MLB Betting: Cubs, Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians are a Combined 11-24 -26.4 units
With the exception of the home run banging Los Angeles Dodgers (5-2) a number of MLB’s projected World Series contenders are off to sluggish starts. The baseball season is extremely long and it’s hard to imagine teams like the ultra-talented Astros not winning 95+ games. But not every preseason contenders will be able to “right the ship.” Just ask last year’s Washington Nationals who were projected to win 93 games but finished 82-80 and down -24.9 units. Let’s take a quick look at these small sample size underachievers and see whether or not their struggles will continue.
Chicago Cubs (1-5 -4.9 units) – Back in February, PECOTA came out with its preseason projections and had the Cubs finishing below .500. The Cubs, of course, used this as motivation but through the first week of the season, PECOTA may be on to something. Thus far, Chicago’s starting rotation, with an average age of 32.5, has a alarmingly high 6.85 FIP. Jon Lester, who just turned 35, has regressed each of the last four seasons. Yu Darvish doesn’t look close to regaining his pre-Cubs form (2 starts, 8.10 ERA). Cole Hamels, who is also 35, was pounded in his first start (5 IP, 5 ERs). And Jose Quintana and Kyle Herdicks, the “young guns” of the staff, endured small regressions last season that are likely to occur again as they enter the back-half of their careers. Even more of a concern is a bullpen that currently sports a league-high 9.70 ERA. Chicago was given no favors with a nine-game road trip to open the season. And it does soften considerably after this weekend’s 3-game set in Milwaukee with three home series vs. Pittsburgh, LA Angels and Arizona and a 3-game road trip to Miami. Expectations are obviously high and Joe Maddon is apparently on the hot seat. Out of all the teams we’ll discuss in this article, the Cubs appear to be the most prone for a disastrous season.
Houston Astros (2-5, -5.9 units) – Can a team be too good to fail? The Astros are obviously loaded with talent but there are some question marks. Last year’s starting rotation was arguably the best in MLB (3.16 ERA, 3.28 FIP) on the strength of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole’s combined 12.7 WAR. Yes, calling for regression is easy to do, but it’ll be impossible for BOTH pitchers to match last year’s numbers. Don’t forget Lance McCullers Jr. is out for the season with Tommy John meaning they’ll rely on three notoriously mediocre starters (McHugh, Miley, and Peacock) who are all north of 30 years old. It’s a far cry from the Verlander, Cole, Morton, Keuchel, McCullers rotation of last season. And most important, last year, with five premium starters, Houston was on average a -190 moneyline favorite. They won 103 games and STILL finished the season -1.8 units.
Boston Red Sox (2-6, -7 units) – 108 wins. +31 units. World Series title. It shouldn’t come as a shock to see the Red Sox a little slow out of the gates. Boston purposely limped into the season with its starting pitching staff due to last year’s workload. It certainly showed up in the results (35.2 IP, 9.08 ERA). Sale, Porcello, and Price in particular look like they are a few weeks away from being regular season ready. Not every team suffers from a World Series “hangover.” Last year’s Houston Astros squad was 32-18 after 50 games. But the Cubs started 25-25 in 2017 and last season, the Dodgers were at one point 10 games under .500 before finding their groove. Like the Cubs, tough way to start the campaign with 11 straight roadies. The biggest key moving forward is to keep an eye on the starting staff.
NY Yankees (3-4, -7.6 units) – The fact that the Yankees are 3-4 is actually a good sign considering the ridiculous amount of injuries they’ve endured. Adujar, Gregorious, Tulowitzki, Ellsbury, Hicks, Stanton, Montgomery, Sabathia, Severino, and Betances are all on the shelf. Will we ever see the Yankees at full strength this season? If not, considering the price tags they command, this could be a 90-win team that losses -25 units.
Cleveland Indians (3-3, -0.9 units) – Speaking of 90-win teams that burn bettors’ bankrolls. The Indians went 91-71 in a horrendous AL Central and lost nearly -25 units. They too are currently swamped with injuries (Zimmer, Salazar, Kipnis and Lindor). And the lineup…wow. How about .174, .255, .239 to open the season. They may still win the Central but an injury to one of their key starting pitchers and 90 wins all of a sudden becomes extremely tough.