlos Martinez, everyone in the Cards staff underachieved last year. Adam Wainwright struggled coming off an Achilles injury in 2015, Michael Wacha didn’t have it, and neither did Mike Leake. They should be closer to their career averages in 2017.

The Cards big bats made up for their pitching staff’s down year, finishing third in the NL in runs. All of their major fielders are returning this year, so their offensive output should remain relatively steady.

St. Louis hasn’t gone two straight years without making the playoffs since 2007-2008. Take them to hit the OVER. Then, at least if you’re wrong, you can enjoy watching Cardinals fans panic all offseason.

Miami Marlins: Under 76.5

The Marlins were a hot pick last year to clear their 79.5 O/U and I could see why. Oh man, can this outfield hit! And by golly, can this team pitch! Oh, actually, the latter is legitimately a question. Following the tragic death of Jose Fernandez last fall, can this team pitch?

Miami’s starting pitching staff looks pretty weak from the get-go, and this is barring any injuries. At the top is Wei-Yin Chen, coming off his first season with the team, in which he was rocked for a 4.96 ERA. Then there’s 33-year-old Edinson Volquez, who threw absolute junk last year, allowing the most earned runs in the American League. Tom Koehler fills the role of “guy who is perfectly average, but at least he’s consistent in his averageness.”

Dan Straily and Adam Conley are the only two young pitchers who still have the potential to take strides forward, and even if that happens, they won’t be pitching anywhere near the level Fernandez used to. Miami was a 79-win team with their ace recording 19 wins last year.

If the Marlins are going to have success, their offense needs to lift them, and that is conceivable. Miami hit for a good average last year, ranking second in the NL; but it didn’t translate to runs with their best power hitters, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour, missing significant time. If they stay healthy, the runs could go way up for the Fish. And yet, it still won’t matter. As last year’s Arizona Diamondbacks showed us, you can have a great offense and still get destroyed every week.

As long as Jeffrey Loria still owns the team, the Marlins aren’t allowed to be successful. Unfortunately for fans, the sale won’t be approved for a while.

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