NL East looks crowded at the top -- impossibly crowded

March 30, 2019 09:13 PM

Sunday Night Baseball’s 2019 debut on ESPN will feature a matchup  of defending NL East champion Atlanta visiting projected NL East winner Philadelphia at 7 p.m. ET.

Bryce Harper’s well-publicized signing with the Phillies during the offseason created a mini-storm in betting circles. Philadelphia rose to second favorite to win the National League at 11/2, behind on the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phils also entered the season 11/1 to win the World Championship. 

Atlanta was largely ignored by the mainstream media through the offseason, despite reaching the playoffs with a 90-win campaign in 2018. You’d have thought the Braves were about to fall back to the bottom of the division as part of the tank brigade.

Betting markets still respect the Braves as a potential contender. Atlanta entered the season 10/1 to win the National League, and 20/1 to win the World Series.

Closing “Regular Season Win Totals” suggested a very tight race in the NL East. Philadelphia was slightly ahead of prior power Washington, both in the 88-89 range depending on the betting shop. Atlanta was just behind near 86 wins, the Mets near 85. The Miami Marlins trailed the field substantially, with an estimate of just 63 victories.

The problem there is that the market may be accounting for too much improvement…

2018 NL East Records

Atlanta 90-72

Washington 82-80

Philadelphia 80-82

NY Mets 77-85

Florida 63-98

So…the Marlins are going to stay the same…the Braves are going to get a few games worse…but the Phillies, Nationals, and Mets are ALL going to win 7-10 more games?! While playing division-heavy schedules against each other?

It’s possible that the NL East will feature an exciting four-team race that goes right down to the wire, but more likely that there will be at least one good surprise (a team making a run at 95-100 wins) and at least one bad surprise (a team sinking below the .500 mark). Handicappers and bettors should keep an eye out in early season performance for indicators that will hint at those surprises. 

You don’t make money as a bettor asking the “expected” to happen. Markets price on expectations. Sharps make their living by developing a better read on reality before oddsmakers and the masses. 

NL East analysts were fortunate to see head-to-head battles out of the gate with Mets/Nats and Braves/Phillies this weekend. Others coming up soon that will assist evaluative efforts…

Phillies/Nats: Tuesday, Wednesday

Nats/Mets: Thursday, Friday, Sunday

Nats/Phillies: April 8-10

Mets/Braves: April 11-14

Mets/Phillies: April 15-17

Phillies/Mets: April 22-24

VSiN will talk more about baseball in the coming weeks, including a discussion Monday on the difficulties of handicapping during an evolution in the use of starting pitchers.

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