In last week’s Point Spread Weekly, I was remiss in failing to mention that I was going to wait until this week to give my takes on the upcoming MLB season. I went through the other major sports but wanted a little more space to go through my baseball preview.
Similar to the other sports, baseball has had an interesting offseason coming off a condensed 2020 regular season. In fact, it still amazes us here in the Tuley’s Takes home office that the NFL has been the only sport to conduct its regular season unscathed, though we guess we shouldn’t be too surprised with just 16 regular-season games per team. Baseball has had a lot of player movement, and we’re supposed to go back to a 162-game schedule — with a deadened ball.
This leads me to my first bit of gambling advice. A lot of people are saying to bet Unders early in the season, but if I see oddsmakers shading the totals low, I’m going to jump all over the Overs. For starters, count me as skeptical that MLB will actually do anything to limit scoring. That’s just not something any sports league does, so I’m not buying it. Besides, even if the ball is deadened, I can’t help but think back to when I was playing a lot of softball in the Chicago area in 1989. I was in a 16-inch league (no gloves), a couple of regular 12-inch leagues (with gloves) and even a 14-inch “mushball” coed league. That ball was meant so men and women could play barehanded without breaking their fingers. The ball was noticeably softer on the outside and its flight was certainly restricted, especially when compared with a regular 12-inch softball. But if you hit that thing on the screws, it would go just as far. With the way today’s players swing for the fences, I doubt we’re going to see a drop in scoring, so consider joining me on the Overs right off the bat before the oddsmakers and the rest of the betting public react. And if we’re wrong, we’ll know after the first few days and can adjust.
Before we get to MLB, I have two more topics I want to discuss.
— Those in Vegas through the end of the month should know that after having its March Madness and baseball Over/Under contests canceled last year, the Westgate SuperBook is resuming them this year. You can already sign up for both contests in person at the Westgate at $200 per entry. Lines for the opening round of the NCAA tournament will be available after Selection Sunday, March 14, with the contest running the next Friday and Saturday. Entries for the Baseball Season Wins Challenge are already being taken. You pick against the 30 locked-in team totals, and the tiebreaker is to predict the total wins by the Dodgers. The deadline is 10 p.m. PT March 31. Another important rule is that individual teams must play 155 games for action in the baseball contest.
— That leads me to topic No. 2. For baseball bettors everywhere, be aware of the house rules wherever you bet, whether in Nevada, in other states with legalized sports betting or offshore. This should always be the case, but especially now with so much schedule uncertainty during the pandemic. The Westgate contest and the SuperBook for its Over/Under season win totals bet with cash require 155 games for action. The South Point requires only 150, and we’re hearing of many ways that books are handling these, so be sure you know what you’re getting into.
And now back to our breakdown of the MLB season ...
Let’s start on the Left Coast, where the Padres made a big offseason splash by acquiring Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to add a much stronger starting staff to an already explosive offense. I’ve been high on the Padres the last few years, and I equate this to sometimes being early on a horse and maybe betting it too early before it reaches its full potential. This could very well be the year the Padres do that. The problem with betting the Padres to win the World Series (+ 710) or the NL pennant (+ 325) or even the NL West (+ 245) is that they have to battle the defending champion Dodgers. I’m still shopping around and will decide later whether to get involved with the Padres in any of those markets, but I’m making my biggest wager on Over 93.5 wins. The Dodgers are at 103.5, and I’m not making the same mistake of fading them like I did with Under 39 last summer in the abbreviated 60-game season. This theme of liking a team in a division with a heavy favorite will be repeated later.
This division has been wide open in recent years. The Cardinals traded for Nolan Arenado to solidify their role as the favorites at + 140, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers (+ 200), Reds (+ 400) or even Cubs (+ 800) won the division title. As a diehard Cubs fan, I might take a flier on them at 8-1 because I was never too much of a Darvish fan, and even though I’ll miss Kyle Schwarber, Joc Pederson should fit well in that lineup. I think the best bet in the division is the Cubs Over 78 wins, though I also like the Brewers Over 83.5.
If anyone has a strong opinion on this division, I’d love to hear it. I’ve gone back and forth on which team has the best odds to win the division among the Braves (+ 150), Mets (+ 160), Nationals (+ 600), Phillies (+ 900) and Marlins (+ 3000). The Mets should be the most improved, but oddsmakers have already accounted for that and any betting value is gone. I was continually surprised by how much the Marlins overachieved last season and even made the playoffs, but I’m not sure they can sustain that over a 162-game schedule. I think I’ll pass on this division.
The A’s also overachieved last season, and I’m willing to fade them by going Under 86.5 with their season win total. That also leads us to the most bettable chalky division winner in the Astros (+ 125). The Dodgers and Yankees are odds-on favorites in their divisions, but I see them having more legitimate contenders to overcome, while the Astros should coast to the AL West title.
This is the last year for the “Indians,” as they’ll play one last season before dropping the nickname, but they’re not expected to go out on top. In fact, let’s go Under 81.5. We don’t see them getting over .500, and they should finish well back of the White Sox (+ 110) and Twins (+ 125). The White Sox have been on a lot of bettors’ radar the last few seasons and might be tempting at + 350 to win the AL or + 900 to win the World Series. The oddsmakers are already on to them, but with Lance Lynn added to the rotation with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, the White Sox might actually have the staff to make a postseason run.
The Yankees are the prohibitive favorites at -225, but I’ve been waiting for the Blue Jays to break through for a couple of years. The addition of George Springer from Houston and Marcus Semien from Oakland helps an already potent lineup, and we just have to wait to see if the Jays can outslug the Yankees. Similar to the Padres-Dodgers situation, I’m not sure whether I’ll wager anything on the Blue Jays to win the World Series (+ 2000), AL pennant (+ 1000) or even the AL East (+ 500), but I’ll load up on the Over 86 wins.
Next week we’ll jump into the college basketball conference tournaments.