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AL Future Wagering

AL Future Wagering

AL Future Wagering
By Josh Jacobs

Is it already time to talk about our National Past Time? Well, given that we’re only over a month away from Spring Training it’s safe to say that a short preview of future wagering is in order. And let’s not forget that the World Baseball Classic is set to begin on Mar. 5.

The news that sent economic shock waves through the league involved the New York Yankees spending nearly a half-billion dollars on pitchers C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and first baseman, Mark Teixeira. What happens to Sabathia’s numbers back in the American league, Burnett’s health down the stretch and if Teixeira can handle New York City’s pressure are all valid questions worth discussing. But the fact remains that the Pinstripes are once again installed as the favorite to take the AL Pennant at 7/5 odds.

And the scrutiny doesn’t stop with just the three offseason acquisitions. Will catcher Jorge Posada return to the plate garnering the same skills that set career records in batting average and hits during the 2007 season? How will starter Phil Hughes perform after an injury plagued year witnessed the right-hander tossing for an 0-4 record with a 6.62 ERA? And can the bullpen pull together when called upon?

The moral of this story is all about the odds. Opening at 9/2 by most books to win the AL Pennant back in November and now sitting at a ‘chalky’ 5/4 through Brobury Sports, there’s no doubt that the Yankees have a lot to prove in an offseason characterized by the enormous spending spree.

New York finished last season in the red at -472 on the money line. What proved to be worth bundles was the club’s 90-67-5 record on the ‘under’. The run line total finished the year at a horrid -1324.

According to, Boston is next in line as the likely favorite for the AL Championship. Listed at 4/1 odds, the Red Sox return in ’09 with a dynamite starting staff. These are the same four starters who worked for a 3.57 ERA accompanied by a 56-30 record.

The Red Sox will give righty, Brad Penny a shot at making a comeback after a DL plagued 2008 resulted in six wins, nine losses and a 6.27 ERA. Another gamble that Boston invested in was signing 97 MPH fastball specialist, Junichi Tazawa to a three-year, $3 million contract. Where Tazawa fits in, if anywhere, is still up for debate.  And let's not forget to include veteran starter turned reliever, John Smoltz into this equation. Boston didn't give up much to sign the crafty right-hander ($5.5 million for one-year) but if his return is successful then GM Theo Epstein will look brilliant in the move.

The batting order will look very similar to last season’s, following the rule that if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it. Boston finished ’08 with a 56-25 home record (second best) and was up +11.65 units on the money line.

Both the Angels and Rays have been penned in at 6/1 odds in the quest for AL dominance by Brobury Sports.

While L.A. lost shutdown closer, Francisco Rodriguez and first baseman, Mark Teixeira during the offseason (both signed for a combined, $217 million), Tampa Bay added offense by signing Pat Burrell, Gabe Kapler and Matt Joyce (who’s still plenty young and has much to prove).

The Rays defied the odds last season as books from around the world braced themselves for a financial car wreck. But disaster was averted when Tampa Bay fell to the Phillies four games to one in the World Series. The Rays entered ’08 as a 150/1 long shot to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy but did cash in as AL Champs (listed at +250 by at the mid-season break).

Manager Joe Maddon must now decide what to do with the closer-by-committee system which had Dan Wheeler picking up the pace after veteran Troy Percival succumbed to a back injury.

The Angels finished just behind the Rays in money line profit at +2325. For Tampa Bay, +27.96 units on the money line was supplemented by a +1148 profit report on the run line thanks to a pitching staff that finished third in the league with a 3.78 ERA.

Scrolling down the list we end up looking at some ‘dogs that books have branded.

Sure, Kansas City continues to be labeled as one of those long shots at 50/1 (what’s really changed by adding Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs in terms of improving getting on base?). Toronto is at 22 to 1 odds thanks to a dwindling Canadian dollar helping to cap off the influx of new talent. Losing ace, Burnett only signals the beginning of this club’s problems.

Both Texas and Oakland are sitting at 35 to 1.

The Rangers can’t remember the last time that starting pitching was their strong suite. There are plenty of free agents that this club could end up signing (Andy Pettitte, Jon Garland and Ben Sheets), but will Texas find themselves in the same position as seasons’ past?

Offense isn’t the problem as Josh Hamilton and company helped contribute to the Rangers’ 5.6 runs per game (No. 1) and a league best, .283 BA. But starters Kevin Milwood and Vicente Pidilla were part of a pitching staff that ranked 30th worst in ERA (5.36), WHIP (1.57) and quality starts (54).

The Athletics reunited with Jason Giambi and adding slugger Matt Holiday from Colorado should ease some of the offensive woes (four runs per game with a .242 BA were 27th and 30th worst). A 75-86 record last season resulted in Oakland’s -5.07 unit loss on the money line, while a -772 deficit on the run line only heightened fears of backing this club.

Unless the pitching problem is addressed in Texas and Oakland attempts to solve its offensive mysteries then a 35/1 price tag is a true reflection of expectations for the new season.

Look for continuing coverage of the Major League offseason, approaching Spring Training and World Baseball Classic. Let’s all get ready for a long baseball season with the mission of pulling in profits through the haul.

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