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In the past few months, I’ve read about 25 baseball articles. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they either put me to sleep or leave me searching for a calculator. BABIP? BsR? CERA? xOBA? LIPS? Exit Velocity? DIPS? I did those at the gym today. If you’re looking for sabermetrics, you’ve come to the wrong place. I once witnessed a teammate hit a walk-off home run piss drunk because he thought he was inactive. Sabermetric that.
I had a long career as an Major League catcher, and it’s no secret I like to gamble. I’ve even made a second career out of it picking horses on TV. I’m using the knowledge I’ve learned behind the plate along with the skills I picked up reading lines to my dad every morning since I was seven to bring you my unfilitered opinions this season. Today’s topic: Totals, baby … Giddy up and good luck!
All odds via the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of March 20.
Over/Under 83.5 wins
The Twins lost 103 games in 2016 — the season before front-office gurus Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over — and last year they went 85-77. Did we forget they made the playoffs last year?
Falvey, who was an intern in his late 20s with the Indians, was regarded as a brilliant front-office prospect by his peers back in the day. Now, at age 35, Falvey is making good on the promise he showed during his time with the Tribe.
Before we even get to the Twins, let’s first look at the division. Cleveland’s over/under for the season is 94.5 games. The Indians are no doubt the cream of the crop in the AL Central. After the Indians, the Twins are projected for second with 83.5 wins, then the White Sox (72.5), the Royals (70.5) and finally the Tigers (65.5). So you’re telling me I’m going to play 50-plus games against teams that the books are predicting for 90 losses? Yes, please. I wouldn’t be surprised if Minnesota playing in October again. Besides a favorable division here’s some other reasons I like the Twins this year.
They signed a back-line starter in Jake Odorizzi, a stalwart middle reliever in Addison Reed and they also landed Logan Morrison, who had a .353 on-base percentage and 38 home runs in 2017, to serve as a first baseman/designated hitter. Those were all good moves, but bringing right-handed starter Lance Lynn on board was the BIGGEST signing for me. Lynn, who has won 15 games multiple times, had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and in my experiences the second year after the surgery is when you are completely back to full strength. Look for a big year from Lynn.
I also thought closer Fernando Rodney was a sneaky pick up. I get it, he’s a human heart attack, but you have Reed, who has closing experience, backing him up. I think Rodney’s numbers will be better now that he’s away from the hitter-friendly confines in Arizona. Additonally, the Twins added Zach Duke and Michael Pineda. The latter of whom could miss the year, but there’s a chance he’s back for August and could be a boost to the rotation down the stretch.
The one concern for me is Ervin Santana, who will miss the first month of the season and maybe more because of a finger injury, but the Twins don’t seem worried. When he returns he will join a rotation that includes Odorizzi, Lynn, Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. The Twins play a ton of cold weather games early which I think will help the pitching get through Santana injury and stay in hunt for the wild card. Don’t forget they led baseball in runs over the past two months of last season.
What I’m betting: Over 83.5 wins
Boston Red Sox
Over/Under 91.5 wins
Doesn’t it feel like the Red Sox are getting overlooked? OK, I get it: On paper, the Yankees look amazing, but you can’t tell me that the Red Sox are a worse team now than they were last season when they won 93 games despite Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, David Price and Dustin Pedroia either playing hurt or missing time from injury. Signing J.D. Martinez is a blessing, but his projections are a little high. I know Fenway is a hitter’s ballpark but Arizona has the best hitting background in the league. Plus, the AL East just plain and simple has better pitching than the NL West. BUT Martinez still adds power, which the Sox sorely needed, and the return of Eduardo Nunez is a really quality utility player who is a manager’s dream with his versatility. He was solid in his 38 games played with Boston in 2017.
Craig Kimbrel is a beast, but, admittedly, the rest of bullpen is a concern and David Price’s health holds the key to a starting rotation that does not have a ton of depth. Boston’s offense should be a lot more consistent than last season’s group, which excelled at just the right time helping them to a 15-3 record in extra inning games.
But none of this matters until the games are played, right? That is when Boston’s real advantage will kick in.
New manager Alex Cora is the smartest player I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with. His stats as a player would never blow you away, but his baseball IQ is off the charts. He went from an analyst on TV, to his position as the Astros’ bench coach last year to this in a blink of an eye. And who did he bring with him?
Craig Bjornson came with Cora from Houston. Bjornson spent the past four seasons as the Astros’ bullpen coach and, yet, he leaves for the same position with the Red Sox? This is a giant, yet underrated, move. Bjornson is wildly liked by his peers, and after one year of getting to know him, Cora knew he wanted him on his team. The bullpen will immediately improve thanks to Bjornson.
Cora also bolstered his staff by hiring Ron Roenicke to serve as his bench coach. Back in 1997, the Double-A San Antonio Missions won the Texas League title. Alex Cora was our shortstop and I was the catcher. Guess who our manager was? Yep, Ron Roenicke. Another brilliant mind, who, by the way, won 96 games in 2011 with Milwaukee before Prince Fielder left. The Roenicke coaching tree includes Joe Maddon and Mike Scioscia.
The clubhouse is going to be a lot of fun in Boston this year. They are going to run more and scratch out more runs with an aggressive strategy. And with a defense that’s borderline one of the best in the league, the Red Sox are flat-out dangerous. With all the hype surrounding the Yankees — bumping them from 82.5 wins in 2017 to 94.5 wins this year — you’re getting great value with Boston.
What I’m betting: Over 91.5 wins
Over/Under: 81.5 wins
Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich made no bones about what his plan was for the offseason. Bullpen! He brought in righty Bryan Shaw, who has been an animal in Cleveland’s bullpen the past several seasons with 70-plus appearances in each of the past five years. The Rockies also gave dominant closer Wade Davis a deal worth $52 million. Davis may be 32, but he struck out a ton of guys as the Cubs’ closer in 2017 and made good on 32 of his 33 save opportunities. How about this: I actually think Davis will be better in Colorado’s dry air. Baseballs cut more in dry air and that’s Davis’ best pitch. Don’t give up on Wade.
Those two veterans join uber-talented lefty Jake McGee in the back of the pen. That’s a pretty good trifecta. And don’t forget southpaw Chris Rusin, who was great as a multiple-inning guy, and Mike Dunn, ANOTHER lefty, is reliable as they come. Tony LaRussa always had three lefties in the pen and Bud Black will be able to play chess all year. Throw in Adam Ottavino, who has a bit of closing experience, and Scott Oberg AND a veteran defensive-minded catcher in Chris Iannetta and you have a top-five bullpen. The Rockies are my sleeper this year.
What I’m betting: Over 81.5 wins! Lockbox!
St. Louis Cardinals
Over/Under: 86 wins
The Cardinals are kind of like the Patriots, right? Well a tiny bit. They are always in the hunt and they always find ways to win. So I think Las Vegas puts their total at 86 because of reputation. The Cards’ only shot is if Yadier Molina, who is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can stay healthy and catch a lot of games, because he makes that much of a difference. BUT STILL, as my 77-year-old Italian father texted me three days ago, he has more power than that lineup.
What I’m betting: Under 86 wins
All odds current as of 3/20.
Top Photo: Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins
Credit: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports