The MLB season is right around the corner, with Opening Day slated for April 1. We now have one week to get our MLB Future bets in, so let's look at my two favorite American League Win Totals on PointsBet. To see my two National League picks, check out this link.
Houston Astros Over/Under 87.5 Wins
Shame! Shame! Shame! (in my best Game of Thrones voice). That is all 2020 was about for the Astros. Fans, teams and social media made the Astros season all about the cheating scandal and deservingly so.
Now in 2021, how will Houston respond after a 29-31 season? The Astros finished second in the AL West, behind the Oakland Athletics (36-24). The rest of the division finished two-to-seven games back of the Astros.
The talent gap between the As and Astros compared to the rest of the division remains evident. Oakland lost pitchers Liam Hendriks and Marcus Semien this offseason, taking a step back. The Los Angeles Angeles put out practically the same production every season, while the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers continue to figure the roster out.
Last season's 29-31 season would have been an embarrassing follow-up to 107-55 record and three-straight 100 win seasons if not for the almost World Series run. Houston was on pace to win 78-79 games with 83-84 losses.
Much of that dealt with going 14-22 over the final 36 games of the season. In the second-half (30 games) of the season, Houston went 12-18 and 11-14 versus division opponents.
Versus AL West opponents last season:
Vs. Seattle: 7-3 (started 6-1)
Vs. Texas: 5-5 (started 5-2, went 1-3 L4 games of the season)
Vs. LAA: 4-6 (started 4-2)
Vs. Oakland: 3-7 (started 0-3)
Houston had a chance to finish at .500 or better last season but went 1-3 in the final four games of the year versus Texas.
The outfield is an interesting bunch. Led by Michael Brantley, he is joined by Myles Straw, who played 33 games last season and Kyle Tucker, who is expected to take a leap this season. The infield is stacked and one of the best in baseball, leaving the stress on this outfield group for some much-needed production.
Zack Greinke returns as the ace with a rotation of Lance McCullers Jr. and Jose Urquidy. Houston signed Jake Odorizzi from Minnesota and is expected to promote Christian Javier from relief pitcher to backend starter in the rotation. Framber Valdez is another option and player that will likely get spot starts if he does not crack the starting rotation.
Justin Verlander is already back to throwing five months since Tommy John Surgery. The recovery typically takes 12-14 months, so he is expected to miss the entire or most of the season, but Verlander throwing now is promising.
Do not bank on Verlander impacting the Over/Under towards the end of the season. If he comes back, I think it could hurt this team more than help if he is not 100-percent and they are in the middle of a playoff push - I could be the minority with that thought. Closer Ryan Pressley's nine blown saves over the last two seasons and four last season (2nd-most) are more concerning.
At least two AL West teams have won 86 or more games in the last five seasons, with three teams with 84 or more in 2015, 2016 and 2018. You are basically banking on Houston being a top-two team in the AL West or one the Astros being the top-seven teams in the American League.
TEAMS IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE WITH 86 WINS OR MORE
2019: Six teams (two in AL West)
2018: Seven teams (three in AL West)
2017: Four teams (one in AL West, Houston)
2016: Seven teams (two in AL West, Houston had 84)
2015: Five teams (two in AL West, LAA had 85)
I like the chances Houston finishes second or better in the AL West behind its hitters and the division's lack of talent. I think last season will light a fire under the Astros and they will be out to prove 2020 was not a fluke, despite everyone cheering for it.
I locked this in earlier in the week at 86.5 and the line moved to 87.5 Wednesday night - I would still play that. I think there is value at the +950 to win the AL West. I mean, they were only one game away last season.
Pick: Astros Over 87.5 Wins (-110)
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Chicago White Sox Over/Under 90.5 Wins
“F*** it, we’re the best team in the American League,” said White Sox shortstop Time Anderson. The Yankees, Rays, Twins, Indians, As or Astros? Nope, Anderson confidently said the White Sox as the best team in the AL on a radio interview during Spring Training.
Well, all right then! A little bias, but I LOVE it. If that does not get you excited for baseball, I do not know what will.
Chicago is on the come up and if you did not watch them much last season, they were a fun squad that competed for a postseason spot up until the last 10 games of the season. The White Sox were 33-17, but finished the 2020 campaign 35-25, going 2-8 in the final 10 games.
It is clearly a three-team race in the AL Central, possibly even two with Cleveland losing some important pieces in Trevor Bauer (Dodgers), Francisco Lindor (Mets) and Carlos Carrasco (Mets). The Indians were the only team in the AL Central with a winning record versus Chicago last season and I expect that to change in 2021.
Versus AL Central opponents last season:
Vs. Minnesota: 5-5
Vs. Cleveland: 2-8 (started 2-2, lost six-straight)
Vs. Kansas City: 9-1
Vs. Detroit: 9-1
The White Sox went 18-2 versus Detroit and Kansas City. While that is more than likely not attainable over a full-season, the Astros should still win at least 60% of its meetings with the Royals and Tigers. The Twins will be the White Sox's primary competition, and both teams are favorites to make the postseason.
Despite finishing third in the division last season, Chicago is the favorite to win and lead the AL Central in wins. The White Sox are labeled -300 to make the playoffs, while the Twins are -163 and Cleveland +230.
Only nine teams have minus odds to make the postseason and Chicago is tied with Atlanta for the fourth-worst odds behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres.
TEAMS IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE WITH 90 WINS OR MORE
2019: Six teams (two in the AL Central, Minnesota and Cleveland)
2018: Seven teams (one, Cleveland)
2017: Four teams (one, Cleveland)
2016: Seven teams (one, Cleveland)
2015: Five teams (one, Kansas City)
Over the last five full seasons, Cleveland has won 90 or more games in four of them, owning the AL Central. With its recent departures, I do not think that is the case anymore.
Chicago and Minnesota will be the front-runners to represent the AL Central in the postseason. The White Sox's odds are -300 to make the playoffs and 90.5 on the win total compared to the Twins' -163 tag and 89.5 win total.
The math does not add up to me. One of these teams are being undervalued, potentially both, but I am a fan of Anderson's comments and the hunger this young White Sox's team will have in 2021.
Pick: White Sox Over 90.5 Wins (-110)
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