Zerillo’s Updated 2021 MLB Win Totals, Divisional Odds & World Series Projections
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images. Pictured: New York Mets star Jacob deGrom.
In February, I provided my initial projections for the 2021 Major League Baseball season and used those as a guide to betting win totals and futures for the upcoming campaign.
So far, we’re sitting pretty with divisional and World Series futures on the Astros, Brewers, and Mets. However, there’s still a lot of season (roughly 45%) left to go.
Since we have a momentary breather before the second half of the regular season begins and just one game Thursday, I wanted to update those projections and see if we can find some futures 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.
Updated 2021 MLB Standings Projections
These projections combine the current standings with updated team projections to formulate prorated end-of-season win totals.
These projections do not reflect true talent over a 162-game schedule, as a preseason projection would show.
To see how these teams compare in true talent both against one another and relative to their own 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.
Certain teams like the Red Sox (+11.1) and Giants (+18.9) are almost assuredly in the “safe zone” for Over bettors. That also goes for teams like the Diamondbacks (-17.1) and Twins (-13.1), who are equally likely to finish Under their preseason win totals.
However, the majority of the league is tracking closely with the preseason market and their performance over these final 72 games (or so) will determine the outcome of most win-total wagers.
Here’s how my updated projections (above) track against the listed regular-season win totals for all 30 teams (positive indicates “Over,” while negative indicated “Under”):
Changes in True Talent
My updated projections (above) show my expected end-of-season win projections for all 30 teams.
However, even though I have the Giants finishing with 94 wins and the Diamondbacks finishing with 57 wins, that doesn’t mean that the true talent gap between those clubs is actually that wide.
The Giants (+5) and the Diamondbacks (-5) have gone in opposite directions in terms of projected talent since the start of the season. However, over the course of 162 games, I would make their expected win gap closer to 10 wins than the 37 win gap I currently expect to see at season’s end.
What follows is my current power ranking for the 30 MLB clubs and how each of them 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:
The biggest risers include the Brewers, Rockies, Marlins, Astros, Pirates and Giants (all gained between 5-7 wins in projected value).
The biggest fallers include the Braves (-10.5), Twins (-6.6), Yankees (-6.4), Padres (-5.4) and DIamondbacks.
Divisional and World Series Value
Referencing my updated projections, I see value on few teams in both the divisional and World Series markets.
In particular, the Yankees (projected +462 division; +1393 World Series) stand out at current odds of +1200 to win the AL East and +2500 to win the World Series.
I wrote an article eyeing Yankees’ futures on June 8 and chimed in again after the Tyler Glasnow injury one week later. I think now is the appropriate time to buy the second unluckiest offense (.316 wOBA, .335 xwOBA) in baseball.
As a point of comparison, FanGraphs puts the Yankees’ implied divisional odds at +941 and their World Series odds at +1983. PECOTA handicaps their chances at +355 and +1150, respectively. I’m somewhere in between, but all three of our projections suggest value on those wagers.
In the AL West, Houston (projected -703 division, +529 World Series) should be a steeper divisional favorite (-550 at William Hill) and still offer fair value (+600 at multiple books) to win the World Series. I have a ton of preseason futures on the Astros, so I won’t be adding anything else on baseball’s villains, but they’re still a worthy bet.
In the NL East, the Phillies (projected +490 division; +5305 World Series) are a longshot worthy of consideration. You can find value on both their divisional (+700 at DraftKings) and World Series (+7000 at FanDuel) odds and they could be dangerous in the playoffs, with Zach Wheeler (2.36 xFIP) turning into a bonafide ace.
The Dodgers (projected -335 to win the NL West) technically offer divisional value (-230 at William Hill), but the accusations surrounding Trevor Bauer leave serious doubts about his availability this season.
I don’t mean to make light of the situation whatsoever. Still, Bauer’s presence (or absence) has serious consequences concerning the 2021 outlook for Los Angeles and I would completely avoid betting Dodgers futures at this point.
In addition to the Astros, Phillies and Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays (+1600 at William Hill) also offer value to win the World Series (projected +1329), but that could be a difficult hill to climb in the postseason without Glasnow.
I would love for the Rays to make an uncharacteristic trade and try to acquire a veteran like Nelson Cruz or Germán Márquez to fortify their roster at the deadline. Still, between the two AL East clubs, I prefer the value on the Yankees.
The Cy Young Races
Jacob deGrom is a very comfortable favorite in the NL Cy Young race (-1000). Gerrit Cole (-110 at William Hill) has reasserted himself as the AL odds-on favorite after a dominant showing against the Astros (9 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 12 K, 129 pitches) this past Saturday.
In my preseason Cy Young preview, I discussed the increased correlation between WAR and Cy Young winners (including nine of the past 10 finishing in the top three in their league in WAR).
Furthermore, recent studies have shown that WAR, Wins, WHIP, ERA, FIP, IP and strikeouts are the stats that correlate most closely to Cy Young winners.
Taking those factors into consideration, let’s look at some updated Steamer projections in both leagues, setting the cutoff at >4 WAR in the NL and 3.5 WAR in the AL:
The only way deGrom loses the Cy Young is if he gets injured and misses significant time. As a Mets fan, these are the things that keep me up at night.
Among the next tier in the NL, Wheeler (+2000 at DraftKings) looks like the best bet, one of two pitchers projected to surpass 200 innings.
I wouldn’t hate a stab on Scherzer (+4000 at PointsBet), Rogers (+5000 at multiple books) or Kershaw (+7000 at PointsBet), who seem mispriced relative to their peers, but Wheeler looks like the best deGrom hedge.
The AL picture is a bit murkier, but I think Eovaldi (+4000 at William Hill), Giolito (+7000 at PointsBet) and Manaea (+8000 at DraftKings) are all worth consideration. I bet both Gioltio and Eovaldi in recent weeks, and those would be my two primary targets.
The timeline on Bieber (+3000) remains unclear and I think most projection systems are overestimating his playing time the rest of the way.
The MVP Races
These have been difficult to handicap in-season, because deGrom has forced his way into the conversation as a pitcher (three winners in 31 years) and Ohtani is doing unprecedented things as a two-way star.
At present, we seemingly have a two-horse race in both leagues.
Like with pitchers, WAR holds a lot of weight for MVP candidates as well. Twenty of the last 22 winners finished top three in WAR in their respective league.
Other stats that correlate highly to MVP winners include OPS, batting average, team winning percentage, RBIs, Home Runs and Steals.
Ronald Acuna Jr.’s season-ending injury has made the NL race a two-way battle between deGrom (projected 8.4 WAR) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (projected 6.3 WAR). That said, I think it’s deGrom’s race to lose as an odds-on favorite (-105 at FanDuel).
Trea Turner (6.1 WAR) is the only other position player projected to finish within range of Tatis, ahead of his teammate Juan Soto (5.0 WAR), who was my preseason selection.
I added Max Muncy (5.4 WAR, third amongst NL hitters) at +10000 more than a month ago and his odds (+5500 at DraftKings) have halved since that time.
I would still sprinkle Muncy at that price and feel similarly about Turner (+5000 at William Hill), but I would be surprised if deGrom or Tatis fails to secure the hardware.
In the American League, Shohei Ohtani (-290 at FanDuel) projects for 6.0 WAR as a hitter and 2.5 WAR as a pitcher, putting him ahead of deGrom in total value (8.5 WAR) and well ahead of other AL contenders like Vlad Guerrero Jr. (6.9 WAR), Carlos Correa (6.1 WAR), Marcus Semien (5.8 WAR), Xander Bogaerts (5.8 WAR), Aaron Judge (5.7 WAR), Jose Ramirez (5.5 WAR) and Rafael Devers (5.4 WAR) overall.
Ohtani projects to finish with 54 homers, 112 RBI, 116 Runs, and 21 steals as a hitter, never mind his pitching stats. And that home-run total would ruin any hopes of a triple crown for Guerrero (+250 at DraftKings).
I doubt that voters are inclined to select any Astros for awards consideration, but Correa (+8000 at William Hill) seems like an obvious longshot MVP selection. Semien (+6000 at William Hill) has an argument, too, given their respective projections.
I have some preseason action on Ramirez (currently +5000 at FanDuel) and he gets impossibly hot from time to time l, but I think that ship has sailed unless Cleveland upends the AL Central race.
Correa (+8000) and Semien (+6000) in the AL, along with Muncy (+5000) and Turner (+5000) in the NL, would be my longshot MVP selections at this point, but I don’t think any of them are worth more than a small taste.