Opening Day of the MLB season is Thursday, and a futures bet I made in February still has value. 2023 Spring Training is wrapping up, and sportsbooks have responded by posting 2023 MLB odds on a variety of preseason markets.
I scanned through the early numbers and fired off a couple of wagers on MLB futures. One centers on the “most saves” market, where I like Brewers closer Devin Williams to have a big year as the team’s next shutdown relief ace.
MLB Odds: Most Regular Season Saves
Saves have long been a controversial stat, and for good reason. In many cases, the amount of saves a pitcher racks up has as much to do with variance as their own abilities. Many conditions have to be met for a reliever to rack up a league-leading total.
- The pitcher usually has to perform well and remain healthy. Thanks, captain obvious.
- The pitcher’s team must find themselves in many close games with leads in the late innings.
- Managers must favor one reliever instead of a committee approach.
- Probably, the pitcher has to get lucky in terms of allowing his runs with three-run leads instead of one-run leads, etc.
One can see the amount of variance involved in saves simply by looking at the list of saves leaders. There aren’t a ton of repeat names on the list. Generally speaking, it’s just a bunch of pretty good relievers on pretty good teams.
One exception stands out: Craig Kimbrel. He led the NL in saves for four straight seasons from 2011-14. He checked most of the boxes above. Aside from just being the best per-batter pitcher in baseball during this time (1.52 FIP!), Kimbrel had an iron grip on the job and the Braves won a lot of games with the exception of a disappointing 79-win campaign in 2014.
Even Kimbrel serves as an example of the volatility of saves, though. Despite remaining one of the best (and healthiest) relievers in baseball for the four years that followed, his saves totals fluctuated between 31 and 42.
Markets are well aware of the inherent volatility. That’s why even after an historic 2022, Mets ace Edwin Diaz has odds at the top of the board.
Devin Williams In Great Spot After Taking Over From Josh Hader
Still, said variance makes me inclined to look a little further down the board. Devin Williams caught my eye for a few reasons.
First, he’s one of the best relievers in baseball. Even the most pessimistic of the computer projections housed at FanGraphs (Steamer) has him with 27 saves and a 3.12 ERA.
Second, he’s one of the most reliable both in terms of performance and health. Despite struggling with some inconsistency in 2021, Williams made 58 and 65 appearances the past two seasons. The walks (4.23 per 9 innings in his career) make me a little nervous, but he smooths that out big time by severely limiting home runs and keeping the ball on the ground (48.8 GB%). That keeps damage to a minimum the times he does put men on.
Because the Brewers have traded away Josh Hader and really lack any other relievers of note, he also looks like the unquestioned top man for high-leverage duty. To wit, FanGraphs’ Roster Resource page has him getting 27 of the team’s 32 projected saves.
And the Brewers have a good team that nonetheless shouldn’t be running away from people. Publicly available projections have them with a mid-80s win total. They didn’t make any major additions to an offense that’s been middle-of-the-pack the past few seasons, unless you’re a huge William Contreras fan.
Williams should find plentiful save chances.
My Bet: Devin Williams To Lead MLB In Saves (+2500)
I backed Devin Williams to lead the MLB in saves at +2500 in February. He’s a great player, arguably a top-three closer in baseball. He plays for a solid team, and he appears to be completely unchallenged for high-leverage dominance in that bullpen. Many of the closers near or even ahead of him in the markets have major questions regarding volatile performance (Josh Hader, Camilo Doval), playing on bad teams (David Bednar), or injury (Felix Bautista). I don’t see a lot of uncertainty with Williams and think he should be one of the best-performing closers in MLB.
I used a profit boost on BetRivers to get this up past +3000. Unfortunately, the price on Williams has come down a bit in the market, with the best available now at . If it drops much farther past +2000, I would avoid tailing this play, but I think it’s still OK for a smaller wager.
Current Best Available Odds: