I know I start every my baseball preview the same way every season, waxing poetic about “hope springing eternal” and some variant of “I can’t BELIEVE it is already baseball season?!?” But I imagine Opening Day creeps up on most of you the same fashion, especially if you live in cooler climates. I mean, there was a dude ice fishing on my lake last weekend. Now, we are just a few days from baseball games that count. It’s can be difficult to mentally reconcile.
If are anything like me – and I think many of our readers are kindred spirits – Opening Day comes at the absolute PERFECT time of year. I also cover hoops, and as a life-long college hoops absolute junkie, the Final Four always leaves me a little bummed. All the build-up, all the hype, the frantic sprint of March Madness, and them the sudden realization that after tonight (Monday) we have to wait nearly EIGHT MONTHS for basketball – the longest layoff of any major sport.
But, as if a perfect “circle of life” peace offering from above, the day college hoops dies, baseball, glorious baseball, is resurrected. Hallelujah! I mean, uh, “Play Ball!”
I love handicapping Major League Baseball, because of all the sports, it wagers the most “true.” What I mean is, rarely is a game (or at least a wagerable aspect of it) influenced by one team’s effort. Football has fluke late covers because the margin means little – coaches just want to win, so there are some frustrating moments late in games. Basketball sees backdoor covers all the time with fouling and clearing the benches late, etc. But baseball games are always being competed honestly – at least in terms of runline and win/loss. If the “benches are cleared” the result has LONG since been determined. It is also the most nuanced wagering of professional sports. The lines look different with the varied odds, runlines, run totals, etc. and the teams are often secondary to the game’s starting pitchers when establishing said lines.
If betting on baseball is new to you, make sure you check out Kevin’s baseball betting guide on the website – it’ll really help.
In the meantime, here’s a look at the National League in 2017, along with some win total and future plays I like…
2017 NATIONAL LEAGUE BETTING PREVIEW:
The conventional wisdom is that the National League is Chicago’s to lose. And why not? The Cubs won the World Series, won 103 games, and nearly every key component from last year’s squad is still there, in his prime, or still on the upward climb towards reaching their prime. Their lineup is loaded. Their pitching is excellent. Their payroll is inconsequential, and their bench is DEEP. Add in one of the better managers in the business, and it is obvious why the Cubs are Vegas’s favorite to win the NL pennant at +175. But given how RANDOM the MLB postseason has been over the last decade and a half, it is hard for me to tell you in good faith that +175 in March is a good value for ANY team. Especially with so many other good clubs in the NL who might, GASP, have even BETTER lineups and rotations than the Cubbies.
Here’s a look at my three favorite NL Futures:
#1 – Washington Nationals +500 – When it comes to pennant futures, you really just want two things: a team that will likely get their lotto ticket to the party, and a team with at least two dominant starters who can do some damage when they get there. The Nats check both boxes with authority. They ran away and hid in the NL East last season, and though the Mets still have a potentially devastating starting pitching rotation, the Nats are right on par with the arms in Queens – assuming Tanner Roarke continues to progress and Strasburg can be Strasburg (the healthy version), and they have a better lineup. Add in the fact the Nats accomplished what they did last year with Bryce Harper having an “off” year and Trea Turner being a mid-season rookie call-up, and the sky is the limit in the Nation’s Capital this season.
MY PICK: WASHINGTON NATIONALS +500
#2 – San Francisco Giants +760 – Let’s start with the obvious; this team has ARMS. Madison Bumgarner is perhaps the best postseason pitcher ever. Backing him up in the rotation are Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzijia. That’s not bad. The weakness last season was the bullpen. The addition of Mark Melancon should really help. The middle relief is still a concern, but there is some optimism that weakness has been fortified.
Last year, the Giants blew 30 saves. That’s a LOT. They were just 28-27 in one-run games. Assuming that 30 blown saves is improved, the G-Men should be heading back to the postseason. And once, in, I wouldn’t mind a +760 Lotto ticket with Madison Bumgarner on it.
My PICK: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS +760
#3 – Colorado Rockies +2500 – This one is a long shot, admittedly. It’s unlikely the Rockies are winning a division with the dodgers and Giants lurking. But with the best lineup in the division, they are certainly worth a look. We know they are going to give up a lot of runs. The Coors effect isn’t fake. But their starting pitching is also improving. They are hoping for big things from Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson, but it isn’t like the Rockies will be wanting for run support.
This is my favorite sleeper and one of my favorite win total plays at 79.
MY PICK: COLORADO ROCKIES +2500
I like the Rockies to hit enough, and the Diamnodbacks and Padres to be bad enough to leave the door open for a bunch of wins in the NL West. Likewise, the Giants pitching is deep enough to push them near 90 wins and the NL East is weak enough with the Braves still rebuilding and the Marlins likely to struggle to help the Phillies take one more small step forward in 2017.
MY PICKS: COLORADO 79, PHILLIES 72.5, GIANTS 87.5
I like the Dodgers young talent, but I am not sold on their pitching depth behind Kershaw. I think the Giants win that division and the Dodgers come up just short of 90 wins. I also think this is a real tough year for the Marlins. The loss of Jose Fernandez is tragic, but from a purely baseball perspective, it is also very damaging to the franchise. It feels callous to write – and it is a sad thing to type – but not only will he be missed as a person, but it leaves a huge hole in the pitching rotation. Lastly, I think this is the year the Pirates finally fall off. Don’t be surprised if things go South, and longtime franchise centerpiece Andrew McCuthchen is on the market before the trade deadline.
MY PICKS: DODGERS 91.5, MARLINS 77.5, PIRATES 85.5