We’re at that time of year when preseason bets are running fast and furious. Those who think they have an angle of insight not yet seen by the Las Vegas bookmakers are racing to the counter to place their bets before the number is adjusted. If you’re a betting man or woman, pay attention.
The Boston Red Sox have opened with a projected win total of 79.5, which means they are expected, at least in Vegas, to finish below .500. As with everything else inside the walls of a casino, trying to predict an outcome before any team rosters are set is risky business. That’s why there is so much action on these types of numbers right now. At some point in the very near future, they will be adjusted.
The odds of the Red Sox taking the AL pennant right now are 14/1, and the odds of them bringing home the World Series trophy is more than twice that (30/1). But those aren’t the numbers that you want to focus on. Anything can happen in the postseason, especially with the new format. And, of course, simply getting to the postseason is a crapshoot all by itself. But predicting wins? Well, that’s almost impossible. That’s why these Vegas win totals can be taken advantage of.
The bookmakers have no idea what the Red Sox have this season. Heck, the Red Sox have no idea what they have this season. Among the position players, I’m comfortable in knowing what only three of them will give the team this year—Dustin Pedroia, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Shane Victorino. Everyone else is completely surrounded by question marks. I’ll say the same thing for the entire pitching rotation. I think Jon Lester will rebound, and I think Clay Buchholz will stay healthy. But the rest of the group is even more of an unknown.
The bullpen is solid. The Red Sox have plenty of capable arms to compensate for injuries and ineffective pitching if need be. By most accounts, this is the team’s strength. The Red Sox had 72 quality starts last season, which was the fourth worst total in the league. On top of that, they had 22 blown saves—third worst in MLB. The starting pitching should be better this year, but even if they do produce the exact same number of quality starts, the bullpen is definitely built to protect more leads. If the relief corps can cut those blown saves in half this year, and I have every reason to think they can, the Sox should end up with a minimum of 11 more wins by default. And this assumes that the offense will be equally as bad as they were last season.
The 2012 Red Sox won 69 games. An additional 11 wins would give them 80—and to refresh your memory, the target number to beat is 79.5. To me this represents the absolute worst-case scenario. The Sox are sure to add a few more wins to that number along the way. I’m going with the over. Who’s with me?
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)