Jack Dempsey / AP
Thursday, March 29, 2018 | 2 a.m.
With a 162-game schedule and often-erratic single-game results, betting on baseball daily can be a slog. That’s why preseason future bets have become such an attractive option, especially over/under win totals. A bettor can pinpoint a few teams to back or fade and root them on throughout the entire five-month regular season.
Here are eight teams that might be worth an investment as the 2018 season begins:
Oakland Athletics (over 74 wins)
The A’s are perennial overachievers and have eclipsed their win total in four of the past six seasons. They’ve consistently beaten the betting market’s expectation, in part by making unexciting-but-shrewd offseason acquisitions. This year’s haul includes outfielders Dustin Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, who join a lineup of young sluggers that should put Oakland in position to contend for second in the American League West.
Los Angeles Angels (under 84.5 wins )
LA would need to have its best season in the past three years to beat this number. In actuality, the Angels look more likely to go in the other direction. With the oldest roster in the American League, they’re going to continue to receive diminishing returns from their veterans. Even if he hits and pitches at an All-Star level, prized free agent Shohei Ohtani won’t be enough to make up for the drop-off.
Chicago Cubs (over 93.5 wins)
It’s always difficult to bet over on this high of a number, but five teams have higher totals than the Cubs—the Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Nationals and Indians. Does anyone really think the Cubs are only the sixth-best team in the majors? This is a team that won 92 games in a down year in 2017 and has largely the same core of the 103-win 2016 World Series champions.
St. Louis Cardinals (under 86.5 wins)
This line has steamed up two wins since opening last month. The only explanation is that bettors are wagering on the franchise’s pedigree and not this year’s prospects. It wouldn’t be a new phenomenon, as the Cardinals are traditionally one of the most popularly backed teams in baseball. It hasn’t made for a winning proposition for gamblers, as the Cardinals have gone under their win total in four of the past five seasons.
Philadelphia Phillies (over 77.5 wins)
The Phillies went a Major League-worst 21-36 in one-run games last year. That’s an extremely volatile statistic almost guaranteed to improve this season, even if Philadelphia hadn’t upgraded its roster from top to bottom. Veteran additions like pitcher Jake Arrieta and first baseman Carlos Santana are a natural match with a number of young, breakout candidates developed over a five-year rebuilding period.
Colorado Rockies (under 81.5 wins)
Be wary of teams that made dramatic one-year leaps. It’s natural to expect them to stay on the same course and turn into contenders, but it rarely works out that smoothly. The Rockies improved by 12 wins last year and made their first postseason appearance in eight years, but some regression can be expected from an offense that produced a National League-high 824 runs. Their pitching staff also remains in question.
Toronto Blue Jays (over 80.5 wins)
All the betting focus is centered on the Yankees and the Red Sox in the American League East. That’s a mistake. A case could be made that any of the other three teams could crash the bluebloods’ party, especially the Blue Jays. Toronto was the most injured team in baseball last year and still managed 76 victories. The Blue Jays’ win total has also gone down a game since it opened, creating extra value.
Minnesota Twins (under 83.5 wins)
Think of the Twins as the American League equivalent of the Rockies. Minnesota made a historic 26-win leap last season, reaching 85 wins a year after bottoming out with a 59-103 record. Regression is in store.
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.