Opening Day isn’t until April 2, but that didn’t stop bettors from firing away at the Major League Baseball regular-season win totals posted Tuesday at the Westgate sports book.
The numbers had barely appeared on the board at precisely 2:01 p.m. when Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons moved the Cubs’ majors-high total from 95½ to 96½.
“We already got some over money (on Chicago),” he said about 10 minutes after posting the totals.
South Point already had listed the Cubs at 97 wins, and Salmons estimated that half of the wagers he booked were from bettors trying to middle the numbers. But there was plenty of two-way action as well.
“The Mets. We took an over bet and under bet on them in the first five minutes,” Salmons said. “There’s such a market for these things. It’s incredible.”
The Mets opened at 88½ wins, below the six teams with win totals of more than 90: the Cubs, Dodgers (94½), Indians (93½), Red Sox (92½), Nationals (91½) and Astros (91½).
Chicago, which won 103 games last season en route to its first World Series title since 1908, is poised to be a force for years to come with a core of young players that includes power hitters Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber, who will essentially replace center fielder Dexter Fowler, who signed with the Cardinals.
The Cubs replaced closer Aroldis Chapman with former Royals closer Wade Davis and also added former Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. Chicago is the 7-2 favorite to repeat as World Series champion, but no team has compiled consecutive 100-win seasons since the 2005 Cardinals, and Salmons doesn’t think the Cubs will reach 97 wins this season.
“It’s hard to win that many games, especially if you’re not being pressed,” he said. “Look at their division. The Cards are on a downhill slide, the Pirates are rebuilding, and Cincinnati and Milwaukee are just awful. I’m not sure they’re going to press the Cubs to keep winning and winning. At some point, the Cubs will rest their players much more than last year.
“It’s hard to win that many games two years in a row. If I were betting, I’d bet the under.”
Baseball Prospectus projects the Cubs to win 91 games and the Dodgers 99. Salmons also loves Los Angeles, in large part because of a deep pitching staff — led by Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill — that is healthy again after an injury-plagued 2016. He also expects shortstop Corey Seager, the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year, to continue to improve.
“I’m very pro-Dodgers this year,” Salmons said. “They literally have seven or eight guys who can start games. They’re really loaded.”
The defending American League champion Indians added slugger Edwin Encarnacion and left-handed reliever Boone Logan and also will return outfielder Michael Brantley, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury.
“They look like a powerhouse right now,” Salmons said. “Their division is just terrible.”
Indeed. The White Sox, one of Cleveland’s AL Central foes, are one of only three teams with win totals at fewer than 70. Chicago is at 68½, the Brewers 69½ and the Padres last at 67½.
“The White Sox are in 100 percent rebuild mode right now,” Salmons said. “I’m not sure what San Diego is doing, to be honest. Two years ago, they were trying to buy up every free agent and it blew up in their face. They traded away their whole farm system. Now they’re trying to do the opposite. They’re a mess.”
In the middle of the pack are a few teams that struggled last season that Salmons expects to improve.
“Like Minnesota (75½). They just had a train wreck last year, but I don’t think they were as bad as their record showed,” he said. “Oakland (74½) and Tampa (78½) are in the same boat. They’re both better than their records last year.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-266-6080. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.
MLB REGULAR-SEASON WIN TOTALS
(Posted Tuesday at Westgate)
Chicago Cubs 96½
Los Angeles Dodgers 94½
Cleveland Indians 93½
Boston Red Sox 92½
Washington Nationals 91½
Houston Astros 91½
New York Mets 88½
San Francisco Giants 87½
Seattle Mariners 85½
Texas Rangers 84½
Toronto Blue Jays 84½
St. Louis Cardinals 83½
New York Yankees 83½
Detroit Tigers 83½
Pittsburgh Pirates 82½
Colorado Rockies 80½
Los Angeles Angels 80½
Baltimore Orioles 79½
Tampa Bay Rays 78½
Arizona Diamondbacks 77½
Miami Marlins 76½
Minnesota Twins 75½
Atlanta Braves 75½
Kansas City Royals 74½
Oakland Athletics 74½
Philadelphia Phillies 72½
Cincinnati Reds 70½
Milwaukee Brewers 69½
Chicago White Sox 68½
San Diego Padres 67½