The 2023 MLB season has arrived. Opening day pitching matchups are set. Stray bullpen arms will soaked up the last of the spring training innings. The last few injuries have been factored into the projections. That means it’s time to check out what publicly available projections think about MLB win totals this year.
For this exercise, we’ll take a look at projections from FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus and compare them to market numbers. This can sometimes illuminate betting value. For instance, in our NBA preview, the projections look to have outperformed the market in seven of the eight biggest disagreements.
|Team||Market Wins||FG Proj. Wins||BP Proj. Wins|
Let’s dive into a few of the teams the markets like more and less than the consensus. I won’t hit on all of them, especially the bad teams where the computers take the over. Note that in those cases, a well-known mechanic may be at work.
The computers consistently over-project the teams that sell off in-season and under-project the teams that buy. On the other hand, the market may be taking these into account with these low totals.
In any case, I’ll run through some of the reasoning behind the projections that we highlight for these MLB win totals. For each of them, I’ll dive into whether the number is worth a bet either way.
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MLB Win Totals The Market Likes More Than The Projections
The Mariners delivered a breakout season in 2022, one that could portend big things going forward. In my write-up on my Angels divisional bet (see below), I noted that I have some skepticism over the Mariners.
I don’t like their offense. The bottom of the lineup is quite weak. J.P. Crawford is the only hitter from the four-hole on with a decent on-base projection, and it will be an upset if he gets to double-digit home runs.
The rotation and bullpen are both rock-solid. However, if any injuries happen to the rotation (which will inevitably happen since it’s baseball), the depth behind the top five is basically non-existent.
Mo’s Verdict: I liked this team in the playoffs enough to bet them against the Blue Jays. But the projections don’t like this offense, and I’m in agreement. The starting pitching depth also makes me nervous if I was a backer. The Rangers should take a substantial step forward and obviously I’m a fan of the Angels. I’m lower on the Astros than consensus but I think I’m in agreement with the under here.
Nevertheless, I’m unsure whether it’s going to be included in my portfolio of plays.
Chicago White Sox
This is another team that I view as quite top-heavy and very vulnerable to injury. That notion applies to both the lineup and the starting pitching.
In terms of the arms, I only really feel good about Dylan Cease and Lance Lynn. Lucas Giolito has lost some juice on his heater, and both Michael Kopech and Mike Clevinger are middling at best options. There’s no depth nor prospects behind them. Perhaps no ostensible “contender” can less afford a pitching injury.
The lineup looks good on paper, especially if Andrew Vaughn takes a step forward. But how many games will these guys play? Basically everyone good is a major health risk. Plus, the defense will likely stink once again.
Mo’s Verdict: The upside of the White Sox is tantalizing enough that I think they’ll get over this number if they have good health. It’s also a more modest number compared to that of the M’s. I’m not in a hurry to bet this under even though I like the Twins and Guardians more in that division. They should also get some easy wins against the Royals and Tigers.
My betting approach here would be to find an alternate under — in case they get hit by injuries again. DraftKings Sportsbook has them to finish fourth in the division at +500.
Toronto Blue Jays
I’ll have more on the Blue Jays in an upcoming piece. The short version is I like them.
Their bats are very strong — to say the least. Any time that Whit Merrifield and Matt Chapman occupy the bottom of the order, you’re in a good situation offensively. Unlike prior years, they have a bit more balance with at least three decent left-handed bats available (most days), thanks to the additions of Daulton Varsho, Brandon Belt and Kevin Kiermaier. Now, the latter’s projection is quite far from decent, but he still owns a career 97 wRC+.
Pitching-wise, things look a bit iffier. Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman make up a splendid top two, and Chris Bassitt should bring a lot of competence as the No. 3. Their rotation is quite dicey after that, as I have no idea what Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi will bring. The bullpen also looks middling.
At least the outfield should vacuum up any fly balls that fail to clear the fence.
Mo’s Verdict: Because I’m lower on the Astros and Yankees than the consensus, and the Blue Jays sit third in the markets, I think there’s nice value on them to win the AL. Unlike the prior teams, I’m with the market on this one. I view the Jays as a top AL contender and have bet them to both win the division and the league.
In terms of win totals, playing in a difficult division hurts them a bit. I won’t play the over because I like them more as a playoff team with the strong top of the rotation.
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MLB Win Totals The Market Likes Less Than The Projections
I wrote an entire piece on my Angels bet. Unfortunately, the price on the division has come down a chunk and I don’t like that play as much anymore.
Mo’s Verdict: Because the Angels have done great work shoring up their depth, this looks like a much better regular season team than it has in years past. Obviously, if Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout sustain serious injuries, they’re cooked. But, they can fare better if one or both miss a couple of weeks here or there.
Additionally, I agree with the computers here. Plays on both MLB win totals over and to make the playoffs () both appear viable.
Boston Red Sox
Boston might have some of the largest error bars in MLB as far as how their 2023 could turn out. Most of it comes down to their pitching.
While the bullpen — a major issue in recent years — actually looks relatively solid, the rotation looks anything but. It just boils down to this: the Red Sox don’t have a single starting pitcher you could call reliable. Corey Kluber is 37. Chris Sale is 34 and hasn’t made it past 50 innings since 2019. Tanner Houck might be a starter and he might be a reliever. Ditto Kutter Crawford. Ditto Garrett Whitlock, and he’s coming off hip surgery to boot.
Nick Pivetta’s velocity has been all over the place and last year’s 4.56 ERA represents a career-best. James Paxton’s injury history makes Chris Sale’s timeline look modest. Brayan Bello had a promising debut, but he’s starting the season on the IL with dreaded “forearm tightness.”
I’m not even going to get into the lineup, which should be solid if not world-beating. They may possess a top-10 rotation if things break right, but I see way more bottom-five downside here.
Mo’s Verdict: Overall, I think the market is probably too bearish on Boston and lean more toward the projections again. However, the variance here makes me want to play a longshot bet, such as to win the division at — rather than a win total over.
I tried to love the Marlins last year. I took a win total over and a longshot NL East bet. Thankfully, I can’t get there this year. I’m not a fan of their side of the Pablo Lopez/Luis Arraez trade. The offense was putrid last year, and I don’t expect this deal makes them meaningfully better.
Meanwhile, the starting pitching has gone from a clear strength to a potential strength, depending on how a bunch of high-variance kids pan out. Trevor Rogers’ backslide looks highly concerning.
Combine those variables with two juggernauts in front of them in the division — not including the World Series runners-up — the schedule should be rough.
Mo’s Verdict: I’m with the market this time on the Fish and expect another struggle of a season that winds up — with wins somewhere in the 70s.
Now this is a pretty wild disagreement. It’s not too often you find a discrepancy this big.
The A’s are going to be horrible. I don’t really have anything good to say about this team. They were bad in all phases of baseball last year, project that way again this year, and they seem more worried about finding the first bus to Las Vegas than winning a meaningful amount of games. When your best hitter (Seth Brown) has an on-base projection of .300, it’s going to be a rough season.
You can bet anyone that has a pulse and isn’t nailed down will get sold off at the deadline.
With that said, it takes an incredible amount of futility to win 58 games or fewer. In the past 10 full seasons, just 10 teams have managed it.
Mo’s Verdict: Most of those disaster seasons have come in recent seasons. Recent history tells us someone will win fewer than 60 games, and I really can’t see any candidate better than the A’s. Every other bad team at least has something about which fans could feel optimism — other than maybe the Rockies.
Colorado at least gets a strong home field. The A’s have the brutal combination of being both bad and and having almost no upside. I’m with the market here. The total is too low to bet, but maybe look to bet a prop on A’s having the worst record.
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Some Of My Favorite MLB Win Totals Bets
I’m going to be the fun police here and fade one of last year’s best stories. Baltimore won 83 games last year, and I have no idea how they are going to come close to that again.
Let’s start with the good. The offense looks about average. The top of the lineup looks pretty strong, especially if uber-prospect Gunnar Henderson delivers on his promise. Adley Rutschman and Cedric Mullins could deliver star-level performances, and Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santander are solid.
The pitching? Not so much. Not one single O’s starting pitcher is projected for even an average ERA. They traded away a closer at last year’s deadline in Jorge Lopez, who was lights out for them. Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells — their rotation is a bottom-10 group if we’re being kind. I’m struggling to see how that translates to winning nearly 80 games.
- Mo’s Bet: Under 77.5 Wins
- Current Over/Under: /
Similar deal here. Another over-performing 2022 squad that I think regresses in a major way. Now, since the Guardians won 92 games last year, they could still regress and hit the over on their wins. However, I’m in agreement with FanGraphs’ projection that this team should end up closer to .500.
I talked about this a little in my Twins preview, but the Guardians bring an uninspiring offense to the table. Andres Gimenez probably won’t come close to last year’s monster 6.1-WAR campaign. Plus, the lineup has numerous potential black holes — like Myles Straw, Mike Zunino and Oscar Gonzalez.
Yes, the bullpen and defense should be among the best in baseball. Still, the starting pitching looks pretty average outside of Shane Bieber. The loss of Triston McKenzie for about two months to a muscle strain could prove devastating, and the markets haven’t reacted much at all here. If the regression monster ever comes for Cal Quantrill, look out. All of these guys could have ERAs north of 4.00.
Cleveland does have prospects, but I’m skeptical they’ll put them to use. Instead of trading them for proven performers or bringing them up early to replace mediocre veterans, I anticipating seeing them keep the kids on ice to gain an extra year of control.
- Mo’s Bet: Under 87.5 wins
- Current Over/Under: /
A good way to torch money over recent seasons has been taking the under on the Dodgers. In the last five full seasons, they have averaged 103.8 wins, going under this year’s number only once in that time.
Nevertheless, I’m skeptical of this team for 2023. They experienced a massive talent exodus. Gone are Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Andrew Heaney, along with several others. Last year’s lineup went nine-deep with mashers. This year, that stops around four or five-hole — if you’re optimistic the team can revive JD Martinez’s aging bat.
A once comically stacked rotation now has the remnants of Noah Syndergaard and Ryan Pepiot penciled into the top five. While Clayton Kershaw remains great, we can count on him missing around eight starts per season at this point.
The Dodgers still have prospects, and they still have good role players that they’ll undoubtedly maximize. That’s my only fear here, as we’ve seen this organization — maybe more so than any other — get the max out of their players. But when I look across this collection of talent, I just don’t see the 100-win juggernaut of years past.
- Mo’s Bet: Under 96.5 wins
- Current Over/Under: /
Good luck with your MLB win totals bets.