Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

MLB Over/Unders

After a lengthy winter, baseball is finally nearly back!

Spring training has been awful for me, only whetting my appetite for baseball without truly satisfying it. However, it does serve a purpose. Spring training gives us a first glimpse at the configurations of each team. It provides us with tentative answers as to where each player will bat in the order, or who’ll close, or any number of things.

Today we’ll use some of that information in making our Over/Under predictions for the 2016 MLB season. First, let’s discuss a few best bets for the upcoming season. After that, we’ll zip through the rest of the picks.

Let’s get started!

Best Bets

Chicago Cubs: 92.5: OVER

They can’t make this number high enough for me. If it were raised to 95.5, I’d have to take it off my “Best Bets” list, but it would have to be over 100 for me to even consider taking the under.

Unlike other teams, who may have depth but no superstars, or superstars but no depth, the Cubs are in the enviable position of having both. In fact, although having superstars like Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, and Kris Bryant is important, what might be more impressive is that their worst regular is Dexter Fowler, a center fielder who, last season, smacked seventeen homers, swiped twenty bases, with a .346 OBP. On any other team, that’s a way above average player. Wow.

Chicago’s immense depth will allow to work its way through whatever obstacles it might face during the lengthy season, and its superstars will allow it to excel throughout the campaign. It’s tough to envision a scenario in which the Cubs don’t manage to win ninety games, making this an easy choice for the “Best Bets” list.

Houston Astros: 87.5: OVER

The Astros are eerily similar to the Cubs. They’re both young, up-and-coming teams coming off painful defeats in last year’s playoffs. They’re both led by a pair of young, stud infielders (Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, and Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, respectively) and each’s ace was absolutely awful before having a very good season in 2014 and winning the Cy Young in 2015 (Dallas Keuchel, and Jake Arrieta, respectively). And, just like the Cubs, the Astros are set to improve spectacularly on last season’s 86-76 record.

Houston definitely shouldn’t have any trouble gaining an extra two wins over last season. George Springer played only two-thirds of the season; a full season from him could get them over the hump by itself. When Correa’s inevitable improvement as he gains MLB experience is factored in, the Astros should be able to surpass the total that Bovada has set for them with ease.

San Diego Padres: 73.5: UNDER

Before last season, Padres GM A.J. Preller went on an offseason trading spree, nabbing Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, and Craig Kimbrel in an effort to win big. That effort failed miserably, and the team is now a wreck, with no hope in the present or in the future.

After Preller failed to turn the Padres into a contender, he sloughed off his two biggest acquisitions, with Upton leaving in free agency and Kimbrel being traded to the Red Sox. The team is now left with a desolate wasteland of a roster with no hope of contention.

In a challenging division with three teams expected to contend for the playoffs, it will be hard for San Diego to make it to seventy wins.

The Best of the Rest

Philadelphia Phillies: 65.5: UNDER

The Phillies won 63 games last year and now have even less talent. The scale of their rebuild is on par with that of the Astros a few of years ago, and those Houston teams won 56, 55, and 51 games from 2011-2013.

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5: OVER and Pittsburgh Pirates: 86.5: OVER

I group these two teams together because they’re both NL Central teams who had the two highest win totals in MLB last season, didn’t get appreciably worse over the offseason, and are not getting much love from Bovada. These two teams are about the same as they were last year, and last year they won 100 and 98 games, respectively. How is each’s win total expected to decline by double digits?

Over/Under Picks for Entire MLB

Houston Astros: 87.5: OVER

Texas Rangers: 84.5: UNDER

Seattle Mariners: 82.5: UNDER

Los Angeles Angels: 81.5: UNDER

Oakland Athletics: 75.5: UNDER

Kansas City Royals: 85.5: OVER

Cleveland Indians: 84.5: UNDER

Detroit Tigers: 81.5: OVER

Chicago White Sox: 80.5: OVER

Minnesota Twins: 78.5: OVER

Toronto Blue Jays: 87.5: OVER

Boston Red Sox: 86.5: OVER

New York Yankees: 85.5: UNDER

Tampa Bay Rays: 81.5: UNDER

Baltimore Orioles: 79.5: OVER

San Francisco Giants: 89.5: UNDER

Los Angeles Dodgers: 88.5: OVER

Arizona Diamondbacks: 82.5: OVER

San Diego Padres: 73.5: UNDER

Colorado Rockies: 70.5: UNDER

Chicago Cubs: 92.5: OVER

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5: OVER

Pittsburgh Pirates: 86.5: OVER

Cincinnati Reds: 70.5: UNDER

Milwaukee Brewers: 69.5: UNDER

New York Mets: 89.5: OVER

Washington Nationals: 89.5: UNDER

Miami Marlins: 79.5: UNDER

Atlanta Braves: 66.5: UNDER

Philadelphia Phillies: 65.5: UNDER

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Trade Grade: Walker for Niese

Earlier today, news broke that the Mets were trading Jonathon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be going after pitching, and they got a decent starter on a great contract. To get this valuable asset, they gave up a good offensive second baseman.

By moving Walker, Pittsburgh frees up a starting spot. Last season, for six positions (CF, LF, RF, 3B, 2B, SS) they had seven players who needed to start. Now that Walker is gone, Josh Harrison, a flexible defender and a decent hitter, can move to second, and the players who deserve to start will start.

Niese is a great acquisition for Pittsburgh. The Pirate rotation is shaky behind aces Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, and Niese is as dependable as they come. The lefty has an ERA of 3.65 over the last four seasons combined, which is a #3 starter nearly any team would be happy to have.

Additionally, Niese is even more valuable because of his contract. Niese is owed nine million dollars this season, with two club options for the two seasons after for ten and eleven million dollars, respectively, along with a five-hundred thousand dollar buyout if the option is declined. While thirty million dollars seems like a sizable amount of money to spend on a solid pitcher, in today’s league, where half-decent pitchers are seeking eighty-million dollars over five years in free agency, that’s a very good contract.

The Pirates didn’t get a coup with this deal. They didn’t rip the Mets off. Instead, they got exactly what they needed without giving up anything they couldn’t live without.

Grade: A

New York Mets

The Mets needed a second baseman after Ben Zobrist signed with Chicago and other than perhaps Daniel Murphy, Walker was the best available.

Niese was expendable due to the Mets’ wealth of pitching. New York currently has four of its five rotation slots occupied, between Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. With Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season, there wasn’t going to be anywhere for Niese to pitch as a starter.

The Mets needed a second baseman to replace the departed Murphy, and Walker certainly fits the bill. Walker gains value due to his flexibility as a switch-hitter and, similarly to the player he was traded for, is remarkably consistent. Every season, Walker hits about .270 with a home run total in the mid-teens and an above-average OPS+. Anthony DiComo also noted Walker’s consistent production:

Walker is only under contract for this season, which means that the Mets can feel free to move on from him after the season and hand the reins to Dilson Herrera or Wilmer Flores. Until then, though, it’ll be nice to have yet another solid player to add to a roster full of them.

It’s tough to give up Niese because of his great contract and the fact that he was effective as both a starter and reliever, but Walker is a good player. I bet the Mets could have found a better offer, especially if they waited until the end of free agency for the teams who missed out on their starting pitching targets, but, again, Walker will help the team this season without bogging them down for years to come.

Grade: B+

Week 13 Picks Against the Spread

This week is the three-quarter mark of the season. At this point, most teams know where they stand, as a contender, pretender, or about to surrender.

However, there remain a few teams on the playoff bubble whose fate has yet to be determined and there are games taking place today that will go a long way towards deciding who’ll be spending January at home. Let’s focus on three of those games between semi-contenders and look at how each game’s result reverberates across the league.

Note: all home teams are in CAPS and all lines are from ESPN and are accurate at the time of writing.

Jets -2.5 over GIANTS

There are a ton of similarities between these two teams. Each has a star wide receiver, each is maddeningly inconsistent, and each is tied for a playoff spot.

The Giants sit at 5-6, tied with Washington for the lead in the NFC East. However, they don’t own the tiebreaker currently and it’s highly unlikely they’ll get it. The first tiebreaker between the two teams is division record. Each has two wins, but New York has three losses to Washington’s one. To take the tiebreaker, the Giants will have to win in Week 17 against the Eagles, but they’ll need the Cowboys and Eagles to sweep Washington in three games. Even if Washington goes 1-2, resulting in a tie in division record, the next tiebreaker, conference record, also belongs to them, as they’re 5-3 to the Giants’ 4-5.

To win the NFC East and to get into the playoffs, the Giants will have to have a better record than Washington, another scenario that seems unlikely. Comparing the two schedules, the Giants will face an undefeated team (Carolina), an 8-3 team (Minnesota), and the Eagles and Dolphins, as well as the Jets today. Washington on the other hand, will play Dallas twice, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Buffalo. The best case scenario has the Giants going 3-2, but it’s much more likely they’ll go 2-3, or even 1-4. Washington, however, will be hard-pressed not to win more than three games against the creampuff schedule they’ll face. Things are looking bleak for the Big Blue.

The Jets have an easier path to the playoffs. They currently sit in the seventh seed in the AFC, tied with four other teams at 6-5, with two more close behind at 5-6. For those seven teams, there  are three spots available, two for the Wild Cards and one for the winner of the AFC South. I’m going to proceed with the assumption that the Chiefs hold on to the fifth seed thanks to their season-saving hot streak and a fairly easy schedule. That leaves one spot for three teams: New York, Pittsburgh, and the second-place team in the South.

We’ll delve deeper into the latter two teams later on in the article, so let’s focus on the Jets now. The Jets have an astoundingly easy schedule. Out of their sixteen games, only four will have come against teams with winning records. The only team they’ll have faced that can be considered a genuine contender is the Patriots. For that reason, I’m skeptical of their chances of advancing should they make the playoffs, but with an easy schedule over the remainder of the season, I consider them the favorite to nab the sixth seed, especially if Houston (which has the head-to-head tiebreaker over them) beats out Indianapolis (which doesn’t) for the AFC South crown.

Arizona -4.5 over ST. LOUIS

MINNESOTA +2 over Seattle

Houston +3.5 over BUFFALO

MIAMI -3.5 over Baltimore

Atlanta +1 over TAMPA BAY

Both of these teams are erratic, wildly fluctuating from week to week between dominant and feeble. This game will likely not end up mattering because Seattle has a firm hold on the sixth seed due to its easy schedule. However, for these two teams, it’s essentially an elimination game. If Atlanta loses, it’ll be tied with Tampa Bay, without the tiebreaker, and with a tough schedule over the remaining four games. If the Buccaneers lose, they’ll be two games behind the Falcons with four games to play, a nearly insurmountable deficit.

If the Seahawks lose to the Vikings, then things will start to get interesting. Seattle will be 6-6 to Atlanta’s 7-5 or Tampa Bay’s 6-6 with the tiebreaker. Seattle will still be favored to get the sixth seed, thanks to Atlanta’s two likely losses against Carolina and Tampa Bay’s slightly tougher schedule, but it’ll be much more of a toss-up, and it could come down to the wire.

Cincinnati -9 over CLEVELAND

TENNESSEE +2 over Jacksonville

CHICAGO -6.5 over San Francisco

Denver -4 over SAN DIEGO

Kansas City +3 over OAKLAND

Carolina -6.5 over NEW ORLEANS

New England -7.5 over Philadelphia

Indianapolis +7.5 over PITTSBURGH

This is a must-win for the Steelers. Should they lose this game, they’ll fall to 6-6, and the remainder of their schedule includes Cincinnati and Denver, which realistically caps their record at 8-8, a record that is unlikely to result in a playoff berth.

The Colts, on the other hand, are well-placed to succeed even if they lose this matchup, as their remaining four games aren’t overly challenging, they’ll get to play Houston at home in a game that’ll likely decide the AFC South, and Andrew Luck will be coming back from a kidney injury within three weeks.

Whichever team is able to win this game will have the inside track to a playoff berth and whichever team loses will be hard-pressed to regain ground on the rest of the playoff-hopefuls, making this a pivotal moment in each team’s season, and since it comes on Sunday Night Football, I’m looking forward to watching it all unfold.

For the record, I fully expect the Steelers to win this game, but I’m picking the Colts +7.5 and hoping for a garbage-time touchdown.

WASHINGTON -3.5 over Dallas

As it stands now, i think that Washington will win the NFC East and that Seattle will take the sixth seed. I think Indianapolis will win the AFC South and that the Jets will win the sixth seed by a single game over Pittsburgh and Houston.

Of course, the beauty of football is that, unlike other sports such as basketball, anything can happen. After all, there are no sure things in the NFL. Well, except for the Browns turning a victory into an agonizing defeat.