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November 22, 2014

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Vegas-style baseball preview: Sports books’ view of the American League

All teams chasing Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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Leila Navidi

The Race and Sports SuperBook at the Las Vegas Hilton Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

Throw away those losing NCAA Tournament tickets and stop counting down the days until preseason football magazines hit the newsstands.

It’s time for Major League Baseball. Opening Day is a mere 48 hours away, and betting windows across Las Vegas are open to take last-minute wagers on the upcoming season.

Read below as the Las Vegas Sun presents all the odds and what you need to know about betting on every team. Check out yesterday's part one featuring the National League here.

Last year’s record for every team is provided as well as how they fared against oddsmakers’ over/unders and what would have happened had someone bet $100 on them every game last season. The information comes from covers.com.

All the lines are provided by the LVH Superbook, as Assistant Sports Book Director and Baseball Specialist Chris Bennett offers his take on every team.

    • Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis warms up during an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Thursday, March 28, 2013 in Sarasota, Fla.

      Baltimore Orioles

      2012 results: 93-69 (+$3,683, 71-86-5 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 78.5

      Odds to win AL East: 9-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 10-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 20-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “I’m very skeptical of the Orioles. More than any other team last year, everything just fell into place for them. The biggest, most glaring thing was their record in extra-innings games, which was 17-3. In baseball, that’s a tossup. Turn that around nine games and, of course, they aren’t in the playoffs.”

      Overview: The Orioles made a straight mockery out of their Las Vegas win total last year, crushing it by a total of 24 games. Sure, luck was a part of their run that concluded one game short of the AL East title and taking the Yankees to Game Five in the divisional round of the playoffs. They went an unsustainable 31-10 in one-run games, the third-best mark in MLB history. But they were poised to fly past expectations anyway with the unforeseen dependability from pitchers Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chin and first baseman Chris Davis. The problem is, fortunate breakout teams usually falter the next season. Bettors, however, are ignoring the trend. The Superbook has more liability on the Orioles winning the World Series than any other team.

    • Boston Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury slides safely back to first base after Daniel Nava hit a fly-out in the third inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., Thursday, March 28, 2013.

      Boston Red Sox

      2012 results: 69-93 (-$3,685, 78-77-7 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 83

      Odds to win AL East: 5-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 15-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 30-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “People are betting them in the division, just not quite as much as the Orioles. Before last year, the Red Sox were a really good team for a decade. People haven’t forgotten. That and they’ve made a bunch of signings with Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. It’s big to get Jacoby Ellsbury back, and John Lackey should be back as well. Everything went horribly wrong for them last year.”

      Overview: Oddsmakers were much higher on the Red Sox than bettors going into last season. The gamblers outsmarted the books for once. Dealing with a rash of injuries and the disconnect between players and manager Bobby Valentine, Boston was the least profitable team to bet on in all of baseball. They beat out the Astros for the non-honor by a staggering amount. With new manager John Farrell and a fair mix of developing prospects such as third baseman Will Middlebrooks and trustworthy veterans such as second baseman Dustin Pedroia, oddsmakers and gamblers are more on the same page with the Red Sox this season. They think 2012 was the exception, not the rule, for the franchise’s expectations going forward.

    • New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano warms up with a weight on his bat before a spring training baseball game in Tampa, Fla., March 21, 2013.

      New York Yankees

      2012 results: 95-67 (+$374, 71-86-5 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 84.5

      Odds to win AL East: +350

      Odds to win American League: 10-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 20-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “Everyone is down on the Yankees. Look at all the guys that have gone down for them — (Mark) Teixeira, (Curtis) Granderson, (Derek) Jeter will start the year on the DL, ARod is out until June. Look at their lineup, it’s Robinson Cano and let’s hope Ichiro or Kevin Youkilis have a good year. It looks kind of scary for them. Phil Hughes is starting on the DL also, and C.C. Sabathia had elbow problems last year. Everything’s negative.”

      Overview: It’s possible to go years without seeing a baseball team’s win total drop three games from January when sports books post it to on the eve of Opening Day. New York’s plummeted by four in an even shorter time frame. Talk about an entirely new phenomenon: Oddsmakers are begging people to gamble on the Yankees, and they won’t bite. There’s no reliable sports book data going back this far, but it’s conceivable the Yankees haven’t faced this high of odds to win the World Series since Buck Showalter was their manager in the early-to-mid 1990s. Bennett wrapped up his thoughts of the anti-Yankee surge in action with five simple words — “It’s getting out of hand.”

    • Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon addresses the media before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Sarasota, Fla.

      Tampa Bay Rays

      2012 results: 90-72 (+$602, 64-91-7 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 87

      Odds to win AL East: +225

      Odds to win American League: 10-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 20-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “I think the Rays are very capable of winning the division. I think they are just a notch below the Blue Jays. With David Price and then if they can get Matt Moore to emerge this year, they’ve got two co-No. 1 starters. Fernando Rodney last year had the lowest ERA ever by a relief pitcher. It came out of nowhere, but if he can keep that up, they’ve got really strong pitching. The lineup I’m a little concerned about.”

      Overview: Here’s to thinking anyone could have gotten monstrous odds in 2007 on the Rays morphing into the AL East’s most profitable team to bet on for the next five years. That’s exactly what Tampa Bay’s been, finishing with a winning record every year and earning two divisional championships, as the only franchise in the group to make money for bettors over the course of the year in each of the past three seasons. A consistently effective pitching staff and one of the brightest managers in the game, Joe Maddon, are at the forefront of the reasons. Tampa Bay always finds a way to mount more offense than expected behind perennial star third baseman Evan Longoria, too.

    • Toronto Blue Jays' R.A. Dickey runs onto the field for a workout at baseball spring training, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, in Dunedin, Fla.

      Toronto Blue Jays

      2012 results: 73-89 (-$1,200, 77-77-8 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 89

      Odds to win AL East: +160

      Odds to win American League: 6-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 12-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “We’ve got some people on the Blue Jays, but they don’t have the same enthusiasm as are on some of the other teams in the division. I think that’s because this is the most interesting division in baseball. They’d rather bet the long shots.”

      Overview: The Blue Jays practically acquired half of an All-Star team this offseason. They received shortstop Jose Reyes, second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, starting pitcher Josh Johnson and starting pitcher Mark Buehrle in a trade with the Marlins. Toronto also snagged pitcher R.A. Dickey, outfielder Melky Cabrera and third baseman Maicer Izturis. Pair that bunch with outfielder Jose Bautista and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, and Toronto got more hype than it's seen since the Joe Carter days 20 years ago. The majority of preseason publications are picking Toronto to win the AL East. It surprisingly hasn’t caused the usual ripple effect in sports books across Las Vegas. The Superbook actually raised Toronto’s price to win the World Series after a lack of action.

    • Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko watches his three-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game on Saturday, March 9, 2013 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

      Chicago White Sox

      2012 results: 85-77 (+$228, 72-84-6)

      Over/under season win total: 80.5

      Odds to win AL Central: 8-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 20-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 40-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “A lot of things went right for the White Sox last season. A.J. Pierzynski somehow hit 27 home runs, and the guy is not a home run hitter, so I’m not sure where that came from. Adam Dunn had a huge bounce-back year. Alex Rios had a huge bounce-back year. I expect both of those guys to be worse. The lineup won’t be as good as it was last year.”

      Overview: The White Sox are perhaps the least scrutinized, most nondescript team in Las Vegas. There are worse things a team could be, just ask the new American League franchise in Houston. Oddsmakers plunk Chicago right at .500 for the season, and bettors agree. Not only has the White Sox win total at the Superbook not moved at all, but their future odds to win the league and World Series have also stayed the same. Chris Sale is one of the brightest young pitchers in baseball, and first baseman Paul Konerko, even well past his prime, seems reliable for at least 25 home runs per year. But beyond that, Chicago is composed of mostly complementary parts.

    • Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana warms up his pitcher in an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Oakland Athletics Tuesday, March 26, 2013, in Goodyear, Ariz.

      Cleveland Indians

      2012 results: 68-94 (-$2,039, 78-77-7 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 78

      Odds to win AL Central: 8-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 35-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 70-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “Indians made a lot of moves in the offseason, but I don’t see where it really gets them. I didn’t like any of them. They signed Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Michael Bourn, who’s probably never going to be as good as he was the last couple years. My other issue with the Indians is when you have guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, who really struggle to throw strikes. That wears a whole team down.”

      Overview: If the purpose of Major League Baseball franchises was to get public bettors behind them before the season, all they would need to do was sign a bunch of veterans regardless of their value. Just look at the Indians. Many gamblers are mesmerized by the new-look team and think they could reach the playoffs for the first time in six years. Partly because of the Tigers' chalky odds, the Indians are the most popular bet at the Superbook to take the AL Central crown. This optimism ignores the fact that Cleveland had the lowest run differential in the American League last season, largely because of a pitching staff that’s stayed intact.

    • 

Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander reacts after the Tigers defeated the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League championship series Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, in Detroit.

      Detroit Tigers

      2012 results: 88-74 (-$1,074, 67-86-9 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 93

      Odds to win AL Central: +750

      Odds to win American League: +280

      Odds to win World Series: 6-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “The Tigers would be my pick to make it out of the American League. People are betting the longer odds on the other teams in this division, but we’d rather have it that way and need the Tigers because we think they are that much better than everyone else. If the Tigers win the division, the book wins money. If any of the other teams do, we don’t.”

      Overview: Detroit might have the best rotation in baseball with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez. It has one of the best lineups too, especially when adding Victor Martinez, who returns from an injury, to the fold with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. In oddsmakers’ minds, it’s the Tigers and then everyone else this year. For a measure of their dominance, Bennett points out the Tigers were a minus-180 favorite before the World Series began last year without home-field advantage. The Giants might have swept them, but bookmakers would post a similar price if the teams were to replay the series tomorrow. Sports books would easily favor the Tigers over anyone in that scenario.

    • Chalk from the third base line flies as Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas grabs a ground ball against the Colorado Rockies during the third inning in an exhibition spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 19, 2013, in Surprise, Ariz.

      Kansas City Royals

      2012 results: 72-90 (-$358, 73-83-6 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 79.5

      Odds to win AL Central: 8-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 25-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 50-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “I think the Royals have the most potential and best lineup out of the other teams in the division. But compare them to the Tigers and they are still at a huge disadvantage.”

      Overview: For the second straight year, the Royals are drawing some support in sports books to break out of the mediocrity, to put it kindly, that’s encapsulated the franchise for 20 years. Their win total has gone up by two in the Superbook. There was similar movement before the 2012 season, but the Royals still finished eight games under the total. They’ve been proactive in the pitching department, trading for starters James Shields and Ervin Santana early in the offseason. But Bennett and other backers are more optimistic about the hitters, including breakout candidates Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez.

    • A trainer checks the pitching hand of Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Liam Hendriks after he was hit by a batted ball by Baltimore Orioles' Brian Roberts in the third inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Tuesday, March 26, 2013. Hendricks was taken out of the game. Twins shortstop Brian Dozier (2) and catcher Ryan Doumit look on.

      Minnesota Twins

      2012 results: 66-96 (-$1,188, 78-75-5 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 68.5

      Odds to win AL Central: 30-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 70-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 150-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “The Twins are significantly worse than the other teams in the division. Their starting pitching is worlds behind.”

      Overview: Most of the bottom-of-the-barrel teams — a description the Twins definitely fit with the third-lowest win total in the league — are either ignored by gamblers or bet to go under. Not Minnesota. Bettors have driven up its win total and even taken a few stabs on the team from the Twin Cities to win the World Series. Casual bettors still notice names such as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit in the lineup. But the Twins have little behind that now-average quartet of bats. Having Vance Worley and Kevin Correia, who combined for nearly a 5.00 ERA last season, atop the rotation, is an even deeper concern.

    • Houston Astros' Jose Altuve attempts to bunt for a base hit during the second inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the New York Mets on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Kissimmee, Fla.

      Houston Astros

      2012 results: 55-107 (-$3,069, 80-75-7 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 59

      Odds to win AL West: 100-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 175-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 400-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “They look like the worst team in baseball with a bunch of no-names, but if you’re good enough to play in the Major Leagues, you should be good enough to have a team that can win 60 games. You’ve got to be really bad to lose 100. I know that much.”

      Overview: Bennett can never remember posting a season win total as low as Houston’s this year. Even last year, oddsmakers set the listless Astros at 63. They fell far short, but there’s not much room to get worse. Houston is focused on the future with a loaded minor-league system and quite a few youngsters poised to start on Opening Day. If highly touted pieces such as second baseman Jose Altuve and outfielder Chris Carter can rise to stardom quicker than anticipated, Houston may escape the inevitable shame that would come with having baseball’s worst record three years in a row. Despite these reasons for hope and the historically low win total, all of the action is on the under.

    • Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout signs for fans before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Monday, March 25, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz.

      Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

      2012 results: 89-73 (-$942, 75-78-9 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 92

      Odds to win AL West: -140

      Odds to win American League: 3-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 7-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “People love them. With (Albert) Pujols, (Mike) Trout and signing Josh Hamilton, just right there, you have three of the best hitters in baseball. They like Jered Weaver too leading the rotation. I think the Angels are going to win the division, but I still have concerns with their starting pitching.”

      Overview: Congratulations to the Angels, as they’re the most popular team in Las Vegas before the season gets under way. Although oddsmakers rate the Tigers higher, the Angels have gotten more support to win the World Series. Now comes the hard part — living up to those expectations. They failed a year ago, answering a rash of sports book support after their free-agent spending spree by missing the playoffs despite 89 wins. The Angels’ pitching has gotten weaker since then, but they’ve intrigued bettors further by inking Hamilton. The challenge that awaits the Angels is clear, as it’s World Series or a lost season. Not since the 2009 Yankees has a preseason favorite won baseball’s world championship.

    • Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, right. talsk to Josh Donaldson, left facing camera, and Jarrod Parker before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Monday, March 18, 2013 in Phoenix.

      Oakland Athletics

      2012 results: 94-68 (+$3,854, 70-86-6 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 84.5

      Odds to win AL West: +450

      Odds to win American League: 12-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 25-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “They came out of nowhere last year. I totally didn’t expect what they did last year, but the public is still staying away. They don’t like the A’s like they do the Orioles, and those teams had similar ascensions last year.”

      Overview: Someone needs to find those who bet on the A’s to win the AL West last season and break them all out of celebration for the start of the new season. At 25-to-1 to win the division last year, Oakland was one of the longest shots to reach the playoffs in the past several years. The public might think the contrary, but sports books are much higher on Oakland than Baltimore in the battle between teams that came out of nowhere last year. That’s because the A’s have at least one justified star, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and a collection of young arms headlined by Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker.

    • Seattle Mariners' Kendrys Morales bats during an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, in Peoria, Ariz.

      Seattle Mariners

      2012 results: 75-87 (+$429, 69-84-9 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 78

      Odds to win AL West: 10-to-1

      Odds to win American League: 30-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 60-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “People are liking the Mariners. They’re betting them a little bit in the futures. The Mariners offense looks much improved from the last couple years.”

      Overview: After scoring the least amount of runs in the American League for four straight years, the Mariners finally appear fed up. They tried their best to trade for Justin Upton this offseason but settled for two different power hitters in the middle of the lineup — Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse. It’s not going to make Seattle into an offensive juggernaut by any means, but it gives bettors a little less hesitancy to lean over. Despite the offensive troubles last season, Seattle went three wins over its total. The Mariners will need to take another step toward .500 to reach this year’s mark.

    • Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish leaves the dugout to start the bottom of the fifth inning in an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Goodyear, Ariz.

      Texas Rangers

      2012 results: 93-69 (-439, 72-83-7 over/under)

      Over/under season win total: 86.5

      Odds to win AL West: +275

      Odds to win American League: 10-to-1

      Odds to win World Series: 20-to-1

      Bennett’s thoughts: “No one is touching the Rangers for the futures. The public is not in love with this team, but I could see them winning the division if they can get something out of the back half of their rotation.”

      Overview: How fast the betting market forgets. Texas has won at least 90 games in three straight seasons, memorably taking the American League pennant in back-to-back years, but is largely forgotten heading into 2013. The defection of Josh Hamilton hurts, but the Rangers still possess one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. Additionally, Yu Darvish looked at times like a Cy Young candidate in his first season in the league. At William Hill sports books, Darvish is a 5-to-1 favorite to lead the majors in strikeouts this season.

    Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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