2021 MLB Win Totals: 6 Bets We’re Making Right Now
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo.
While many areas of the country are suffering through the coldest days of the winter, spring training camps are opening across Florida and Arizona. That means the MLB season is on the horizon, and that means it’s time to start looking at futures.
Win totals are beginning to be released at legal sportsbooks across the country. DraftKings released its win totals on Thursday, and The Action Network’s Sean Zerillo gave his initial impressions with bets he’s either making or recommending. You can read that in detail here.
Below, our staff of experts lists their favorite win total bets based on their first impressions of the released totals.
Win totals are as of February 18.
New York Mets, Over 89 Wins (Caesars/William Hill)
Sean Zerillo: I always try to be upfront about any potential biases I might have when placing a bet — and to be clear, I am a Mets fan. But you should note that I have never, in more than a decade of betting, placed a preseason wager of any kind of my favorite baseball team.
The Mets sit atop the NL East standings according to the entire projection market, expected to win 91.5 games per FanGraphs, 93 games per Davenport, and 94.2 games by both PECOTA and my own model. Each of these projections surpasses their listed team total of 89 wins at Caesars, and I’m also comfortable playing the Mets Over to 90.5 wins, which you can find at DraftKings.
A listed total of 90.5 still represents a gap of 3.7 wins relative to my projection, and I consider any discrepancy greater than 3.5 wins (positive or negative) to be an actionable wager.
Furthermore, the Mets offer outstanding value in the divisional betting market. My model has them winning the NL East 49% of the time, but their divisional projections from both FanGraphs (54.7%) and PECOTA (73.9%) are even more aggressive than mine; suggesting that this club is much more likely to capture their first divisional crown since 2015 than bookmakers are giving them credit for.
In addition to playing the Mets Over 90.5 wins, I would bet their divisional odds down to +127 (implied 44%) at a five percent edge.
I would caution against betting the Mets in the World Series futures market, however. Books seem to be inviting World Series money on the Mets; at BetMGM, for instance, the Mets have received double the ticket count (24.6%) and handle (31.2%) as the Yankees, or any other team. Navigating past the Dodgers and/or Padres come playoff time is going to be an extremely difficult task for the entire National League.
Colorado Rockies, Under 64.5 Wins (DraftKings)
Collin Whitchurch: The Rockies, you may have heard, traded their franchise cornerstone a few weeks ago for half of a ham sandwich and a moldy sock.
While the books undoubtedly factored in the downgrade at third base from Nolan Arenado to Ryan McMahon, they didn’t go far enough. The Rockies at present have two hitters projected to have an above-average DRC+ (Trevor Story 125, Charlie Blackmon 122). Their best pitcher, Germán Márquez, is a promising young hurler, but can only do so much. Expecting anything resembling positive production from Kyle Freeland or Jon Gray is misguided.
It’s a bad roster, top to bottom, and one that will play a combined 38 games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, two teams that could very well finish with the top-two records in the National League.
The books expect the Pirates to be the worst team in the majors. That makes sense. Pittsburgh is clearly and blatantly tanking. But the Pirates play in a division with four teams only kind of trying to win. The Rockies play with a pair of heavyweights and two more teams in the Giants and Diamondbacks that should at least be respectable.
The Rockies will be the worst team in the National League. They might be the worst team in baseball. I’m hammering that under.
San Diego Padres, Over 93.5 (Westgate)
Collin Wilson: This number is out on the West Coast, but is also good if you can find it at 94.5 (which you can at Wynn New Jersey). The Action Network’s Sean Zerillo projects the Padres’ win total at 97.9. They are projected to have the third-highest team WAR, per FanGraphs, and their pitching staff to have a higher WAR than the Dodgers. If you didn’t like Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack enough, Blake Snell and Yu Darvish join the rotation.
For all you KBO fans out there, the Friars went out and got Ha-seong Kim, who can flat out rake and play every position on the field. Go find his YouTube collection of KBO home runs and thank me later.
Have I mentioned this team’s pipeline is rich enough to grab any player they want at the deadline to keep stride with the Dodgers? Catcher Luis Campusano and a handful of pitchers such as Ryan Weathers, Tucupita Marcano, Reggie Lawson and more could be made available for GM A.J. Preller to deal in the quest to conquer the division.
Detroit Tigers, Under 70.5 (Westgate)
Collin Wilson: Shop around for those 70s, as I like the number down to the current DraftKings number of 68.5. Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch steps into a club full of young talent and plenty of veteran one-year contracts. You can bet those one-year deals like Jonathan Schoop, José Ureña and Wilson Ramos will be shopped at the deadline if they have any value.
General Manager Al Avila has trimmed payroll from $106 to $82 million and said himself: “The last thing we want to do is go out and spend some money that we’re trying to get rid of next year or the year after that.”
I love the talent coming up, but keep in mind there was no minor-league season in 2020, and the development of some prospects is unknown at this time. The direction of Detroit is positive, but the division is also on the upward trend from a starting pitching perspective. Even the Royals, who are a year ahead in the rebuild phase, will field a staff full of positive WAR pitchers in Kris Bubic, Brady Singer and Brad Keller.
Houston Astros, Over 86.5 Wins (DraftKings)
Matthew Trebby: Last season was one that the Houston Astros would like to forget. And they almost made the World Series.
I’m not saying that the 2020 season didn’t matter, but given the circumstances I think it’s fair to give some players a bit of a pass for struggles. That may be difficult to do for the Astros, since many will say it showed their deficiencies in the post-trash-can era. But most of their track records are too strong to ignore.
Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve won’t post an OPS below .700 again. Carlos Correa is unlikely to flirt with that number again.
With those improvements, a healthy Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker finally being unleashed in the lineup every day, I don’t anticipate the loss of George Springer to hit Houston too hard.
The Astros’ rotation won’t be the same as when it featured Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander, but it has a solid five when healthy — Greinke, Cristian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr., José Urquidy and Framber Valdez.
This is really a bet on the lineup, though. It’ll again be one of the best in baseball, and with our Sean Zerillo projecting Houston for 89.1 wins this season, there’s clear value on the over.
San Francisco Giants, Over 74.5 Wins (Westgate)
Brad Cunningham: The San Francisco Giants were only one game away from making the playoffs last season, finishing at 29-31. The Giants had one distinct weakness last season: They had one of the worst bullpens in baseball, posting a 5.07 xFIP as a unit. Only the Mariners, Marlins and Rockies were worse, but the Giants did make some significant upgrades in the offseason to address that problem. They added Jake McGee, Alex Wood, Jonathan Brebbia, and Matt Wisler, all of whom will be significant upgrades as they each have a FIP projected less than 4.00. Only three Giants relievers had a FIP below 4.00 last season.
San Francisco’s lineup to the naked eye may not look very good, but the Giants were one of the most underrated lineups in baseball last season. They were sixth in wOBA and wRC+ mainly because they have one of the best young hitters in baseball in Mike Yastrzemski, who broke out with a .407 wOBA and 159 wRC+. You want to hear the crazy part? He led the NL West in both of those stats. That’s right, he was better statistically than Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mookie Betts. The offense is really what has me high on the Giants because they kept their entire offense together from last season and added utility man Tommy La Stella, who is projected to have a wOBA of .317, so I expect the Giants to maintain their spot in the top 10 offensively.
The starting rotation does have a solid front end starter in Kevin Gausman. I’ve been high on Gausman since his days with the Orioles, but I think he is one of the more underrated starters in baseball. Last season, he put up career best numbers in almost every category, most notably a 3.05 xFIP, which was top-20 in the league. After Gausman it gets a little dicey, but if Logan Webb and Alex Wood can become serviceable starters, the Giants should be able to win more than 75 games with their offense.
Yes, I realize the Giants are in the same division as the Dodgers and Padres, but they also are in the same division as the Diamondbacks and Rockies, both of which are projected to finish lower in the standings. Every outlet (including our own Sean Zerillo), except Davenport has the Giants projected for more than 75 wins, so give me the Giants over with their stellar offense and improved bullpen.