Can you smell that? Baseball is in the air. As all 30 MLB teams begin Spring Training this week, most sportsbooks have released their projected win totals for the 2016 season. Here are a couple notes on some things that we’re keeping an eye on as we get ready for Opening Day. Lines mentioned below are all courtesy of CG Technology.
Philadelphia Phillies Under 67 Wins – The Phillies went 63-99 last season and it’s tough to see where they pick up five more wins in 2016. Philadelphia’s projected starting rotation is Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton and Brett Oberholtzer. FanGraphs’ Steamer projections sees that starting rotation winning 34 games this season. The offense should be (slightly) improved with an infusion of young talent, but opposing batters are going to feast on that rotation all year. The NL East is projected to have three teams above .500 at season’s end, and it will be difficult for the Phillies to pick up 10 games against what should be an improved Marlins team like they did last year. Their Interleague schedule certainly doesn’t provide any relief, as five of their six opponents, the Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Indians and Blue Jays, are all projected to be .500+ teams this season.
Oakland A’s Over 76.5 Wins – In 2015, the A’s managed to pull off a statistical anomaly. Oakland scored more regular season runs than all four NLDS participants and finished with a run differential (-35) akin to a 77/78 win team, but somehow ended up with the worst record in the American League, by far, at 68-94. The A’s went through a three-week stretch between April 30 to May 22 where they went 5-17, with nine one-run losses. Oakland was 19-35 in one-run games last season. Simply getting that record to .500 would add eight wins to the A’s total and get them to 76. The addition of Ryan Madson and John Axford should sure-up the bullpen and provide some late-inning relief on a team that was +11 runs at home last season, despite going 34-47.
Cincinnati Reds Under 72 Wins – Will the Reds flirt with losing 100 games again? No, probably not. But are they going to be nine games better than they were in 2015? That’s a lot to ask. Cincinnati dealt Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees, Todd Frazier to the Whie Sox, and is actively dangling Jay Bruce to the Blue Jays as I finish this sentence. Outside of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Billy Hamilton (who hit .226 last year, by the way), most casual MLB fans would be hard-pressed to name anyone else on the Reds roster. Much like how the Nationals and Mets will feast on the bottom of the NL East, the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals need to capitalize on every game against the bottom of the NL Central. The Reds and Brewers could be in for a long year.
Houston Astros Over 86.5 Wins – Pop quiz: Can you name the American League team with the worst road record in 2015? It was the Houston Astros, the team that took the eventual World Series champs to the brink of elimination in the ALDS. The Astros were 33-48 away from Minute Maid Park last season, but were able to shake off their road woes to defeat the Yankees in New York for the AL Wild Card, then beat the Royals in Kansas City in Game 1 of the ALDS. If young stars like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa continue their growth, and if Carlos Gomez can stay healthy, there’s little reason to believe the Astros’ win total can’t climb into the high 80s or low 90s in 2016.