MLB Betting: Bet the Over on These 3 Win Totals
While we will lean on our projections, a good method for analyzing win totals is to determine how many games teams won last year and compare that to how many they should have won based on their run differential. Pythagorean record is a great tool for doing just that, and we will reference it throughout the piece.
Let's highlight three teams our algorithm likes to go over their listed total.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Line: 103.5 Wins (Over -110)
Projection: 109.0 Wins
The Los Angeles Dodgers ran away with the National League West last year. They won 43 times in 60 games, which comes out to a prorated total of 116 wins over a 162-game season. They racked up an astounding +136 run differential in those 60 games and are also the defending World Series champions. Only one other team -- the San Diego Padres at +84 -- had a run differential better than +60. LA's final record ended up right in line with their Pythagorean record.
The Dodgers have a roster that is good at pretty much everything, and as such, LA sits atop FanGraphs' team projected WAR totals. While the aforementioned Padres will be a tough challenge in the NL West, the rest of the division is pretty bad, as the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks all sit in the bottom 10 in projected WAR, per FanGraphs.
By our model, the Dodgers are pretty clearly baseball's top squad. We give them a nERD rating of 1.77, which means we'd expect them to win by 1.77 runs over an average team at a neutral field. The New York Yankees are second in nERD at 1.55. That 0.22-point difference is nearly as big as the gap between the Yankees and the sixth-ranked team (Atlanta Braves).
Our algorithm projects the Dodgers to win 109 games. That sounds like a lot -- and it is. But the Dodgers are just that good, and they are deep enough -- even on the mound -- to be able to withstand some injuries.
San Diego Padres
Line: 94.5 Wins (Over -110)
Projection: 104.0 Wins
Speaking of the Padres, our model likes the over on their win total, as well. It sure looks like the National League's two best teams reside in the West. Both our numbers and FanGraphs' WAR projections have the Padres as the second-best team in the NL.
The Padres had a superb 2020, going 37-23. The 37 wins were the third-most in baseball. They actually deserved one more win, according to their Pythagorean record, and as we mentioned above, San Diego's +84 run differential was the second-best mark in the game. So, in short, there was nothing flukey about their 2020 breakout.
And the Padres have improved this offseason, adding Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Blake Snell on the mound. By FanGraphs' numbers, San Diego owns the best starting pitching staff in the bigs as well as the fourth-best bullpen. That should go nicely with a solid lineup that revolves around stars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. FanGraphs has the Padres eighth in projected offensive WAR. They're a really good team in every facet.
San Diego's nERD ranking of 1.5 puts them right on the heels of the Yankees and 0.7 points in front of the third-best NL squad (New York Mets). Like the Dodgers, they'll also benefit from getting a bunch of games against the Rockies, D-Backs, and Giants.
We see nearly 10 wins of value on the over on this win total line.
New York Mets
Line: 91.0 Wins (Over -110)
Projection: 101 Wins
This one will take a little more convincing.
The New York Mets went 26-34 last year, and their -22 run differential is nothing to get excited about. Injuries to players like Noah Syndergaard put New York behind the eight-ball, and they never recovered.
There is, however, reason for optimism in 2021.
First, the Mets' 2020 Pythagorean win total of 28 suggests that they played a little better than their actual record. But the big reason things are looking up is New York's win-now acquisition of Francisco Lindor in a blockbuster trade. In 2020, the Mets got 0.1 WAR from Amed Rosario, their primary shortstop. Lindor should be a massive upgrade, as he produced 1.8 WAR in last year's abbreviated season and has outputs of 4.5 and 7.7 WAR in his last two full campaigns.
But as has been the case with the Mets of late, their success will likely largely hinge on the performance and health of their starting pitching. When healthy, the trio of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco is pretty fierce at the top of the rotation. But Carrasco -- who came over in the Lindor deal -- is going to start the season on the IL with a hamstring injury, and Thor is expected to be out until the middle of the year as he recovers from Tommy John.
Projection systems are still pretty high on the Mets even with their pitching staff opening the campaign at less than full strength. FanGraphs slots the Mets ninth in projected WAR while our model has New York tied for fourth, projecting them for 101 wins.