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A week after the All-Star Game, a few of MLB’s divisional races remain wide open, while others show prohibitive favorites. This is usually a good time to project the rest of the season to see how teams might fare based upon their remaining schedules, injury situations, starting rotations and other factors. We know a lot about all 30 teams after nearly 100 games, so simulating the rest of the season should uncover some great betting opportunities we can invest in while the price is right.
There are some important points I need to share before getting to the projections for the rest of the season. Consider these key fundamentals and roster points in full before heading to the counter to place your wagers.
- My power ratings obviously don’t account for any potential trade-deadline deals that may occur before the end of the month. There are some game-changing players’ names being tossed about, including stud pitchers like Max Scherzer. If you have a reasonable gauge on which teams might be selling and which might be buying in the next week or so, you should feel comfortable in bumping up or down my projections.
- The current power ratings also don’t account for the typical September “over-pricing” that always comes up, as oddsmakers tend to boost the lines on the better teams in conjunction with the rising stakes of games. They also don’t reflect any late-season resting of starters after playoff spots have been clinched. In both of those cases, lines can swing by as much as 50 cents on a game, which can account for about 0.1 wins/losses on my projections. Multiply this by five and you can see how the projected standings could change.
- I projected five-man rotations for every team based on recent usage. Obviously it is impossible to project every starting pitcher for the remaining 1,025 games, so this could also throw off the numbers. For instance, the Mets have multiple doubleheaders remaining, thanks to earlier postponements. Naturally the Mets’ rotation will not follow a standard schedule, and spot starters will be used throughout.
- I have accounted for the only neutral-field game on the schedule, the Aug. 12 meeting between the Yankees and White Sox in Iowa.
- I have made several assumptions and/or speculations based on when some key players might return from the injured list. These key players include Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber of Cleveland, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals, Pablo Lopez of the Marlins, Mike Trout and Justin Upton of the Angels, Jacob DeGrom of the Mets, Stephen Strasburg and Kyle Schwarber of the Nationals and Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt of the Giants.
- I ran all of the simulation numbers for games of Tuesday this week through the end of the season. Tuesday night’s actual results are NOT factored into the final projections. If you consider a line of -105 as a 50% chance for both teams to win a game, you can take Tuesday’s results and factor them into the projections. In most cases, you will be adding about 0.5 wins and subtracting 0.5 losses per team to the teams that won on Tuesday, and vice versa for the losing teams.
One more note before I proceed. I found myself challenged data-wise by this exercise as it is nowhere near as straightforward as running the numbers for a football or basketball season, as the changes in starting pitchers, ballpark factors and the numerous injury situations all can affect the daily game odds quite a bit. Keep in mind, these projections are merely done as a way for you to spot potential value on the current odds boards at DraftKings, whether based on my schedule-strength calculations or by the actual won-lost projections after 162 games. I’ll go through each of the divisions and share my own take on the findings and any potential value spots.
These are the projected final standings using my power ratings to simulate the rest of the MLB season in the AL East.
Steve’s take: With a 1 1/2-game lead entering play Tuesday, the Red Sox were shown as a -117 favorite to win the AL East. To me, it’s a very uncomfortable favorite spot, for as much as Boston has been a very nice surprise in 2021 after disappointing seasons the last two years, it will be a challenge for the Red Sox to hold off the defending American League champion Rays. The task was lessened significantly when Tyler Glasnow went out for the Rays, and his return in 2021 is uncertain at best. Minus Glasnow and Blake Snell, who is now with San Diego, the Rays' pitching edge over the Red Sox is minimized appreciably. However, of late, Tampa’s bullpen has been performing amongst the best in baseball, so the pitching edge still goes that way. I would expect Boston to make a move before the deadline to shore that area up. Don’t discount the Yankees’ chances entirely, however, as the looming returns of Corey Kluber and Luis Severino to the rotation could provide a huge boost. If not a threat to the division race, they certainly would be in the wild-card hunt, as they are capable of going on a huge run at any point. As much as I like the Blue Jays roster and figure them as a consistent contending team in the coming years, I don’t like their home-field situation and see them as a year or two away from competing in the postseason.
Steve’s wager: Slight lean on Tampa Bay as an underdog to win the AL East based upon schedule strength.
These are the projected final standings using my power ratings to simulate the rest of the MLB season in the AL Central.
Steve’s take: The AL Central has become a runaway for the White Sox as they have proven to have both the best starting pitching and hitting among the five teams. At the outset of the season, it could be argued that the Indians’ rotation stacked up with the Sox, but that group is in shambles now as they await the return of Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber. Cleveland’s bullpen has been the best of those units, however. The Twins’ offense was expected to be the best in the AL Central but has never hit its stride. I expect Minnesota to be a seller at the trade deadline. Kansas City has been nearly as disappointing, especially after a strong start. Detroit has shown some promise in 2021.
Steve’s wager: None. All the value of the Sox (at -1312) has been used up. I would be willing to back Chicago in a postseason series over the AL East winner if that is how it plays out.
These are the projected final standings using my power ratings to simulate the rest of the MLB season in the AL West.
Steve’s take: I have said a couple of times on VSiN shows this season that I believe Houston has had the best and most consistent offense, despite missing several key hitters at various times. The Astros’ lead is just 3 1/2 games over Oakland as of Tuesday, but with a far easier schedule the rest of the way, that is expected to grow to about 8 1/2 by season’s end. Even with Justin Verlander not expected to pitch this season, Houston appears to be the favorite to get to the World Series from the American League. The A’s have been streaky as usual, winning 13 games in a row at one point and seven straight on another occasion. Take away those stretches and they are eight games under .500. I don’t think Oakland has the horses to keep up. In fact, with the way the Angels have been hitting the ball, a healthy return of Justin Upton and Mike Trout soon could propel L.A. into the wild-card hunt. Of course, if not, it wouldn’t be the first time that franchise squandered a talented roster. The Mariners have showcased some bright young talent this season, and at six games over .500, they could at least play a key spoiler role down the stretch. The Rangers are a notch below anyone else in the division.
Steve’s wager: With the relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, I would be willing to lay the -522 with Houston to capture this division.
These are the projected final standings using my power ratings to simulate the rest of the MLB season in the NL East.
Steve’s take: The Mets have surprisingly kept control of this division despite awful injury problems in the first half. The latest key loss was to Jacob DeGrom, who figures to miss a few starts thanks to forearm tightness. The rotation is still decent with Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker in place, but with every start deGrom misses, the overall win projection goes down over a quarter. Missing four starts makes a full game difference just by the odds, which could wind up being the deciding factor in the race for the division title. At this point, you have to consider Philadelphia a legitimate threat. They are a better hitting team than the Mets, their bullpen has really picked it up over the last couple of weeks, and they are getting unexpectedly strong starts from pitchers like Matt Moore and Zach Eflin, while Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola boast ace stuff. Atlanta was the preseason favorite but underachieved even before the Ronald Acuna Jr. injury. Washington is a shell of its 2019 championship self and figures to be a seller at the trade deadline, and Miami has been relegated to playing the role of spoiler.
Steve’s wager: Even down 2 1/2 games as of Tuesday, Philadelphia is my favorite underdog wager to capture one of the six division titles. The Phillies have the 29th-toughest remaining schedule in the league, the Mets have the fourth-toughest.
These are the projected final standings using my power ratings to simulate the rest of the MLB season in the NL Central.
Steve’s take: Heading into the All-Star break, Cincinnati had all the momentum in the NL Central, having taken three straight from Milwaukee. However, the Brewers quickly rebounded with a three-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati this past weekend, recovering their full lead in the division race. After another loss by the Reds on Monday, the gap stood at 7 1/2 games. With as good as the Brewers’ starting pitching has been, it’s very difficult to see anyone catching them down the stretch. The Reds are the most likely challenger, as they boast the best lineup, but some hitters, such as Jesse Winker to be specific, have cooled off. The Cubs actually have the second-best odds in the division at + 750, but their bullpen has unraveled, and they are expected to sell some of their key pieces at the trade deadline. St. Louis has taken a major step back in 2021 and could be on the verge of a rebuild. Not quite at the level of Pittsburgh, but still, the Cardinals are in unfamiliar territory despite holding a lead in the NL Central at one point in May.
Steve’s wager: This is too rich for my blood at -759, but Milwaukee certainly has the look of a team that could challenge for the National League title. Since acquiring shortstop Willy Adames on May 21, the Brewers have been the best team in baseball. With the NL West a three-headed monster, I expect just one team from this division to make the playoffs.
These are the projected final standings using my power ratings to simulate the rest of the MLB season in the NL West.
Steve’s take: The Giants have undoubtedly been the biggest surprise in all of baseball in 2021, and after another head-to-head win over the Dodgers on Monday night, held a 1 ½-game lead in the NL West. Is it a fluke? Can San Francisco withstand a charge from either L.A. or San Diego? I tell you what, before July I would have felt differently, but now I believe this team has what it takes to win this division, for a few reasons. First, the Giants have managed to maintain an elite level of play despite missing several of their opening-day starters at various times. Second, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is in shambles, with Clayton Kershaw on the injured list and Trevor Bauer on administrative leave while facing legal problems. Third, San Diego has the toughest remaining schedule of any of the three teams, and making up 5 1/2 games in the standings with that hurdle will be tough. Plus, the Padres’ pitching staff hasn’t been anywhere near as good as it looked on paper. The Rockies could make things tough on any of the three front-runners in Denver, while Arizona has been simply dreadful since a nice April start.
Steve’s wager: The Giants appear to be quite worthy of your backing to win the NL West. The Dodgers are priced as if they are seeking an eighth straight division title and are the defending World Series champs. They just don’t appear to be at that level right now. That’s not to say that L.A. couldn’t make a postseason run as a wild card, but at this point, San Francisco could actually be the smart money at + 356.