The 2023 Major League Baseball season is upon us. We're always grateful but should probably be even more grateful this time around since it's the first season that has started without a hitch since 2019. A normal season? Dare we dream?
Speaking of dreams, it's time to think about placing some bets on this incredibly unpredictable marathon that is the regular season. What you'll see below are the win totals (some call them "over/unders") for each of the 30 teams, courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook. These aren't predictions but instead, essentially, betting lines. Our task is to look at the number and predict whether or not that team will win more (over) or fewer (under) games this coming season.
This is very difficult. You'll almost never see a team listed next to a total and jump out of your seat thinking "that's way off!" Let's take a look at every team's win total number and then point some favorite picks.
- Braves: 95.5
- Astros: 95
- Dodgers: 94.5
- Padres: 94
- Yankees: 94
- Mets: 92.5
- Blue Jays: 92
- Cardinals: 89
- Rays: 89
- Guardians: 87.5
- Phillies: 86.5
- Mariners: 87
- Brewers: 84.5
- Twins: 83.5
- White Sox: 82
- Angels: 81.5
- Rangers: 81.5
- Giants: 81
- Orioles: 78
- Cubs: 78
- Red Sox: 77.5
- Diamondbacks: 76.5
- Marlins: 75.5
- Tigers: 69.5
- Royals: 68.5
- Pirates: 67.5
- Reds: 66
- Rockies: 66
- Athletics: 59.5
- Nationals: 59
Yankees under 94
Remember when the Yankees were ridiculous last season? At certain points through the first half, they were 18-6, 28-9, 40-15, 49-16 and 61-23. After that latter record, the Yankees went 38-40 and those samples aren't too far off in number of games (84 vs. 78). I know the schedule isn't nearly as unbalanced toward intra-divisional play this season as last -- and that'll be a theme here the rest of the column -- but I wonder how much that mitigates the Yankees' over-inflated record last season.
I think this team is very good, but I just don't think it's good enough to go on stretches where it wins 49 of 65 games again. Even if I did, Carlos Rodón and Luis Severino injuries this spring, not to mention Frankie Montas, are nice reminders of how thin things are with the pitching. The lineup, as we saw late last season, has the potential to be awfully top-heavy, too.
Now factor in the rest of the AL East being very strong and I think all of this conspires to keep the Yankees under 94 wins. They are still my top AL wild-card pick; I just think it'll be with something like 91 or 92 wins.
Blue Jays over 92
By simple logic of reading that last paragraph in the Yankees entry above, I have to go over here. I have the Jays winning the East and the Yankees winning 91-92 wins. Easy enough!
OK, fine, I'll say more.
The Blue Jays were one of the biggest disappointments in baseball for months last season. They fired a manager and woke up -- possibly a coincidence, possibly not -- going 47-28 in their last 75 games. That's a full-season pace of 102 wins. As noted, the schedule won't be as heavy against the very strong AL East. They've reshaped the offense and defense to make it more well-rounded, thanks to additions like Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Belt and Daulton Varsho while the backbone youngsters (Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero) are likely to have bigger seasons. In the rotation, there are two aces in Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, a solid Chris Bassitt and surely José Berríos can't be worse. The bullpen has been shored up in front of Jordan Romano.
It'll be tough to get there, but I like the Jays for 95-plus wins this time around.
Red Sox over 77.5
It's possible for the entire AL East to finish .500 or better, maybe even all five winning at least 82 games. The Orioles finished in fourth with 83 wins last season while the Red Sox were dead last and still won 78. That alone would hit this over. Keep in mind the schedule change. I'm harping on it for a reason and that's because it will prove significant in betting totals.
The Red Sox are a different team that last year, sure. They seem similar in ability to win games, though, and the total being 0.5 less than their wins last season helps strengthen that opinion.
Last year's Red Sox went 26-50 against the AL East, meaning they went 52-34 outside the division (a full-season pace of 98 wins). This year, they'll only play the rest of the AL East 52 times.
Even if you think they aren't as good outside the division as they were last year, there's an awful lot of wiggle room there with more games against weaker competition than the fellow AL East powers.
Cardinals under 89
Just to stick with the theme, I'm willing to say the schedule change alone costs the Cardinals the four games between last year and this year alone to dip down to the 89 wins. They went 13-6 against the Cubs, 12-7 against the Reds and 13-6 against the Pirates last season and this year they only get those teams 13 games apiece (and each are arguably improved, too).
I'm already under.
Now, the Cardinals' offense is loaded. I won't say anything negative. It could even be better.
The pitching is worrisome, though, especially against tougher competition. Adam Wainwright, now north of 41 years old, is already injured and faltered down the stretch last season. Miles Mikolas nears his 35th birthday. It's been a while since Jack Flaherty could be counted on for long stretches of consistency (2019, I'd say). Then there's Jordan Montgomery, Jake Woodford and Steven Matz.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cardinals win the division. The Brewers might, too. Whoever it is probably only needs to hit 87 wins, meaning the Cardinals are my pick to hit the under, as the Brewers' number is 84.5.
Giants under 81
They won exactly 81 last season and don't especially look improved. They had some kind of magic going in 2021 and it's why I refused to count them out last season. It's a little easier after a year removed from whatever that was. Logan Webb is legitimate, but the rotation behind him is just decent. I love Camilo Doval's stuff and the Rogers brothers help make for a good enough bullpen, but is it really great? Offensively, things could fall apart. Mitch Haniger is already hurt. What will we see from Michael Conforto after so much time off? Is Joc Pederson a legitimate middle-order hitter? The rest of the group feels mediocre at best.
There's obviously a boost due to the schedule, but it becomes less of a boost for a mediocre team and I actually like the Diamondbacks' upside a lot more heading into the year. As such, I think fourth place in the NL West is more likely than a winning record. I'll go under here.
Angels over 81.5
Uh oh. Here we go again! I'm falling for the fool's gold!
First things first, we're going to need full seasons of health from Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and (gulp) Anthony Rendon for this team to be a playoff contender. This is, of course, gambling, so let's get nuts.
The supporting cast is the best it has been in years here with players like Taylor Ward, Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Drury, Jared Walsh, Gio Urshela and then Patrick Sandoval, Tyler Anderson and Reid Detmers behind Ohtani in the rotation. I like the Carlos Estévez add in the bullpen.
Most of all, the team seems very committed to keeping Ohtani in free agency, which means it needs to not only avoid a sell-off in front of the trade deadline, but aggressive additions to try and make a playoff push.
And remember, they get more games against the Central division teams this time around.
Tigers under 69.5
To reiterate, this is a tough exercise. I do think Javier Báez, Austin Meadows and Spencer Torkelson will absolutely be better this year than last. Riley Greene is a great talent and could have a breakout season. A full year of Eduardo Rodriguez will help the rotation. Those are all legitimate positives.
Now the negatives.
There isn't much more around those players. That's bad.
The Tigers won 66 games last year and that was a season in which they had playoff aspirations heading in. Now let's factor in that they were 34-42 against the weak AL Central, meaning they were 32-54 outside the division. They now have fewer in-division games and a lot more outside it against tougher competition. You could even make the argument the other four AL Central teams are improved, even if modestly so.
There's also this factor to consider: Remember how I said the Tigers were trying to win last year? They are under new management which is very likely prepared to tear things down. If there's any way this new administration can deal Meadows or rid themselves of any Báez money (this is under the assumption he has a good year), they'll unload.
I know I said this was a very difficult exercise, but I really feel strongly that this is a relatively easy pick. The Tigers won't win 70 games this year.
Reds over 66
I think it's evident by now that I believe the Centrals are the two weak divisions and the new scheduling means, in general, the Central win totals will come down while the Easts and Wests inch upward a bit. This Reds pick might fly in the face of that, but 66 is an awfully low total. The Reds won 62 games last year and that was after spotting the rest of the league 19 games, basically, after starting 3-22. They went 59-78 after that (a full-season pace of 70 wins), finishing the year with exactly 100 losses after one of the worst starts in baseball history.
The pitching staff has promise behind future aces Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo and we shouldn't forget about solid mid-rotation guy Graham Ashcraft. The offense doesn't seem very good, but it was bad last year. They should be able to hold ninth-inning leads with stud closer Alexis Díaz and, really, there aren't too many players that will be traded this summer. Nothing that would resemble gutting the team, at least.
They won't contend for a playoff spot, but I like the Reds to approach 70 wins.