The initial over/under American League


Who’s smarter: baseball projection systems such as PECOTA and CHONE or good old fashioned Las Vegas sports books? It’s an interesting question to ponder in an age in which statistical analysis has taken center stage in the game, and the two options are one side of the same coin. Out of Las Vegas’ efforts to predict, via smart wagers, sports outcomes arose statistical analysis and more advanced projection systems.

I pose this question today because a few of the bigger sports books have released their initial over/under lines for the 2010 baseball season. Vegas Watch has the full league table, and I’ve broken down the American League by division. The Yankees, as you’ll see, win the over/under AL East but only by a hair.

AL East
Yankees – 94.5
Boston – 94
Tampa Bay – 89.5
Baltimore – 72.5
Toronto – 71

AL Central
Chicago – 82
Minnesota – 82
Detroit – 81
Cleveland – 73
Kansas City – 71

AL West
LAnaheim – 84
Seattle – 83
Texas – 83
Oakland – 78

In perusing this table late last night, I was struck by how few of these win totals I would bet on right now. When a team’s over/under lines up with the bettor’s estimated wins for that team, it’s a bad bet. Would you take the “over” on the Yanks and hope for a 95+ win season amidst a very competitive AL East? The initial line on the Yanks last year was 97.5, and I doubt many people took the “over” in February, March or even April.

I’m further intrigued by the relatively weak AL Central and West divisions. At first glance, we wouldn’t assume that two division winners would be pegged at win totals in the low 80s. After all, the Angels won 97 games last year, and even the Twins topped their 2010 line by four victories through 162 games. In fact, the AL hasn’t sent two sub-90 win teams to the playoffs since 1998 when both the Indians and Rangers failed to top 89 victories. Yet, of the teams pegged to compete for those division titles, I would place a bet only the Rangers, and then, I’d be inclined to take the over. Texas should have a team better than 83 wins, especially in a division as weak as the West.

Right now, though, these lines are published to encourage bets, and they don’t represent the true Vegas predictions. For every $1000 placed, the lines will move half a point. If one team’s win total is grossly under-predicted, the line will quickly move upward to compensate as bettors take the over, and that’s where the crowd-vs.-computer debate takes over. As the lines shift and settle over the next few weeks, can early season oddsmakers and those willing to place bets beat the projection systems? The results should look fairly congruous by year’s end.

In my heart, I want to take the over on the Yankees, and David Pinto wants the under on Boston due to the team’s injury risk. But odds are good the AL East will be a dogfight. First team to 96 wins takes the crown.

Here’s your obligatory disclaimer: These lines and my thoughts are for entertainment purposes only. Don’t bet on baseball with my advice in mind, and if you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please contact the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Categories : Whimsy


  1. Bo says:

    Bet the over on Minnesota. Angels.

    • Steve H says:

      Completely agree on the Twins, they have won less than 82 games once in the last 9 years, and possibly have their best team of that span.

    • JGS says:

      I’m taking the under on Minnesota. They haven’t had a winning record on the road since 2006 and they’ve made up for it by dominating at home. I think moving away from the Metrodome will cost them their massive homefield advantage

  2. Steve H says:

    I was discussing this yesterday with my brother, but man it sucks to be the Rays. They are one of the top 5 teams in baseball, and unless the Yankees or Sox suffer major injury or injuries, the Rays will likely be on the outside looking in, and also plan on cutting payroll next year. I know they have a great farm system, but this may be the best team they’ve ever had, and it might not be good enough to make the playoffs.

    I’d take the over on Kansas City, based on new staff ace Kyle Farnsworth’s league leading 22 wins.

    The Central and West are almost pick em, I’d say every team but KC has an outside chance at winning their division, and Cleveland is the only stretch there. What a bunch of flawed teams.

    • Colombo says:

      They only plan on cutting payroll because they have large contracts (Pena, Crawford, Burrell) coming off the books and plenty of minor league studs to replace them. It isn’t going to be like the Marlins cut payroll, more like how we cut payroll after 2008, minus signing CC, AJ, and Big Tex.

      • Steve H says:

        They hope that those guys can replace Pena and Crawford, but it’s no sure thing, and instead of using that money elsewhere, to shore up other parts of the team, they’ll likely pocket it.

        • Colombo says:

          Pena will be hard to replace, but they have Desmond Jennings waiting to replace Crawford. Same skill set, years younger and cheaper.

          • Thomas says:

            Desmond Jennings may be the next Crawford (he may even be better). However, I doubt that next year he is equal to Crawford’s production. It may take 3-4 years before he is at Crawford’s level, so replacing Crawford with Jennings will likely weaken the team for at least a few years.

  3. AL East:
    Yankees: Over
    Red Sox: Push
    Rays: Under
    Orioles: Over
    Jays: Push

    White Sox: Over
    Twins: Over
    Tigers: Push
    Indians: Over
    Royals: Under

    Angels: Over
    Mariners: Over
    Rangers: Push
    A’s: Under

    • Thomas says:

      Here are my picks:

      AL East:
      Yankees: Over
      Red Sox: Push
      Rays: Under
      Orioles: Over
      Jays: Push

      White Sox: Over
      Twins: Over
      Tigers: Under
      Indians: Over
      Royals: Under

      Angels: Over
      Mariners: Under
      Rangers: Over
      A’s: Push

  4. Zack says:

    Wild Card team winning 10-12 more games than 2 other division leaders? Ugly

    • Thomas says:

      Even worse the 3rd place Rays with an expected 5.5 wins over the other division winners.

      • AJ says:

        I don’t think they’ll ever do anything about this.

        • Thomas says:

          Neither do I and I don’t think they should move around the division just because 1 division is very strong at the present. However, I am just stating it sucks for people in the AL East that the 3rd place team is expected by Vegas to be better than all the AL Central and AL West teams.

        • Zack says:

          They won’t if its just one year. But say one of NY/BOS/TB get left out of the playoffs for multiple years in a row while having better records than the other division, then something will change.

          • Steve H says:

            I still doubt it. But I don’t think it’ll be the Rays in a few years that’ll be the 3rd team, I think the Orioles will be the bigger pain over the next 5-10 years (starting in 2011 or 2012).

            • ColoYank says:

              100% agreed on the Orioles. I have a feeling they may pass the Rays sooner rather than later. They finished 20 games behind the Rays in ’09; I wouldn’t be surprised if it were more like 6 or 8 games in ’10.

              You definitely have to take the over on the Orioles.

              • plus the orioles have something the rays do not. the ability to spend. with their young talent and a bigger budget than tampa they could do some serious damage filling in around their young talented core. if bmore thinks they are on the verge of winning they would open the pocketbooks

  5. Mike HC says:

    Favorite bets for me here are the under on Tampa Bay, and over on the Angels.

  6. Tubby says:

    A wise guy trick is to wait until the week after the 1st round of the NCAA tourney and take the under any team that had a significant upward shift. Billions of tourist dollars flood Vegas during the opening round of the NCAA tourney. Casual bettors will throw $20, $50, $100, etc. on their favorite MLB team, which artifically inflates the o/u lines. If you look at the lines in mid-March, you’ll see about 85% of the money going to the overs and 15% going to the unders. The sportsbooks will shift the o/u accordingly, thus creating a pseudo discount. So, if the o/u for a particular team jumps from 81 wins to 84 wins, you should take the under regardless of how you feel about that team. Bet the o/u based on the value you are getting, not your personal prediction of how the team will perform.

    • ColoYank says:

      Where’s your obligatory disclaimer?

      I keed, I keed.

    • Slugger27 says:

      while your point stands, 3 wins shift is astronomical

      ive monitored these lines the past few years and the most you can expect a total to move is 2 and thats only a couple teams throughout MLB

      but your point is still valid… value is value

  7. JGS says:

    Yankees: over
    Sox: over
    Rays: over
    Orioles: under
    Jays: under

    White Sox: over
    Twins: under
    Tigers: over
    Indians: under
    Royals: under

    Angels: under
    Mariners: over
    Rangers: over
    Athletics: under

  8. ADam says:

    Yankees – 94.5 – Over
    Boston – 94 – Over
    Tampa Bay – 89.5 Under
    Baltimore – 72.5 – Under
    Toronto – 71 – Under

    AL Central
    Chicago – 82 – Over
    Minnesota – 82 – Over
    Detroit – 81 – Over
    Cleveland – 73 Under
    Kansas City – 71 – Under

    AL West
    LAnaheim – 84 Over
    Seattle – 83 Over
    Texas – 83 – Over
    Oakland – 78 – Over

    • Slugger27 says:

      i cant wait to bet the under on the houston astros no matter what the line is

      it would have to be in the 50s for me not to… theyre awful

  9. SK says:

    Am i the only one that wants to jump on the Mariners bandwagon? Top two starters are aces, combined with good defensive pickups offseason. Defense and pitching wins games, i think mariners will easily be better than an 83 and 79 team.

    Another darkhorse is the nationals, but this is the AL over/under thread so that’ll be for another day.

    • Steve H says:

      The Mariners bandwagon is already tipping over it’s so full. With the 2 aces they’ll be tough, but their 3-5 spots in the rotation are shaky. If they can get league average pitching out of them, they’ll be very strong, but that’s a big if.

      • Thomas says:

        The Mariners also were outscored by about 150 runs last year and are losing excellent production from Branyan and Washburn.

        • ColoYank says:

          The Mariners were SO lucky last year. They actually have more like 20 games to make up against the Angels.

          I’m not ready to anoint them yet.

          /not off the wagon – never climbed on

      • Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

        i don’t think i even know who their 3-5 starters are now that washburn is gone, mrorow is gone (even though he was in the bp) and they put jabakakauskakus in the pen

  10. Rose says:

    AL East
    Yankees – 94.5
    Boston – 94

    Why? I never understand this. The Yankees and Red Sox have equally stellar starting pitching rotations. The Red Sox have better defense…but not that much better. The Yankees bullpen is much better than the Red Sox and the Yankees offense eclipses the Sox.

    So why are some ‘projections’ saying the Red Sox will win the AL East…and others saying they’re just a hair behind? They had a .257/.340/.414 (.753) on the Road last year…and they lost their best offensive player. In comparison, the 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates hit the following at Home: .270/.334/.420 (.755). Strikingly similar.

    I’m not denying that the Red Sox will be a very good team…but I’m just confused as to where some are getting that they are just a tack below the Yankees or in some cases BETTER than them.

    • CountryClub says:

      I generally agree with your comparisons. But most “experts” feel the Sox have a better pen than the Yanks and I think the Sox offense is probably not as bad as your suggesting. The Sox will be in the top 5 in runs.

      • Rose says:

        and I think the Sox offense is probably not as bad as your suggesting. The Sox will be in the top 5 in runs.

        Oh I agree with this. They rake at Fenway…always do. I just still think the Yankees offense is way better.

    • Nady Nation says:

      Again, not everything needs to be taken as a slight towards the Yankees. This is merely a line created by Vegas to entice gamblers to wager one way or the other. This “projection” could be altered extremely easily and quickly, depending on the betters’ trends. By the start of the season, the Yanks over/under might be 95 while the Sox’s is 92.5. It’s really not anything to get worked up about. People need to stop playing the “Yanks are being disrespected” card, especially over ridiculous matters like total win over/unders and fantasy rankings.

      • Rose says:

        It wasn’t just about the over/under and vegas odds. I also included other projections but didn’t name them specifically. CHONE and PECOTA for example. And I’m not playing the “Yankees are being disrespected” card at all. I’m simply saying that the Yankees are even BETTER than last year…and they dominated lives in 2009…the Red Sox got slightly better. The gap in between them, however, should be larger than these ‘projections’ are making them seem IMO

        • Nady Nation says:

          “And I’m not playing the “Yankees are being disrespected” card at all. I’m simply saying that the Yankees are even BETTER than last year…and they dominated lives in 2009…the Red Sox got slightly better. The gap in between them, however, should be larger than these ‘projections’ are making them seem IMO”

          Don’t really see how you’re not playing the disrespected card. You are saying that various projections are not giving the Yankees enough credit. How else should that be construed?

          • Rose says:

            I’m actually perfectly fine with the projections with the Yankees. I don’t recall ever saying otherwise. What I have a problem with is they are giving the Red Sox too much credit. There’s a difference.

            • Nady Nation says:

              I guess. I just don’t understand why that’s such a big deal to people though, especially Yankee fans. Who cares what the Red Sox projections are?

              • Rose says:

                I live on the border of Massachusetts and all of my friends are Red Sox fans…and all I ever hear is over exaggerated stories about how incredible their team is year in and year out. It’s enough to drive any ordinary man – insane.

  11. CountryClub says:

    As Ben alluded to, these lines are set in a way so that people will bet on both sides. In a perfect world, Vegas wants an equal amount of bets on the Yanks over and under. So these lines arent really what they think each team will win.

    That being said, the Yanks are winning high 90′s this year.

    • Slugger27 says:

      i firmly believe the vegas oddsmakers use computers and statistical analysis to make these lines. i think they probably take all the projection systems, tweak it slightly based on a few human observations, average them all, and run a simulation about 500,000 times…. similar to what SG at replacement level does

      as smart as those dudes are, they have to use math in stuff like this… as in, i dont think theyre just sitting and pondering and coming up with arbitrary numbers based on how they feel about the team

      • Then they knock off a few wins to encourage opening bets. If they sit the Yanks’ over/under at 96, no one would put money the team at all.

        • Steve H says:

          I guess they’d do a little more tweaking with the Yankees and Red Sox due to the rabid fanbases and the weatlh of those fanbases. While it may not bring in your average gambler, it can bring in fans (or haters) of the big market teams with wealthy fanbases. They want that Northeast money and they get it.

  12. Joe Magrane last night said something like “the Anaheim Angels will win their normal 95 games as they always do”. I almost came down with a case of Kuru.

  13. Don’t bet on baseball with my advice in mind, and if you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please contact the National Council on Problem Gambling.

    i laughed

  14. Manimal says:

    It looks like it is going to be a good year for baseball, alot of close races for almost every division.

  15. [...] a certain sense, Rosenthal’s plan complements our look at the over/under lines. The AL clearly has something of a competitive balance problem. Early season indicators put the [...]

  16. mtbod says:

    I agree the Rangers should win more than 83 games. The offense will be better this year and if the pitching can at least match last years’ output, they could win the division.

  17. bexarama says:

    So I can laugh at myself in however many months:

    Yankees over
    Boston push
    Tampa Bay under
    Baltimore over
    Toronto push

    Chicago push
    Minnesota over
    Detroit over
    Cleveland push
    Kansas City under

    Anaheim over
    Seattle push
    Texas over
    Oakland push

  18. Not the Rays says:

    All I gotta say is I got long the Yankees to repeat as WS champs at 3.5 to 1. I think I am not the only one who made this decision, as the odds have since shrunk to 2.75 to 1, which is IMHO far closer to correct (I’d put the true odds around 2.5 to 1)

    Yay market pricing mechanisms

  19. Erin Turner says:

    sometimes, gambling problem is very very difficult to solve.~;”

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.