Short season rough on MLB predictions

By Jason Weingarten  () 

The first batch of futures were processed when the regular season ended, and I will grade them and discuss what went right and wrong. All bets are risking one unit unless specified. For the purpose of this column, one unit is equal to $500.  

Division futures

$250 to win $687.50 on the Reds to win the NL Central  (L)

$500 to win $1,500 on the Nationals to win the NL East (L)

$500 to win $3,750 on the Padres to win the NL West (L)

$2,100 to win $500 on the Dodgers to win the NL West (W)

$300 to win $360 on the White Sox to win the AL Central (L)

$1,365 to win $300 on the Cubs to win the NL Central (W)

$1,365 to win $300 on the Braves to win the NL East (W)

 

Total: -$450 lost on $6,380 risked.

 

Big misses on the Reds and Nationals to win their divisions. Neither came close, but the Reds sneaked into the playoffs. I bet on the Padres to win the NL West early in the season and then got out of that bet a few weeks later with the Dodgers to win the NL West at just over -400. 

 

Late in the season I caught BetMGM with some stale numbers on the White Sox, Cubs and Braves, and I went 2-1 on those to soften my losses. Even getting the best stale number on the White Sox didn’t matter, as they couldn’t close out the AL Central. 

 

The only two major surprise division winners were the A’s in the AL West and the Rays in the AL East. I never bet either because I bet both in March at + 350 and + 625, respectively. After the season was delayed and futures reopened, both those numbers dropped significantly. If I included those two bets, the win-loss would go from -$450 to about + $5,000, but I’m not going to belatedly add bets I made in March.

 

Make/miss playoffs

$500 to win $875 on the Reds to make the playoffs 

$500 to win $7,500 on the Mariners to make the playoffs

$2,500 to win $1,000 on the Red Sox to miss the playoffs

 

Trevor Bauer dragged the Reds into the playoffs, where they will be a tough out for the Atlanta Braves. The Reds score more than 60% of their runs on home runs, and the Braves go into the playoffs with a depleted and ineffective pitching staff. This week I’m betting the Reds series price at + 125 at Circa risking 1x unit.  

 

The Mariners finished 27-33 but were never really in the playoff race, a deserved loss for me.

 

The Red Sox finished 24-36 and allowed the second-most runs in baseball with 351, trailing only the Colorado Rockies’ 353. Their pitching staff outside Martin Perez and Nate Eovaldi was embarrassing. It was clear from the outset the Red Sox’s front office had no interest in competing this season. I wish I had bet more on this. 

 

Total: + $1,375 on $3,500 risked.

 

Most home runs

$500 to win $25,000 on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to hit the most home runs

$200 to win $20,000 on Luis Robert to hit the most home runs

$250 to win $13,750 on Yoenis Cespedes to lead MLB in home runs

 

Guerrero finished with a disappointing nine home runs. He’s still not in the best playing shape, and it showed. Robert was slightly better, hitting 11 homers, but he slumped for all of September and played himself out of the Rookie of the Year race. I don’t know what I was thinking betting on Cespedes. Not my best work at all in this market.

 

Total: -$950 lost on $950 risked.

 

Most hits 

$250 to win $5,500 on Ozzie Albies to have the most hits

$250 to win $8,250 on Fernando Tatis Jr. to have the most hits

$250 to win $10,250 on Bo Bichette to lead MLB in hits

Most Hits AL only

$250 to win $5,000 on Bo Bichette to lead the AL in hits

 

Bichette and Albies missed time with injuries early in the season, which killed any chance they had to win. Tatis was near the top in hits for a while, but as I predicted, strikeouts kept him from reaching his potential. His late slump cost him any chance at leading the league in hits or in any offensive category, and his slump cost him the MVP as well.

 

Total: -$1,000 on $1,000 risked.

 

Most strikeouts

$500 to win $3,000 on Max Scherzer to lead both leagues in strikeouts

$250 to win $1,375 on Max Scherzer to lead MLB in strikeouts

Most strikeouts AL

$500 to win $5,000 on Lucas Giolito to lead the AL in strikeouts 

Most strikeouts NL

$250 to win $16,250 on Chris Paddack to lead the NL in strikeouts

 

Scherzer finished ninth in the majors in strikeouts with 92 in 67 innings. It was pretty clear early that nobody was going to catch Shane Bieber unless he got hurt. Giolito finished second in the AL with 97 strikeouts but was far behind Bieber's 122. Paddack had 58 strikeouts in 59 innings good, for 21st place in the NL. More losses.

 

Total: -$1,500 on $1,500 risked.

 

Over/Under home runs

$575 to win $500 on Mike Trout Under 16.5 home runs

$575 to win $500 on Anthony Rizzo Under 11.5 home runs

 

I don’t like Trout. It’s not that I don’t respect him. I’m just tired of watching Trout waste his prime on awful Angels teams. Trout’s numbers are always elite, but he’s always playing garbage time because the Angels are never serious contenders. And I’m bitter because he hit 17 home runs and the Over/Under was 16.5. Trout has cost me another $575 this year. That’s what I get for betting against Trout, the best player in baseball.

 

I bet Rizzo Under 11.5 home runs because I thought he had some back problems coming into the season. Rizzo finished with 11 home runs while batting a career-worst .222/.342/.755. He still played 58 games, and as unlucky as I might have been with Trout, I made up for it by just slipping inside the number for Rizzo’s home run Under. It evened out.

 

Total: -$75 lost on $1,150 risked.

 

Over/Under RBIs

$525 to win $500 on Yordan Alvarez over 35.5 RBIs

 

Contender for worst future of the year. I really liked this prop too. Originally I had Juan Soto and Yordan Alvarez to get the most RBIs, but I ended up betting only Alvarez. It’s no secret Alvarez is among my favorite players in baseball. Unfortunately, a few days after I bet this, he went on the COVID-19 injury list and didn’t show up in Houston until almost midway through the season. When he did show up, he played two games and got eight at-bats before being shut down with injuries to both knees. The Astros want Alvarez healthy in 2021, when I will likely bet him to have the most hits, home runs and RBIs again.

 

Total: -$525 on -$525 risked.

 

Trevor Bauer props

$625 to win $500 on Bauer Over 83.5 strikeouts

$600 to win $500 on Bauer Over 4.5 wins

$500 to win $12,500 on Bauer having the most wins in the NL

 

Bauer finished the season with 100 strikeouts and five wins, and I had to wait until his last start to cash the Over prop. The most wins prop didn’t work out. Bauer won five games, but the NL leader and Bauer’s only serious Cy Young Award challenger, Yu Darvish, had eight.

 

Total: + $500 on $1,725 risked. 

 

Overall: -$2,625 on $16,730 risked. 

 

New bets

The wild-card games are underway, so here are the series bets I’ve made. 

 

Dodgers -310 over Brewers to win 1x at FanDuel.

Blue Jays + 190 over Rays risking 1x at Circa. 

A’s -105 over White Sox to win 1x at FanDuel.

Reds + 125 over Braves risking 1x at Circa.

 

Player awards

The AL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year races are settled, and anyone besides Shane Bieber and Kyle Lewis winning would be major upsets. The MVP is more up in the air with several contenders, but I expect it to come down to Jose Abreu, Jose Ramirez and Bieber. The National League races are much more interesting.

NL MVP

I incorrectly called this race over early and declared Fernando Tatis Jr. the winner. He proceeded to slump all of September and allowed multiple players to pass him. Now it looks like the Braves’ Freddie Freeman will win. I’m kind of skeptical of the case for Freeman or teammate Marcell Ozuna. The Braves played one team over .500 after Sept. 1, and that was the Marlins. Freeman’s numbers:

Freeman: 60 games, 73 hits, 51 runs, 13 home runs, 53 RBIs, 45 walks, 37 strikeouts, .341/.462/1.102 186 OPS+ , .214 ISO, .379 wOBA, 139 wRC+

Now compare Freeman’s numbers with Juan Soto’s:

Soto: 47 games, 54 hits, 39 runs, 13 home runs, 37 RBIs, 41 walks, 28 strikeouts, .351/.490/.1.185, 212 OPS+ , .261 ISO, .405 wOBA, 152 wRC+

One reason I dislike Trout is because he has shown you can give the MVP to a guy on a losing team. But since the precedent has been set, I think Soto deserves the NL MVP. Books had Soto pegged correctly from the beginning of the year. His odds were 9-1 to 11-1 preseason, and the only reason he’s not a serious contender is because he missed 10 games because of a false positive coronavirus test. But I still think when you compare his numbers with Freeman’s, it’s pretty clear Soto was the better player. I’m not sure the voters will see it this way, unfortunately. 

NL Cy Young

It’s down to Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish. I have a bet on Bauer to win the Cy Young from March at 55-1 that would pay over $30,000, so I fully expect Darvish to win, even though I don’t think he deserves it.

My analysis is pretty straightforward. Bauer had more strikeouts (100 to 93), a lower ERA (1.73 vs. 2.01), significantly fewer hits allowed (41 to 59) and a lower WHIP (0.795 vs. 0.961). I don’t see how you can look at Bauer with a lower ERA by over a quarter-run, more strikeouts and a lower WHIP and give the award to Darvish. It still might happen, but Bauer deserves to win, and I hope the voters see it this way. 

NL Rookie of the Year 

This is another award that’s really up in the air, and I’m unsure how it will be settled. The four worthy contenders have different cases. 

Devin Williams has a 4-1 record in 22 appearances as a reliever for the Brewers. Those numbers normally would not be significant in a Rookie of the Year discussion, but he pitched 27 incredible innings with a 17.67 K/9 and a 0.33 ERA. Those are elite numbers, but worthy of Rookie of the Year? We are talking 27 innings for a guy who appeared in barely one-third of his team’s games. I’m not sure I’m comfortable giving the award to a reliever no matter how elite his numbers look after 27 innings. That doesn’t compare with someone like Jose Fernandez, who pitched 172.2 innings with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts to win the Rookie of the Year in 2013. I don’t think voters will give Williams the award, but he could finish from second to fourth. 

Jake Cronenworth is a 26-year-old second baseman for the Padres who played 54 games with a .285/.354/.831 slash line, 49 hits, 26 runs, four home runs, 20 RBIs, three stolen bases and a 125 wRC+ , showing he’d be a serviceable second baseman on just about any team. Seven counting stats don’t really do much for me, and I don’t understand why he has been considered the front-runner.

Dustin May started 10 games for the Dodgers and had an opener in two other appearances. He pitched 56 innings with a 2.57 ERA, 44 strikeouts and a 1.089 WHIP. Those numbers might not look that impressive compared with Williams, but I’d argue that his stats were worth significantly more value. I’d rank him above Cronenworth and Williams. 

Alec Bohm played only 44 games, which might cost him the Rookie of the Year Award. But he had 54 hits, including 16 multihit games, and ended the season batting second in the Phillies’ lineup in front of Bryce Harper. He’s also only 23 and last played in Class AA. Bohm ended the season first among NL rookies in average at .338, first in OPS at .881, first in wRC+  138, second in extra-base hits with 11, first in RBIs with 23 and second in runs with 24. Bohm also had 40 hits in September, behind only Marcell Ozuna for the league lead. I’m not sure how much voters will weigh Bohm playing only 44 games, but if I had a vote, he would be my No. 1 choice — and not just because I have a future on him that would bail me out for the season. 

This Week's Bets Recap:

$1,550 to win 500 on the Dodgers series price vs. the Brewers

$500 to win $950 on the Blue Jays series price vs. the Rays

$525 to win $500 on the A’s series price vs. the White Sox

$500 to win $625 on the Reds series price vs. the Braves

 

This week I bet a total of $3,075 and I still have $14,021.36 in pending player futures, for a new total of $17,096.36. So far I have lost $2,625 on baseball futures.

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