The Las Vegas oddsmakers BetOnline released their betting lines for over-under team wins for the 2012 MLB season. I’ll take Bill James or PECOTA’s projections over a Vegas oddsmaker’s, but even so the release of these numbers is noteworthy.
Looking at these lines, were I a betting man, I wouldn’t have any trouble figuring out where I’d put my money: I’d take the over on the Cleveland Indians.
The over-under on the Indians is 75.5 wins—behind not only the Tigers (94), but the Royals (78.5) and White Sox (77.5). So if you think they’ll win 75 or fewer games you’d take the under, and if you peg them at 76 or more victories you’d take the over. Seems to me that that’s a pretty obvious choice.
Let’s start with the basics. The Indians have one of the youngest teams in baseball, meaning they’re likely to improve in 2012 as their core players develop. And they won 80 games in 2011, meaning more likely than not they’ll win more than 80 games in 2012. But you’d have to think Cleveland will suffer a five-win regression in order to take the under here.
Even if they won’t win the division, it’s hard to argue with the notion that the 2012 Indians will be better than the 2011 model. Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera are entering their primes. Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Cord Phelps are continuing to develop and grow. And there’s a whole second staff’s worth of young pitchers who could turn the back of the rotation into a point of great strength.
Not to mention all the things that went wrong for the Tribe last year. Brantley, Kipnis, Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Josh Tomlin all suffered health problems. The Matt LaPorta-sized hole at first base will be filled by Casey Kotchman (or, even better, an improved LaPorta), and Orlando Cabrera won’t spend the majority of 2012 as the starting second baseman. Plus the Indians now have more depth in case of injuries than they know what to do with.
There are no sure things in baseball, and if the injury bug bites again and youngsters fail to develop it’s entirely possible that Cleveland follow these projections and fall to fourth place. But I’d wager that not many people will take the under on the Indians being a .466 team this year.