MLB Total Wins Previews

MLB Total Wins Previews

National League Preview
by: Nellys Sportsline

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Mets Forecast: OVER 89½ WINS


The bullpen was a huge priority for the Mets after the disastrous finish last season and New York will open the new ballpark with not one but two top line closers. The top four in the rotation are solid assuming Johan Santana is at full strength after off-season surgery and the Mets still feature elite talents in the lineup with David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran. Veterans Freddy Garcia, Livan Hernandez, and Tim Redding will fight for the final rotation spot and given the age and past health concerns all three may be needed at some point. The Mets have featured late season collapses to miss the playoffs the past two seasons and banking on winning this competitive division would be risky. The talent is there but this team has had trouble staying healthy and clearly has not had the right mentality down the stretch. The bullpen acquisitions should be enough to add a few wins for Mets this season and push over this number, though that might not necessarily mean a trip to the playoffs. The Mets pitching staff appears to be the strongest in this division top to bottom but adjusting to a new ballpark could be an overlooked issue.

Phillies Forecast: UNDER 88½ WINS

The Phillies had the exact same win projection before last season and although Philadelphia went on to win the World Series they did not exactly blow by this win figure. Philadelphia should still possess one of the best lineups in the National League but pitching should be considered a concern. Kyle Kendrick has been ruled out in the rotation already and Cole Hamels does not appear like he will be ready for the start of the season. Jamie Moyer had one of the best seasons of his career last year at age 46 and the odds on a repeat performance should be steep. Brett Myers was a key part of the postseason run but he remains an unreliable question mark and Joe Blanton did not exactly light it up in his move to the NL. With health concerns with Hamels as well as Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz this team could face a much tougher year than many expect. A World Series hangover has hit several recent champions severely and the Phillies will not be immune to it. Brad Lidge also had a tremendous season last year for the Phillies and that type of consistent success without a prolonged rough patch has not been the norm in his career.

Braves Forecast: UNDER 84½ WINS

It’s hard to say what will happen with the Braves pitching staff this season but with the additions of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami the potential is there for a very solid rotation. Jair Jurrjens had a great season last year and Tom Glavine is still in the mix to contribute. Although Atlanta missed out on opportunities to get A. J. Burnett or Jake Peavy, the Lowe signing and a recent addition of Garret Anderson could keep Atlanta competitive. Atlanta appears to still be behind the Phillies and Mets in this division but improving on 72-win disaster from last season is very possible. The Braves have been poor performers overall the last three years however and expecting this team to be significantly better than last year may be a little bit too optimistic. The lineup looks great on paper but staying healthy could be a problem and the big year from Chipper Jones may not repeat itself. With Jones winning the batting title and with Mark Teixeira in the lineup for much of the year the Braves couldn’t compete last season so this year may not be much better even if a few things do go their way. The Braves have had a strong winning spring, so that is something to get a bit excited about.

Marlins Forecast: OVER 75½ WINS

Tampa Bay was the ‘IT’ team last year and the Rays had a hot start and managed to hang on all the way to the World Series. Another Florida team looks to be in that position this year and the Marlins have finally had some good news with the stadium plans looking promising. Florida won 84 games last season and pitching will be the difference maker for the Fish as Florida has a deep roster of promising young pitching talent. If the defense can be improved even fractionally this team could be a serious playoff threat. The infield power is among the best in baseball and the Marlins system of re-loading has proven to be successful. Florida was one of the most profitable teams to back last season which likely will not be the case this year as the Marlins will not be a big surprise. Despite featuring many limitations and playing in a division with the World Series champions and a big-spending New York team the Marlins have a good shot in this division. The bullpen should be fairly strong and the lineup is filled with talent, albeit some it a bit inexperienced. There may not be many household names on this team and they will still have trouble filling the ballpark but Florida will be a team to watch this season and a year similar to last year should be in the cards with a major leap possible two years from now.

Nationals Forecast: UNDER 71½ WINS

The Nationals overachieved in 2007 but took a huge step backwards last season. Pitching and injuries in the pitching staff proved to be a huge problem and there is little reason to expect a big improvement this season. Erratic and troubled starters Scott Olsen and Daniel Cabrera will be relied on and two very inexperienced but promising youngsters could be in the rotation early in the season. John Lannan and Collin Balester are capable options but compared with the rest of the division the Nationals have the worst chance of having a successful rotation by a long shot. Signing Adam Dunn was not an ideal upgrade for the team but he can be a valuable part of the lineup and there is some power on this team. The outfield spots will need to be figured out and also what happens to Nick Johnson, once one of the leaders on the team. Injuries have already taken a toll on a suspect lineup as Dmitri Young, Ronnie Belliard, and Jesus Flores are all banged up and questionable for opening day. Another career year from Cristian Guzman might be needed to even have a chance at maintaining a respectable record unless the rookie pitchers really pan out.


NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Cubs Forecast: OVER 92½ WINS


The Cubs ran away with the Central division last season but another postseason disaster was waiting, swept in three games at the hands of the Dodgers. Although counting on Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly to post similar numbers and counting on Rich Harden to be healthy is far from a sure thing, the Cubs should have the best rotation in this division. Sean Marshall appears ready to handle a full time spot in the rotation after seeing spot action in the past few seasons and the bullpen appears to be in capable hands even without Kerry Wood. The Cubs panicked to add the left-handed bat that many said they needed and Milton Bradley is certainly a risky signing in his temperament and in terms of his ability to stay on the field. Chicago will need Kosuke Fukodome to regain his early season swing and having Alfonso Soriano healthy for the whole year could be a huge boost. Geovany Soto could see a bit of a setback in his second full year and Mark DeRosa will be missed but this is still the team to beat in this division and probably in the entire National League, until the playoffs at least.

Cardinals Forecast: OVER 82½ WINS

The Cardinals were expected to take a big fall last season but it never happened as St. Louis stayed in wild card contention all season despite a plethora of injuries and other setbacks. With the best player in baseball anchoring the lineup the Cardinals should not be counted out and the addition of Khalil Greene should be a solid upgrade. The bullpen still has some questions to be answered but if Chris Carpenter can come remotely close to his level of play from a few years ago the starting rotation looks solid. Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright have proven to be capable pitchers in this division and Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pineiro are slightly above average for the back end of the rotation. At some point Troy Glaus will return to the lineup as well. Second base is a question mark after Adam Kennedy was released but this is a team with a nice mix of speed and power and should have superior pitching than some of the other contenders.

Brewers Forecast: UNDER 80½ WINS

After finally making the playoffs last season in an all-in push the Brewers should take a serious step back this season. The wins that C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets provided will be very difficult to replace and relying on a rotation with unproven prospects Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra in addition to three unreliable veterans Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, and Braden Looper has its risks. The starters conceivably could be capable but the bullpen looks problematic, relying on the already injured and decreasingly reliable Trevor Hoffman to take over the closer role. Milwaukee still has a lineup that can provide some power but the team hit for a very low average last season and strikes out far too often. The Brewers should still be a fun team to watch but given the competition in this division Milwaukee looks like the team most likely to take a major fall. With several talented prospects waiting in the wings, this year could turn into a trial period while the team looks towards the 2010 season with a little more seasoning for the young pitchers. A potential nagging injury to Ryan Braun that has developed is last the thing this team needs.

Reds Forecast: UNDER 78½ WINS

Every year the Reds appear to be ready to turn the corner and enter the playoff chase but this continues to be a frustrating and disappointing squad. The Reds lost two power hitters with Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. out of the picture and the switch to a faster and better defensive team could take some time. There is some promise in this lineup but relative to most of the other teams in this division Cincinnati will have a hard time keeping up in terms of production. After a nightmare 2008 season Aaron Harang will need to bounce back but with Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Micah Owings, and Homer Bailey the potential for a solid rotation is there if each can improve after showing signs of promise last season. The Reds should be considered a sleeper team with the potential of the young team but as tends to happen, the Reds will likely fall short of the elevated expectations. The additions of Ramon Hernandez and Willy Taveras are decent but probably not enough.

Astros Forecast: OVER 73½ WINS

If Houston can avoid another poor start to the season they might seriously be in contention for a playoff spot. Last year the Astros crawled very close to wild card spot but had some tough breaks late in the year, most notably the moving of home games due to the hurricane. Adding Ivan Rodriguez could be a great move for the lineup and the pitching staff and with a deadly middle of the order featuring Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, and Hunter Pence the Astros should score plenty of runs. Roy Oswalt had an awful start last season but finished the year in fine form but the back of the rotation will likely again be an issue for Houston. Houston could have some potential distractions looming but this is a dangerous lineup that will likely post big numbers at home. If the pitching can be respectable the Astros will have a chance. If the Astros start poorly, consider that another late season run will be possible as this team always seems to heat up in August.

Pirates Forecast: UNDER 67½ WINS

It would be nice to find reasons why the Pirates might finally show some improvement this season but after remarkably consistent losing results in recent years and no major moves to improve the club it looks like another finish at the bottom of this division. Outside of Paul Maholm the whole rotation is a question mark as Ian Snell had a terrible year last season and Zach Duke has never regained the great form that gave the Pirates great optimism when he broke on the scene. The lineup has decent players in every position but collectively it is not enough to compete in this offensively loaded division with MVP-type caliber players on every roster. The bullpen got great performances from Matt Capps last season but getting to the ninth inning with the lead will likely not be common enough for him to have a great positive impact. New pitching coach Joe Kerrigan has his hands full and it will be another uphill battle for the Pirates.


NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Diamondbacks Forecast: OVER 86½ WINS


Arizona looked like a serious World Series threat early last season but faded down the stretch to actually end up as one of the worst money teams in baseball despite raking in profits in April. The starting rotation may be the best in baseball with the addition of Jon Garland and if the young lineup can take a step forward this season Arizona will be a NL contender. Arizona will give Chad Qualls a chance as closer this season after a few unsuccessful experiments last season. Felipe Lopez takes over for Orlando Hudson at second base but the lineup remains mostly unchanged from the early part of last season. If the pitching holds up Arizona will be in the race although the overall quality of this division is likely to be up a bit from last season when just 84 wins was enough to reach the playoffs. This is a bit of a high price considering that Arizona won just 82 games last season but the potential is there for this team to finish with 90 wins or more as they did in 2007. Max Scherzer could be a key piece, as the talented prospect could shore up the back of the rotation and make this the best starting rotation not only in this division but possibly in all of baseball.

Dodgers Forecast: UNDER 84½ WINS

The Dodgers had great success with the addition of Manny Ramirez last season, coming from way back to win the division and advancing to the NLCS. A full season with Manny should mean that LA is in line for a strong year but the pitching staff is not likely to be as strong this season. Derek Lowe is a perennially underrated starter and his loss will be huge as Lowe was rarely injured and was solid performer. The rotation also loses Brad Penny, even though he was hurt much of last season and the bullpen is now without Takashi Saito. Chad Billingsley emerged as a front-line starter last season but he may miss time due to injury and holding on to hope that Jason Schmidt can contribute something is a long shot. This could be a very good offense with Orlando Hudson added in addition to Ramirez but the pitching is not likely to hold up, even at Dodger Stadium. In a wide open division the Dodgers can’t be counted out and in a major market making a midseason move to acquire pitching is a strong possibility. Overall Arizona looks to be in much better shape and the division could be tougher with San Francisco and San Diego likely to be better than last season.

Giants Forecast: UNDER 80½ WINS

The Giants have become a hot team this spring as many expect a big increase in wins. San Francisco has won 76 or fewer games each of the past four years but is now priced well above that figure despite limited improvements made to the team. On paper the rotation looks outstanding but expecting Tim Lincecum to have another Cy Young season is asking a lot and Matt Cain and Barry Zito have only been good for compiling losses the past two years even if their overall numbers indicate they should be better than the records. The elderly Randy Johnson and the injured Noah Lowry will be wild cards in the rotation and Jonathan Sanchez showed flashes of brilliance last season but this lineup is unlikely to generate great production. San Francisco was one of the lowest scoring teams in baseball last season and even though the team played well late in the year expecting a huge boost in offense is at very long odds, especially with several unproven rookies likely starting this season. Adding Edgar Renteria could pay off at some point but the rest of the infield will be very inexperienced and the offensive contribution could be minimal.

Rockies Forecast: OVER 77½ WINS

Colorado could not repeat the magical run of 2007 and with the biggest star on the team shipped out there rightfully are some guarded expectations for this team. Even without Matt Holliday this should be a productive offense and four starters that won at least ten games last season are back in the mix with several capable options currently fighting for the #5 spot. This could actually be a pretty good pitching team, relatively speaking, and the closer role has two attractive candidates with Manny Corpas and Huston Street. Although approaching 90 wins and the playoffs might be a stretch, approaching .500 is likely and the coaching staff has a lot of pressure on it as contracts were not extended. The Rockies could be a surprisingly solid team or a team that makes an early coaching move. If that is the case they could be a candidate for a late season surge as there is enough talent on this squad to be an above average team and the home ballpark edge also presents an advantage. Injuries have been a concern this spring with three starters already on the mend and Jeff Francis may never make it on the mound this season but Colorado could rebound from a disappointing 2008 season and in a wide open division anything can happen.

Padres Forecast: UNDER 70½ WINS

The Padres had a disastrous season in 2008 following being just a game away from the playoffs in 2007. This year’s team has gone through a major makeover but despite circling rumors Jake Peavy still leads the rotation. Peavy and Chris Young make for a formidable 1-2 punch if healthy and the rest of the rotation has potential and there is still a chance that Mark Prior could be added to the mix at some point. Although the lineup does not look threatening San Diego has put together a team that is suited for Petco Park. With the team in an ownership transition things could get worse before they get better and a fire sale is still a possibility. The expectations are at an all-time low and in a division where no team truly stands out San Diego can put together a respectable year with this pitching staff. San Diego has struggled this spring however so the early signs are not encouraging. We would not recommend playing the ‘under’ given such a low number but it would take a great deal of courage to play the ‘over’ on this team.

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Re: MLB Total Wins Previews

American League Preview
by: Nellys Sportsline

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Yankees Forecast: OVER 95½ WINS


The Yankees are absolutely loaded this season which is nothing new, but consider this is a team that only had two projected starters pitch the majority of the season last year. If Chien-Ming Wang regains his past form this could be an exceptional rotation. Expecting C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to replicate the years they had last season would be foolish but even at 75% of last year’s level would be good enough for the Yankees considering the run support that will be granted. An aging Mike Mussina won 20 games for this team last year and only two starters hit double-digits as New York had to shuffle through several young pitchers that were not ready. This year the rotation will be strong and that should help the bullpen as well. Having A-Rod and his circus of distractions out for the first two months might actually be a great thing for this team to get out to a strong start and set the focus for the season. Mark Teixeira will have a tough time living up to his contract but this is still a very dangerous offense that will have no problem being one of the better scoring units in this league. The division is very tough but the Yankees will do what is necessary to get back into the postseason and they likely won’t need to add much.

Red Sox Forecast: UNDER 94½ WINS

Boston still possesses one of the great pitching staffs in baseball and Josh Beckett had a down year last season. For Boston to win this division he will need to regain his form as one of the elite pitchers in baseball. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester both had brilliant seasons last year which may be tough to replicate and Brady Penny and John Smoltz will be wild cards that could help out at some point if they can get and stay healthy. There will not be much change in the lineup from the end of last season with shortstop being the only spot that is not yet finalized between Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo. The Red Sox had Manny Ramirez in the lineup for many of the 95 wins last season so it is possible that Boston could take a small dip in their overall record. New York has obviously taken steps to improve and Tampa Bay will still be a very solid team that could actually be better than last season as well, making the Sox look like the team that might drop to third in the standings. It is dangerous to doubt the Sox as the organization has been very well run in recent years but the increased age of several key players and some mounting injury concerns leave some doubt about this team’s ability to sustain a high level of play.

Rays Forecast: UNDER 88½ WINS

The Rays completed an incredible run last year all the way to the World Series despite virtually no success as a franchise. Tampa Bay added Pat Burrell to the lineup and returns with most of the team in tact from last year. It will be a much tougher journey to the top this season and many teams that have made similar runs in recent seasons fail to return to the playoffs the next year around (The Rockies, White Sox, and Marlins are good examples). Boston and New York both made moves to get back to the top of this division and expecting the same level of pitching might be unrealistic. The Rays will have David Price waiting in the wings to bolster the rotation at some point and the offense should still be very effective. Closer Troy Percival will likely not be ready to return for a while and the bullpen which was such a great strength last year may not be as strong. B. J. Upton is also likely to miss some time after off-season surgery so the injuries are starting to pile up after the long 2008 season. The expectations of success carry a heavy weight and although Tampa Bay has a talented team that appears to have been built to sustain long term success, a small step back this season would not be a surprise especially considering how many close games the Rays were able to pull out last season.

Blue Jays Forecast: UNDER 79½ WINS

The Blue Jays have been just a small step away from the playoffs in recent years but have been unable to take a major leap like the Rays did last season. The injuries in the pitching staff could be devastating to a squad that produced a winning record mainly due to very solid pitching last year. Dustin McGowan, Shane Marcum, and Casey Janssen will all be out early and the best of the three, Marcum is out for the whole season. Three inexperienced starters will likely be called to duty indefinitely which is a recipe for disaster in this powerful division. Toronto failed to make an impact signing on offense and although lineup is decent overall, it still rates behind the top three teams in this division. Unless the young pitching delivers spectacular results and Roy Halladay has another brilliant season Toronto could be in trouble. The bullpen is a strong point for this team but could be overworked early in the year with all the young pitching. Jesse Litsch had a nice season in 2008 and he will be counted on to produce a lot of innings and be a reliable turn in the rotation if the Jays are to have a chance to stay in the mix. Although Toronto does not look remarkably worse than last season, the competition in this division has elevated and the Jays will have a hard time keeping up.

Orioles Forecast: UNDER 71½ WINS

Baltimore’s rotation is filled with gambles and castaways outside of Jeremy Guthrie although the lineup looks fairly promising. Koji Uehara will be a wild card in the rotation but was Japan’s best pitcher in two seasons of his career and had excellent success in the 2006 WBC. After trying to land Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett the Orioles came up empty but they appear to be on the upslope after three straight years of 70 or fewer wins. The Orioles have been one of the biggest money losers in the league the last four years and the expectations seem a bit inflated this year as well. In a pitching rich division the Orioles do not come close to matching the top teams unless some of the inconsistent veterans somehow find miraculous form or Uehara is the real deal. The bullpen should be capable behind George Sherrill and the lineup has excellent speed and better power than you might expect. This is an intriguing team that could be pretty good on the offensive end but will have a hard time getting quality starts and holding early leads.


AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians Forecast: UNDER 85½ WINS


Cliff Lee had a dominant season going 22-3 to capture the Cy Young but the Indians had all sorts of problems with the rest of the rotation. Fausto Carmona could not replicate his great 2007 season and if not for the disastrous season for the Tigers had, the Indians would have caught more flak as this is a team that was so close to the World Series in 2007. Carl Pavano and Anthony Reyes will get shots at redemption this season in the Cleveland rotation. Injuries are going to be a concern as the absence of Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez for much of last season was costly. Mark DeRosa was a nice signing but the lineup lacks the depth it had in past years. With the emergence of Kelly Shoppach last season, don’t be surprised to see Martinez eventually start to see some time at first base. Many expect Cleveland to be the team to beat in this division but it will be tough to pull away from the pack in this league as all five teams will be competitive and Cleveland’s pitching will be a big question mark even if Lee and Carmona can hold the top two spots with good results. The Indians are an intriguing team and have been a team that has alternated strong years with disappointing years in recent times.

Twins Forecast: OVER 83½ WINS

There has been a big dark cloud over Twins training camp with two-time batting champion Joe Mauer out with a difficult to determine injury. Minnesota’s starting pitching was very solid last season despite relying on young pitchers but if Francisco Liriano can pitch a full season and the other pitchers can come close to last season’s numbers the Twins will be a contender. The offense lacks the power threats of some of its rivals but still can be a productive team and the potential is there for an even better season than last year with Michael Cuddyer healthy, Denard Span and Alexi Casilla on the team for the full year and possible improvements from Jason Kubel and Carlos Gomez. If Mauer is out for an extended period of time the chances for the Twins go down as he is key piece of the offense and critical defender that has worked well with the pitching staff. The bullpen was a bit of a problem last season but Jose Mirajes showed a lot of promise late last year and Joe Nathan remains one of the top closers in the game. Minnesota had good fortune with the pitching staff last season so a slight decline might be in order but if Mauer can play most of the year this offense should be improved and capable of winning this division.

Tigers Forecast: UNDER 81½ WINS

The Tigers were easily the most disappointing team in baseball last season, finishing last in the Central despite many projecting the team to make the World Series. The offense put up fine numbers but the pitching staff was horrendous as the bullpen struggled and the starting pitching was not nearly as strong as expected. Justin Verlander had a disappointing year and the Tigers got just three wins from Jeremy Bonderman and no wins from Dontrelle Willis. Armando Gallarraga emerged as a solid starter with a good campaign but the rotation was mainly a mess and the bullpen wasted plenty of good starts. There are a few changes this season but mainly the hopes for the Tigers rest on rebound efforts from several key players. The Tigers still have a lineup this is dangerous on paper but as last season proved a great offense is not enough to win in the American League. Detroit should score some runs and will have plenty of motivation after such a horrendous 2008 season. Coach Leyland’s job is likely on the line and a complete overhaul might be in the works if the Tigers get off to another terrible start to the season.

White Sox Forecast: OVER 78½ WINS

Chicago won this division last season, needing a tiebreaker game at the end of the year in addition to squeezing in a make-up game. The Sox made the playoffs but appeared out of gas in an early exit. The Chicago pitching staff was very solid last season as John Danks and Gavin Floyd had breakout years. If Mark Buehrle and Jose Contreras can rebound from disappointing years this could easily be the best rotation in this division. Contreras will not be ready to go out the gate but this should still be a very solid rotation with a very good bullpen as well. The lineup has a few question marks with the losses of Joe Crede, Nick Swisher, and Ken Griffey Jr. but none of the three hit for a strong average last season. If Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez can play a full season this should still be a productive offense. Not everything is settled for the White Sox but there are a lot of question marks in this division and Chicago has won at least 89 games in three of the last four years. Youngsters Josh Fields and Chris Getz can be slowly brought into the back of the lineup with low expectations and pressure, something that most teams in this division can not afford to do.

Royals Forecast: UNDER 75½ WINS

The Royals were startlingly respectable last season, making four straight years of substantial improvement. The next step would lead Kansas City close to the .500 mark. This division is wide open so a rise to the top would not be impossible but the enthusiasm should be grounded a bit as there are still a lot of problems with this team. The final three spots of the rotation are still shaky at best and Kansas City lost two key relievers from last year’s very respectable bullpen. Joakin Soria has proven to be a legit closer but the middle innings could be much more of a problem this season. Mike Jacobs adds a little more power to the lineup but defensively second base and first base are still question marks. Coco Crisp will have a chance to be an every day player but the success of this team likely relies on the expectation of improvement from highly regarded young hitters Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Gil Meche and Zack Greinke provide a nice 1-2 to lead the pitching staff but neither has been incredibly consistent and every team in the division likely has a stronger top two starters. Kansas City is capable of a similar season to last year but without another quality starter and another big bat in the lineup this team may have reached its ceiling with 75 wins last season. The clubhouse attitude and the direction of the team are positive but there does not appear to be quite enough there without some major surprise breakout performances.


AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Angels Forecast: UNDER 88½ WINS


The Angels have been the class of the AL West in recent years and should still be the favorite, but expect the gap to close a bit this season. The off-season losses were many with Mark Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez, Garret Anderson, and Jon Garland. To make matters worse the pitching staff is decimated with injuries, as John Lackey and Ervin Santana are both battling elbow issues and the timetable is unknown. Kelvim Escobar could be back at some point this summer but not for several months. Brian Fuentes was a big signing for the Angels to replace Rodriguez but his track record of success is not even close and he has had trouble holding onto his job as closer in the past. The injuries mean that Nick Adenhart and Shane Loux, two inexperienced prospects will likely be taking regular turns in the rotation for the time being and the bullpen will feel the toll as well. Bobby Abreu adds a little punch to the offense although he is coming off an underwhelming season and the production void at first base could be hard to make up. There is still enough on this team to win the division but the AL West could be much like the NL West of last season where mediocrity prevails and it will not take a brilliant record to win the title.

Athletics Forecast: OVER 82½ WINS

Oakland has an extremely young and inexperienced rotation but it is filled with talented prospects that will have the chance to learn on the job and actually could have some success playing in a pitching friendly stadium. Oakland’s past success with developing pitching is indisputable so the rotation may actually be in decent shape, especially once Justin Duchcherer is healthy. Brad Ziegler emerged as a dominant relief pitcher last season and he will lead a pretty solid mix of relievers in the bullpen. Oakland also will possibly have four left-handed pitchers in the rotation something that could be a bit of an advantage against certain teams. The lineup has added a few veterans that should instantly improve the offense considerably. Orlando Cabrera does not put up gaudy numbers but his track record of success in leading winning teams is remarkable. Matt Holliday has been one of the NL’s best hitters the past few years and Jason Giambi’s return will add a patient power threat to the middle of the lineup. Nomar Garciaparra could also be a contributor at some point as well. Rajai Davis is another player with the potential to be a contributor. With the Angels looking considerably vulnerable the A’s will have an opportunity.

Rangers Forecast: OVER 74½ WINS

The same problems should continue for the Rangers as the lineup has had trouble staying healthy and the pitching simply is not good enough to compete on many nights, particularly in an offense friendly park. The lineup has the potential to be very good with big power numbers but the numbers Milton Bradley put up last season will not be east to replace. Most of the rotation is back in action for Texas but that may not be a good thing. No pitcher made it more than 171 innings last year and the rotation will feature all right-handed pitching. Vicente Padilla was the lone bright spot for the Rangers pitching staff but his 4.74 ERA indicates that 14 wins will be tough to repeat. The closer role is up for grabs as C.J. Wilson appears to be healthy against but Frank Francisco filled in capably late last season. Texas has won at least 75 games each of the past four seasons and with this lineup the potential will always be there. This division should be competitive this season but Texas will likely be close but not quite enough to win the division or break .500, which has been a common occurrence for this group of players. Like Colorado, Texas will never have top notch pitching, but if the Rangers get average pitching, they will have a chance.

Mariners Forecast: OVER 72½ WINS

Seattle was a tremendous disappointment last season, losing over 100 games despite making a few big moves and seemingly positioning for a playoff push. Things could turn around this season however if the pitching staff can stay healthy. Felix Hernandez is yet to deliver his breakout season after years of teasing but he has the potential. Erik Bedard has not proven to be fully healthy but was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2007. Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn have been disappointments but both are better than most teams will have as options in the back of the rotation. It appears Brandon Morrow will be back in the bullpen after toying with starting but he can still be a key contributor. Veteran Miguel Batista appears to be back in the closer role but could move to a starting role if needed as well. Signing Ken Griffey Jr. should at the least provide a nice spark of enthusiasm for the team and Russell Branyan and Mike Sweeney can be great power sources. Prospect Jeff Clement may also have a chance to contribute at some point as well. The outfield is a bit green with the loss of Raul Ibanez but improving on 61 wins should be a certainty and the Mariners can be an outside threat in this division.

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Re: MLB Total Wins Previews

Robert Ferringo

I took all of my numbers from Bodog and BetCris, which are two of the most reputable sportsbooks online. I understand that all books are different, but I think that that you'll find there isn't much variance between the numbers in Vegas and at different online books. I have two "top" futures and then my other highest value futures. I think we're set for a great year and I think these are great long-term investments. Best of luck to us!

2009 MLB Futures Plays

6-Unit Play. Take Tampa Bay ‘Under’ 89.0 Total Wins (BetCris)
Man, o’ man, o’ man, did the Rays have a season in 2008. Talk about coming out of nowhere: this team was basically a minor league team before it busted out for 97 wins and the A.L. Championship. It was a Cinderella story that made everyone feel good.

It kind of reminds me of the 2007 Colorado Rockies. They only won about 20 games less the season following their magical run. Or what about the 2006 Detroit Tigers, whose turnaround mirrored that of Tampa Bay? They back-slid seven games in 2007, the year after their magical run. And finally, the last World Series loser was the 2005 Houston Astros. They also saw their win total slip back by seven games following their magical run and they too missed the playoffs. So, clearly, the recent World Series losers – especially one that came out of NOWHERE to made it into the Fall Classic have experienced a significant decline the following season. I think Tampa is in for a similar regression.

It seems obvious to say that Tampa Bay overachieved last year. But if you look at some of the metrics that I (and a lot of serious baseball people) use to project teams really show how much they overachieved.

First, the Rays surpassed their Pythagorean (Expected) Wins total by a full six wins. Well, teams that were +5 or higher against their X-Wins the year before (Tampa was +6) had fewer wins the next season in 22 of 32 instances over the last six years. And over the last six years the team that had the second-highest overachievement against the X-Wins (the Angels were No. 1 last year) saw their wins drop by an average of 13 games the following season. And even if you kick out Seattle’s 27-game plummet between 2007 and 2008 the No. 2 overachiever dropped an average of 10 wins the following year.

Further, the Rays were an incredible 29-18 in one-run games and 38-26 in games in which they scored between 3-5 runs. Both of those win totals were No. 2 in the Majors and will be nearly impossible to replicate. Just like in football when you have teams that win an inordinate amount of games by three or six points or less one year they usually drop off significantly the following season.

Finally, the Rays received unbelievable pitching last year and play great defense. But there are some indications – particularly in the innings increase across the board – that suggest to me that they could have some starters injured this year and they could have some guys slide back from their career numbers. You also have to consider the wear and tear that all of those postseason innings added onto these young arms as well. And this lineup is not good enough to carry this team. If you really look at their lineup they are basically just a bunch of .250 to .275 hitters that performed exceptionally well in the clutch last year.

Basically, this team just caught a rush and had a dream season last year. They won a ridiculous amount of games with late-inning comebacks or late-inning heroics. That doesn’t carry over to the next season. Add on top of that the fact that the Red Sox will be more stable and the Yankees improved and wins are going to be more difficult to come by. Also, Tampa Bay isn’t going to sneak up on anyone this year. Up until about July last year teams were still looking at Tampa Bay the same way they had for the seven years prior: an easy series victory. Now that they are the defending A.L. champions they go from being the team that opponents use to rest their players against to being the team that opponents rest their players for. To beat us the Rays would have to go out and win 90, 91, or 92 games. I don’t see it happening. I think they could have a totally respectable year with 86 or 88 wins and we will collect in the process.

5-Unit Play. Take Toronto ‘Under’ 79.5 Total Wins (Bodog)
This Blue Jays team reminds me just a little bit of the 2008 San Diego Padres. Both teams were coming off several strong years of competing in their division by relying on great pitching, strong defense, and timely hitting to win one-run games. Well, a couple injuries, a couple guys underperforming, and all of a sudden the wheels came off for the Dads last year and they tumbled to a 63-win disaster. The Blue Jays have averaged a very respectable 80.5 wins per season over the last five years but I think this is their weakest club and I think they are set to tumble.

Last year the Blue Jays had the best pitching in baseball. They played exceptional defense and won a lot of 3-1, 2-1 games. However, they enter the season without three of the five starters that made their rotation so formidable last year: A.J. Burnett was traded and both Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum is likely going to miss this season with injuries. That leaves Roy Halladay and shaky Jesse Litsch as the only arms they have. That’s not good. The bullpen is still solid, but without the starters eating up innings (Toronto’s starters threw the most innings of any team in the Majors last year) the bullpen is going to get worn out and exposed. Again, the key to their run in 2008 was starting pitching and they just don’t have those arms any more.

This team was actually on my list of Pythagorean underachievers last season. But there is no way – absolutely no way – they are going to top last season’s 86 wins. The PECOTA Letdown System (two or more straight years of surpassing the PECOTA projections means they will come under the projections the following year) is in play with this team and their PECOTA is already just at 74. If they come up lower than that I see around 72 wins for this club.

Further, I think that Baltimore is much improved and that they are going to threaten, if not take over, fourth place in the A.L. East. But it is clear that Toronto and Baltimore are fighting for that fourth place slot. Well, Toronto’s 2008 season was historic for another reason: they far surpassed the 10-year average wins for the fourth place team in the A.L. East, which is just 72.2. In fact, only once in the last 10 years has the team that finished in fourth in the East won more than 78 games and only twice have they won over 74 games. Toronto won 86. That’s a severe statistical anomaly.

Also, the Blue Jays have actually gone ‘Under’-‘Over’-‘Under’-‘Over’ for their season wins totals. I think this holds true to form and that Toronto is a very strong ‘Under’ play.

3-Unit Play. Take Milwaukee ‘Under’ 81.5 Total Wins (BetCris)

2.5-Unit Play. Take Atlanta ‘Over’ 83.5 Total Wins (BetCris)
While it seems like Atlanta has been simply sliding down from their Glory Days over the past few seasons they have really been on a roller coaster in relation to their preseason projections. They severely overachieved in 2005 and then came back to dreadfully underachieve against inflated projections in 2006. They bounced back relatively strong in 2007, by topping their Vegas total and PECOTA projections, but then went downhill in 2008, staying ‘under’ their PECOTA and Vegas predictions.

Now, the last time that they went under both their PECOTA and Vegas totals was 2006 and they bounced back with a solid ‘over’ in 2007. And further the preseason PECOTA projections is a perfect 4-0 against the Vegas odds in predicting how the Braves will (if the PECOTA is higher than Vegas the Braves have gone ‘over’ and vice versa). Well, this year Atlanta’s PECOTA is set at a solid 86.

Next, the Braves have actually underachieved, according to their Pythagorean Wins total, in each of the last three seasons. They were -6 in 2006 and, in holding with my Pythagorean Wins System, they went ‘over’ their Vegas wins total in 2007. However, they did so while still posting a -4. Then last year they posted a -7, which again means that they should increase their wins. And when you consider how they underachived last year according to their Vegas total and their PECOTA, that makes the 2008 Atlanta Braves as Total Underachievers. And over the last two years TU’s have gone a solid 8-3 against their Vegas wins total the following season and 10-6 ‘over’ in the past three years.

The Braves were also the worst team in the Majors – by far – in one run games. They were a pathetic 11-30. This team has won an average of 84.3 games per season over each of the past five years and has only failed to top 84 wins twice during that stretch.

Finally, if you just look at Atlanta’s roster there is no doubt that this is set to be a better team this year. They significantly upgraded their pitching staff by bringing in innings eaters in Derek Lowe and Javy Vasquez. That slides Jair Jurrjens, who had a breakout year, back a few slots and allows guys like Kawakami, Glavine and Jorge Campillo to fill out the back end. Also, as long as close Mike Gonzalez and some of the other arms stay healthy then this bullpen is going to be significantly better. And, again, if the starters are going deeper into games (the Braves were No. 27 of 30 in terms of starters’ innings pitched last year) that is also going to help protect what could be a decent bullpen.

Atlanta also had a load of injuries in the field last year. Chipper was banged up. Yunel Escobar is going to have a breakout year (bank it) and was playing great until he hurt his wrist. Matt Diaz can rake, and they missed his bat in left. I think Casey Kotchman is going to bounce back and have a real solid year. I mean, the guy was traded from the team with the best record in baseball to the way-out-of-contention Braves, so I can understand him not finishing strong. Guys like Brandon Jones, Jordan Schafer, Jeff Franceour, and Greg Blanco have some upside. And solid pros like Garrett and Brian Anderson can fill do some good things and provide a steady hand. Mix in the fact that Bobby Cox is still one of the best in the business and I think that Atlanta will be back in business.

This number is going to be close. Really close. The Braves will likely win around 85 or 86 games this year. But as long as we get to 84 I’m cool with it.

1.5-Unit Play. Take Los Angeles Angels ‘Under’ 88.5 Total Wins
I know that this seems like an odd play considering that the Angels have dominated the A.L. West over the last several seasons, they have won an average of 94 games over the last five years, and they are coming off a season in which they won 100 games. However, given all those facts don’t you think that it’s odd that their wins total is so LOW to start the year? To me that’s a huge red flag and that makes the ‘over’ a sucker bet.

Also, all of the numbers I considered suggest a massive letdown.

The Angels were by far the league’s biggest overachievers last year. Their +12 actual wins total vs. their Pythagorean Wins total was far and away the highest disparity as was their +12 actual wins vs. their PECOTA projections. That’s a tremendous disparity. Teams that were +5 or higher against the Pythagorean wins had fewer wins in 22 of 32 seasons, while teams that surpassed their PECOTA wins two (or more) year in a row had fewer wins in 19 of 32 instances. Next, teams that were Total Overachievers – according to the three matrices that I use – have gone just 6-11 against their Vegas wins total the next season.

Also, the Angels had the most wins in the league in one-run games last year (31). It’s unusual for that level of late-game luck to hold up yet again for this team.

So besides the fact that all of the numbers are SCREAMING that the Angels are going to be a letdown this season there are also some issues I have with their roster. They lost Mark Teixeira, Garrett Anderson and K-Rod from last year’s team, and all three were really key pieces. I understand that they had some injury issues that they overcame last season, but I think that’s just because they have some injury-prone guys and that it could be a factor again this year. Bobby Abreau and Vlad Guerrero are aging and can’t be counted on for a full 162, and if Vlad is lost this team is in real trouble.

John Lackey is already experiencing arm trouble and Ervin Santana is going to miss the first month of the year. They ditched steady Jon Garland. Kelvim Escobar is still working back from injury. Lackey, Santana, and Garland combined for 88 starts, a 42-20 record, and about half of Anaheim’s total starter’s innings. Escobar was 18-7 in 2007. The Angels likely will open the season with a rotation of righthanders Nick Adenhart, Shane Loux, Dustin Moseley and Jered Weaver and lefthander Joe Saunders. That’s not good.

The only reason that this isn’t a top play – it has all the makings – is because I have that much respect for Mike Scioscia and the Angels organization. Oh, that and the A.L. West stinks.

1-Unit Play. Take 'Over' 71.5 Baltimore Total Wins (Bodog)
0.5-Unit Play. Take 'Over' Kansas City 75.5 Total Wins (Bodog)
0.5-Unit Play. Take 'Over' 84.5 Cleveland Total Wins (BetCris)

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Re: MLB Total Wins Previews

Futures - Win Totals
By Scott Rickenbach

It's that time of year again! Spring is in the air and the Baseball season gets underway on Sunday, April 5th with the Phillies hosting the Braves. Then, on Monday, it's the more "traditional" opening day with a number of teams in action including plenty of daytime baseball. It's a wonderful time of year and it's something we look forward to with great anticipation. To help get you "geared up" for one of the best times of year, here are five teams and their respective win totals along with an opinion on the over or the under. Keep in mind, there are 30 teams to look at but these are 3 teams that we feel offer particularly strong value for the 2009 season! Now it's time to "play ball" so let's get to work!
   
Minnesota Twins OVER 83 wins - First off, playing in the American League's Central Division means there is plenty of mediocrity to contend with. The Twins will have many games against the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, and Detroit Tigers. That right there is an edge for this over. One of the key things we like about the Twins is their hunger here as they just missed the post-season last year when the White Sox beat them out by one game to take the division. Also, Minnesota's rotation is very solid for 2009 and pitching is always a big key. We like Ron Gardenhire's strong managerial skills and, of course, Joe Nathan is a solid closer. The defense is solid and the Twins also have good sticks on the bench. Once again, this team will not hit a lot of homers but we do like the addition of Joe Crede in terms of boosting the offense. Once again though, pitching and "small ball" on offense will lead the way for the Twins!

Oakland Athletics OVER 81.5 wins - The A's should enjoy more success than many are expecting. For starters, the Angels are getting all the hype in the AL West Division but the A's do look like they're a solid step above the other two teams. The Texas Rangers are weak on pitching and the Seattle Mariners are weak on hitting! As for the A's, they've been known for a long time now as a weak-hitting, pitching-heavy ballclub. While that time of team is most conducive to success in pitcher-friendly Oakland, this team should definitely be much stronger at the plate this season. The A's have an improved offense with the additions of Orlando Cabrera, Matt Holliday, and Jason Giambi. The Athletics offense looks much improved over last season's team. Additionally, even though the rotation is young, we like the looks of the solid arms there including some good ones that good break through this season if called upon. Keep in mind, as usual, the pitchers will be helped by pitching their home games (as well as divisional road games at Seattle and Anaheim) in pitcher-friendly parks! Remember the Tampa Bay Rays rotation was also considered young last season and look where they ended up! Helped by the fact that their bullpen also looks strong and the A's have added pop in the lineup, they could surprise some people!

Cincinnati Reds OVER 79.5 wins - Playing in the National League Central gives the Reds a lot of opportunity against weaker foes. Here's a key note about that too. The Pirates have the lowest posted win total for the upcoming season out of all thirty MLB teams. As for the other four central division teams - Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Cardinals - their posted win total for the upcoming season is lower than the number of wins they had last season. Guess who that leaves as the most improved club here? It is Cincinnati, of course! The Reds will likely be chasing the Cubs - like everyone else in the division - but, the fact is that the Cardinals bullpen is a mess and the starting rotation has question marks. The Brewers lost key pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets. The Astros starting rotation also looks weak and the Pirates..well..they're still the Pirates - enough said! The Reds improved outlook stems from a potentially dominant starting rotation. The top four guys are all capable of dominating and came up with impressive starts last season. With consistency the domination becomes a regular occurrence. Even the #5 spot in the rotation has been a good battle between Micah Owings and Homer Bailey. Manager Dusty Baker loves his pitching staff and wishes he could keep 14 instead of just 12. That's how strong the rotation and bullpen has potential to be. The Reds lineup is of concern as, even though they play their home games in a home run hitters park, they aren't really built for homers. However, Baker's perceived philosophy on this is to build for overall success not just to suit your home park. Baker has a lot of confidence in some guys at the top of the lineup to set the table for some bats that (though they are not Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey) have pop like Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Joey Votto. The bench depth of this team is not a strength but we like the composition of these teams lineup, rotation, and bullpen and they are very likely to finish above .500 this season.

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Re: MLB Total Wins Previews

IC's 2009 MLB Futures
by Indian Cowboy

I’m no Robert Ferringo (who is lights out in baseball), but for the summer, I cap the American League (totals only) and the WNBA. Part of the process in handicapping baseball in the preseason is to jump on the bandwagon of teams that you believe are undervalued. Given that I follow just the fifteen teams in the AL, my “future” wagers are limited. But I believe there is good value with one particular team given the current line for its win total.

This is my only future for this upcoming baseball season:

6-Unit Play. Take Over 73.5 Wins for the Texas Rangers for 2009 Season.
I am high on the Rangers this year. If you have tracked the Rangers over the last four years, they have exceeding 73.5 wins each time:

2008: 79 Wins
2007: 75 Wins
2006: 80 Wins
2005: 79 Wins

Is it really out of the realm for this team who has exceeded 73.5 wins the last four years not to exceed it again? I think not. I expect the Rangers as well as their pitching staff to do well this year. This staff is coming around over the past few years headlined by Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison, and Brandon McCarthy with Kason Gabbard being the alternate.

Millwood comes off a nine-win season, his worst since 2001. I expect him to have a bounce back year. He is still a workhorse as he has pitched over 25 games in the last 10 of 11 years. Padilla comes off a strong season going 14-8 with a 4.74 ERA. This is in stark contrast with his 6-10 record with a 5.76 ERA from the year prior. What is most impressive about Vicente is that he improved his road splits from the previous years. Harrison went 9-3 last year and Feldman did a bit worse going 6-8. Bear in mind that Feldman picked up just 14 decisions despite pitching in 25 games. I expect both of these pitchers to pick up at least 10 wins this year. Remember, we don’t need either to be a Cy Young – we just need them to do their part in getting over 73.5 Wins. McCarthy and Gabbard both are great talents and I expect their friendly competition to bring out the best in both of them.

This team boasts a decent bullpen with C.J. Wilson, Frank Francisco, Warner Madrigal, Dustin Nippert and Derrick Turnbow. If that is not enough, this team has three of the most touted pitching prospects coming up from the farm. I can’t tell you how long it has been since the Rangers actually had a decent rotation already penciled in come the regular season. In many ways, this team has had the floor stable for some time as they have steadily rebuilt.

How can you talk about the Texas Rangers without speaking to their potent offense? This team’s offense this year will be flat out awesome. From the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Hank Blalock, Chris Davis (a young potent hitter who is a fantasy gem and I believe will have a breakout year), David Murphy, speedy Elvis Andrus and Taylor Teagarden/Jarrod Saltalamacchia likely splitting catching duties, this team is stacked from top to bottom with power and speed.

We do not need the Rangers to be involved in the pennant race or to be competitive for their division. All of that would be a bonus. We need this team to win more than 73.5 games this season. Considering this team has only gotten better, the Angels (who are in the AL West as well) will be much less potent this year as their pitching staff is banged up from top to bottom, the Rangers having the most potent offense in the division, and their pitching is more stabilized that it has been in quite some time, I expect the Rangers to post at least 78 wins this year. More importantly, I expect them to cash the Over 73.5 Wins ticket for the 2009-2010 season.

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