While the various sports betting odds can’t and won’t always give you a perfect capital T Truth about how good a given team is on paper, they do offer a view on where the handicappers see things, and then a distillation of “the market” perspective as bets move the lines around.
So when the initial over-unders come out on MLB win totals, I definitely like to pay attention as a data point.
To that end, William Hill has set the initial MLB over-unders (by way of the Caesar’s brand, per ESPN), and the Chicago Cubs come in at just 79.5 wins, way below the Cardinals (88), Brewers (84.5), and even the Reds (81.5) in the NL Central.
Look, I’m very open about the flaws I see with this year’s Cubs team, but I also think the upside to be a contender in this division is equally clear. To take the under at 79.5 wins, you’d have to be banking not only on the Cubs being quite bad out of the gate, but then also selling off aggressively in June and July. Because if the Cubs decide instead to stay competitive this year, they’re going to be an over .500 team, more likely than not.
So I guess if you were actually taking the over or under on the Cubs, you would be less betting on the perceived quality of the team, and more on your anticipation of what they’re going to do with the roster this year. And if you decided to take the under on the Cubs for that reason, I guess I couldn’t blame you. A big sell-off at midseason would certainly put the Cubs in terrible shape in the second half, given the extreme volume of walk-year guys they could be shipping out.
But then how do you explain the Reds at two wins above the Cubs? That, to me, makes no sense. The Brewers, while I could understand them ahead of the Cubs on paper – some of the projection systems agree – that’s quite a large gap. And are the Cardinals really almost NINE wins better on paper than the Cubs? I guess I’m just surprised to see the Cubs so far back in the Central, and also with the 12th lowest win total. But maybe that’s largely because of, again, the knowledge that the Cubs, in particular, could really tear things down at midseason.
Here’s the full set of over-unders, including the EXTREMES at each end, the likes of which you almost never see (and you’d be crazy to take the over the Dodgers or the under on the Pirates, in my view). These are, of course, subject to change and movement (and you might see different totals at different books):