Updated 2022 MLB Win Totals, Divisional Odds, World Series Projections, Awards Bets and Player Props
Brett Davis/Getty Images. Pictured: Austin Riley
Since we have a momentary pause before the regular season’s second half begins, I wanted to update those projections and see if we can find some future value.
Below, I’ll take a look at my updated projections and discuss: (1) how teams are tracking against their preseason win totals; (2) how teams compare in true talent relative to the start of the season; (3) divisional and World Series futures value; and, (4) awards betting value.
Follow all of Sean Zerillo’s bets in the Action Network App!
Updated 2022 MLB Standings Projections
These projections combine the current standings with updated team projections to formulate prorated end-of-season win totals.
As a preseason projection would show, these projections do not reflect true talent over a 162-game schedule.
To see how these teams compare in true talent against one another and relative to their preseason projections, please see the “Changes in True Talent” section below.
Win Total Tracker
Since these teams have already played more than half of the regular season, they have done a significant amount of work toward determining the fate of their season-long win totals.
Specific teams like the Yankees (+12.5) and Orioles (+11.7) are almost assuredly in the “safe zone” for Over bettors. Conversely, teams like the Nationals (-11.4) and Angels (-11.3) are equally likely to finish Under their preseason win totals.
However, most of the league is tracking closely with the preseason market, and second-half performance will determine the outcome of most win-total wagers.
Here’s how my midseason prorated projections (above) track against the listed regular-season win totals for all 30 teams (positive indicates “Over,” while negative indicated “Under”):
The following teams show at least a 2.5-win difference between my updated prorated win total and their midseason updated total win prices. I would consider placing the following win total wagers:
- Athletics Over 58.5 Wins
- Angels Under 75.5 Wins
- Braves Over 94.5 Wins
- Giants Under 86.5 Wins
- Mets Under 97.5 Wins
- Orioles Under 75.5 Wins
- Padres Under 90.5 Wins
- Rays Over 87.5 Wins
- Royals Over 66.5 Wins
However, I need to dive deeper into the remaining strength of schedule before locking any of these in. As always, I’ll upload any wagers to the Action Network App.
Changes in True Talent
My updated prorated projections (above) show my expected end-of-season win projections for all 30 teams.
What follows is my current power ranking for the 30 MLB clubs and how each has either improved their projections or fallen off relative to the preseason.
If the regular season restarted tomorrow, these would be my projections for a 162-game season:
Divisional and World Series Value
Referencing my updated prorated and true talent projections, I see value in a few teams in the divisional and World Series markets.
NL East: Atlanta Braves
We’ll start with the defending champions, which I currently rate as the best team in baseball, and a superior club to the one that won the World Series last season.
I’ve held that opinion for the past few weeks and gave out the Braves World Series and Pennant odds on numerous shows. Even before my projections, I added their NL Pennant future at +600 on July 6. Now, I like them even more.
PECOTA and ZIPS have Atlanta finishing 3.6 and 2.4 games behind the Mets in the NL East race, respectively. I project Atlanta to win the division by three games, despite a 2.5-game deficit in the standings.
The NL East rivals have the two wealthiest owners in baseball — and both teams will undoubtedly look to add pieces at the trade deadline.
Both have vital players (Jacob deGrom, Ozzie Albies) returning from injury within the next month.
deGrom experienced shoulder soreness over All-Star weekend, and his potential contributions remain a complete mystery. He could pitch great for a few starts and get shut down again.
Once the Braves have Albies back, they might have the deepest lineup in baseball. Neither Ronald Acuna Jr. nor Marcell Ozuna was a part of their postseason roster last season. Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson are in the midst of career years. And Michael Harris is one of the NL Rookie of the Year frontrunners.
His top competition is his teammate and blooming ace Spencer Strider — who ranks ahead of Gerrit Cole and Corbin Burnes in strikeout minus walk rate. Alongside Max Fried (whose underlying indicators are better than ever), Charlie Morton (who has recovered after a slow start to the season) and a breakout from former top-five pick Kyle Wright, Atlanta has one of the best rotations in baseball too. Never mind having an additional top-three pick in Ian Anderson to round out the rotation.
And their bullpen (2nd in K-BB%, 5th in xFIP) — which was dominant last postseason — has pitched better than last regular season (13th and 12th, respectively) too.
My concern with their divisional odds is their more challenging remaining strength of schedule in the second half (18th, .504), while the Mets (8th, .489) play a weaker slate of opponents. However, they do have 12 head-to-head games remaining too.
While neither PECOTA nor ZIPS agrees with my assessment on their divisional odds — and PECOTA might even recommend a divisional bet on the Mets — I would bet the Braves NL East odds down to even money, given my midseason forecast.
That said, FanGraphs views the Braves as a value team in both the Pennant (21.3%, +370 implied) and World Series (13.2%, +657 implied) markets. Those seem sufficient price targets considering that I’m even more optimistic on their upside.
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
I would make the Brewers around a 70% favorite to win the Central — in line with their highest market odds — but I wouldn’t lay anything past -186 (65% implied) either.
While you can bet -160 currently at FanDuel, I have a preseason position at -125, and I’m not necessarily rushing to add more. The Cardinals True Talent projection has improved in-season more than any other team in the NL (+7.2), and I trust them to make a bigger splash in the trade market than the Brewers.
Regardless, Milwaukee might be worth a midrange investment in the Pennant and World Series markets.
I bet the Brewers to win the World Series at +2000 during the preseason, and you can currently find as high as +2500 at FanDuel.
PECOTA’s projection (4.9%, +1940 implied odds) would recommend a World Series investment at that number and their Pennant number (+1300 at Caesars); similar to their divisional odds. However, I’m not necessarily inclined to add more to my Brewers position.
Once Freddy Peralta returns, the Brewers will have a rotation depth on par with any team in the National League to pair with a top-five bullpen.
Their offense (102 wRC+, 14th) has improved relative to last season (91 wRC+, 23rd), and their defense remains a top 10 unit, per Defensive Runs Saved.
If the Brewers can add a bat at the deadline, they can make a run in October. And while I think it’s worth having a piece of this team, I’d prefer to allocate more capital towards the Braves.
NL West: San Diego Padres
I’m in line with the market on the Padres (89 wins from ZIPS, 87.6 from PECOTA), putting them as the second wild-card team (88-wins) and assessing their World Series odds at four percent (closer to the FanGraphs projection) seems fair and might point to value compared to best available odds (+3000 at FanDuel).
Moreover, their NL Pennant futures (+1500 at FanDuel, projected +1182 by ZIPS) may be actionable too.
The Padres have done well to put themselves in a playoff spot without their best player, and adding Fernando Tatis Jr. to the postseason mix creates substantial upside around a well-rounded rotation and solid bullpen.
I have concerns about their offense (98 wrC+, 19th), and they could stand to add a bat alongside Tatis and Manny Machado.
While I’m higher on the Dodgers’ prorated win total compared to other projections, PECOTA (21%, +376 implied) points to World Series value compared to the market (+400 at PointsBet), and I’m uncertain that Walker Buehler will return this season.
ZIPS (86.3 wins) points to World Series value on the Giants. Still, I’m aligned more closely with PECOTA (82.4 wins), placing them behind Philadelphia and St. Louis for the third and final Wild Card spot, while FanGraphs has them ahead of both teams.
As a result, the Padres are my value play out of the NL West, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for playing their futures at current prices.
AL East: Tampa Bay Rays / Toronto Blue Jays
While I have changed my assessment by 10 wins on the Rays (+2.8) and Jays (-7.2), you can still find value in the two teams I view as the top AL wild-card contenders at present.
I’m higher than the Rays’ playoff chances than either PECOTA or ZIPS (around 86 wins). Still, I’m uncertain that they are capable of making a serious run in October and their most optimistic World Series projection (2.5%, +3900 implied) falls short of their best available odds (+3500).
Even if I’m closer to 3% (+3000 implied) for my forecast on the Rays, that may not be enough for me to pull the trigger. And I feel the Jays have a higher ceiling (and a greater likelihood of adding pieces as the deadline) than the Rays, despite my updated true talent projection.
ZIPS has the opposite projections of my own and still sees the Jays winning the World Series often enough (5.4%, +1752 implied) that you can justify a wager at their current number (+2000 at FanDuel).
Since I have decent-sized preseason positions in Toronto, I’ll ride out those tickets for now. If not, I like them just about as much as I do Milwaukee and would recommend a half-unit bet at +2000 or better.
AL Central: Cleveland Guardians / Minnesota Twins
I project less than a 2.5-win gap between the three AL Central contenders, and ZIPS (2.9) and PECOTA (2.5) see a similar differential among the trio.
While I wouldn’t bet the divisional price for the Twins or White Sox past +150 (40% implied) at this point, public projections like the Guardians as a potential value play (projected around +385, listed +475 at Caesars) in the Central.
Still, Chicago and Minnesota are likelier to add to the payroll in the next few weeks compared to a more frugal front office in Cleveland.
As a result, I would say that this is a divisional market to pass on betting, notably if you joined me on the Twins at +500 in the preseason. It’s Cleveland or pass at current prices.
In the World Series market, the Twins (+5000 at FanDuel) may offer value compared to their PECOTA projection (3.1%, +3125 implied). However, while PECOTA makes them a slight favorite over the White Sox (by 0.6 wins), I view them as a slight underdog to Chicago (by 1.1 wins) and feel that their bullpen and rotation still have too many holes to navigate a playoff run.
The Central division is unlikely to get more than one playoff bid too.
AL West: Seattle Mariners
My prorated projection for the Astros aligns more closely with ZIPS than PECOTA, and I rate them as the best team in the American League (by one win) — despite projecting the Yankees to finish with four additional wins at the end of the regular season.
That said, even using their most optimistic projection (+215 pennant, +590 World Series), I don’t see value compared to the listed odds (+200 pennant, +500 World Series)
Amid a long winning streak, I now project the Mariners as the third AL Wild Card team and would put their Pennant and World Series odds around 5% (+1900 implied) and 2.5% (+3900), at best.
While you could still find numbers as high as +4000 and +2000, most — if not all — of the value has been sucked out of the market during this streak.
I’m coming around on the Mariners, who are red-hot after a 21-28 start through May. Their bullpen has some elite arms, and if they shore up the back-end of their rotation, they might finally end their playoff drought.
Still, I’m not going to buy in at an insufficient number on a team I was against in the preseason. The window to buy in has likely shut.
The MVP Races
The key stat to evaluate for awards voting is Wins Above Replace, or WAR. Regarding MVP Awards, 22 of the past 24 winners (92%) ranked in the top three in WAR in their respective leagues; and 16 of those winners finished as the league leader.
As a result, we can take some updated end-of-season projections — via Steamer and ZIPS — and use those to find players who aren’t correctly priced relative to their WAR.
I have preseason positions on Devers, Judge and Ramirez, among the players I listed in the American League. While I would consider Ohtani and Judge co-favorites at this point of the season if either one or both of those players miss time on the IL, Ramirez, and Devers, seem like the clear following choices, particularly over a currently injured Yordan Alvarez.
Ramirez has led all players in WAR (14.1) since the start of the 2020 season.
In the NL, my only preseason position is on Turner — who ranks second in WAR (13.2) over the same stretch.
While Arenado projects to finish as the WAR leader — both per Steamer and ZIPS — most of that value is on the defensive end, and I feel like he’ll lose out to his teammate Goldschmidt, who has the superior batting line.
Swanson is the candidate who caught my eye: on pace to finish with a 25-25 season, batting average near .300, with Gold Glove-caliber defense.
And Soto could be worth an investment at longshot odds after his performance in the Home Run Derby proved he is finally healthy after dealing with a knee injury throughout the season.
The Cy Young Races
I also note the correlation between WAR and Cy Young winners: Ten of the past 12 Cy Young winners have finished in the top three in their respective leagues in pitching WAR.
Like the exercise with MVP candidates, let’s use Steamer and ZIPS to find pitchers inflated on the odds board relative to their WAR peers.
In the AL, I added a future on Gasuman — the projected WAR leader — two weeks ago at a similar price point. He’s an obvious selection, given his league-leading end-of-season projections.
I have a preseason position on Cease, but I wouldn’t mind betting him at +900 if I didn’t.
Bieber stands out at his price point (+3500), outperforming expectations at reduced velocity. Still, I’d be remiss if I backed a pitcher to win a Cy Young award when I’ve primarily bet against him throughout the season.
In the NL, Nola and Rodon stand out as the clear values — projected to finish within the top three for WAR. I already have positions on Alcantara and Nola, but I would only add Nola at this point, given the odds discrepancy.
If Rodon stays healthy, he may win the award. Still, that’s a big IF, with a career-high of 165 innings, after experiencing a late-season injury in 2021 (135 innings) and a velocity dip in the middle of his 2022 campaign. While Rodon has bounced back in recent starts, I still have concerns about his longevity.
Rookie of the Year
WAR may be most vital for determining top rookie honors. Fourteen of the past 20 Rookie of the Year winners (70%) finished atop the rookies in their league in WAR, with an average rank of 1.55 among the 20 awards recipients.
And that list includes a pair of players (Kyle Lewis and Devin Williams) who finished second and sixth during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.
Let’s take a look at the expected end-of-season WAR leaders among rookies:
I have preseason bets on both Rodriguez and Rutschman in the AL, and Rodriguez is a deserving favorite at this point. If you’re looking for a long shot, however, Rutschman could be worthy of an investment.
Baltimore’s rookie catcher projected for the highest WAR per plate appearance coming into the season and should still receive down-ballot votes despite getting a late callup.
The NL race is a bit more open to an upset, and I like both Suzuki and Thomas at current odds. I have a preseason investment on Suzuki; otherwise, I would jump in again. He projects as the leader for WAR for plate appearances in the NL the rest of the way.
Thomas has flown under the radar for Arizona. He has a league-average bat and plays elite center field defense, and I think he should be much higher up on the tote board.
Lastly, we’ll look at some prop categories and attempt to find players whose odds may be inflated compared to average end-of-season projections from Steamer and ZIPS:
Concerning player stat leaders, I don’t see as many mispriced options as I do for player awards.
Still, I would have to consider HR leader bets on Riley (+1600) and Alonso (+1600) — who currently rank third and sixth among HR leaders.
Additionally, a Most Runs bet on Goldschmidt (+2000) could be worth a poke — he’s only 10 runs behind the current leader.
And I’d consider backing Aaron Nola (+900) or Robbie Ray (+900) for most strikeouts. Those pitchers are currently fifth and sixth on the leaderboard, 13-15 strikeouts behind Dylan Cease.
However, my favorite prop bet on the board aligns with one of my preseason wagers: Luis Arraez (+2000) to get the most hits.
I bet Arraez at +5000 before the season because his projected hits per plate appearance ranked among the best hitters in baseball, regardless of playing time.
And I feel that updated projections undersell his playing time the rest of the way.
Arraez has averaged more hits per plate appearance than any hitter in baseball this season – and he’s roughly 50 plate appearances behind anyone he ranks near on the current leaderboard.
He’s currently 10 hits behind the league leader, and if he continues to play every day, Arraez should justify that +2000 price tag.
Follow all of Sean Zerillo’s bets in the Action Network App!