It’s baseball eve. Tomorrow there will be real, meaningful baseball and the start of a full 162-game season.
With baseball back this week, it’s time for the 2021 over/under win total predictions. Five overs and five unders for the season.
NEW YORK YANKEES, 95.5
On paper, the Yankees are the best team in the American League. Unfortunately, “on paper” doesn’t win you the pennant or the World Series. (If it did, the last 11 baseball seasons wouldn’t have ended in disappointment.) “On paper” also doesn’t account for injuries, which with these Yankees will be sure to decide their 2021 fate. Their rotation mostly hasn’t pitched over the last two years and their lineup has been injured more than any other team in baseball over the same time. There isn’t a single Yankees everyday player who hasn’t had at least one injured list stint between 2019 and 2020.
Thankfully, the majority of the league isn’t trying to win or be competitive, and the Yankees only have a handful of teams to worry about preventing them from being the best team in the AL. I actually think 95.5 is low for this team when you consider 38 of their games will be against the Red Sox and Orioles, and another 33 games against the Tigers, Royals, Indians, Mariners and Rangers. That’s 44 percent of their schedule against bad to really bad to really, really bad teams. I think this number should have been around 98.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX, 90.5
This number is very low. The White Sox are the second-best team “on paper” in the after the Yankees, and it can certainly be argued that they are better than the Yankees. I believe the White Sox are the Yankees’ only true competition to represent the AL in the World Series. They will also play an astounding 57 games against the Royals, Tigers and Indians. If the White Sox were to play only .600 baseball in those 57 games, they would go 34-23. That means they would only have to go 57-48 against the rest of the league to get to 91 wins and beat this number. The math makes way too much sense to take the over.
SAN DIEGO PADRES, 94.5
Another number that seems low. The Padres’ rotation includes Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet. They could have the worst lineup in baseball and they would be an over-.500 team just because of their pitching, the way the Rays have been all these years. But they don’t have the worst lineup in baseball, they have a very strong lineup. The Dodgers and Padres could both win 100 games like the Yankees and Red Sox and one of the two will end up playing a one-game playoff for their season.
HOUSTON ASTROS, 87.5
Everyone is a little too down and a little too quiet on the Astros, which worries me that the Yankees will see them again in the ALCS and lose to them again in the ALCS. In 2019, the Astros were coming off a 103-win 2018 season and their win total was set at 96.5. I took the over, and they won 107 games. Are the Astros now 19.5 games worse than they were two years ago? Sure, they no longer have Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander is out for the season and George Springer is on the Blue Jays, but the Astros are still really good. They might not be what they were from 2017-19, but even in last year’s shortened season without Cole or Verlander, they were one win away from returning to the World Series for the third time in four years. I would love for nothing more than the Astros to come in well under this number. I just don’t think they will.
CHICAGO CUBS, 78.5
The Cubs aren’t a below-.500 team. Even if they spent the offseason operating as if they’re a small-market team, they still have a solid offense, which will be able to mask just how bad their pitching is. For as far as the Cubs have fallen over the last few years, the NL Central sucks, and while the Cubs won’t be a postseason team, they can certainly finish at least 79-83 to win this over.
BOSTON RED SOX, 80.5
The Red Sox sucked in 2019, they sucked in 2020 and they are going to suck in 2021. I never want the Red Sox to be good, but it would be nice if they were OK. Not anything great, but good enough that their games against the Yankees meant something. I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. For the Red Sox to go over, they’re going to have to be a .500 team. They aren’t a .500 team. Not with a rotation held together by scotch tape and string, and not with a lineup that has moved on from their entire starting outfield over the last calendar year.
SEATTLE MARINERS, 72.5
This is a sad pick because the Mariners have the longest postseason drought in baseball (2001). They’re just not any good. Even in 2019 when they got off to a 13-2 start, they still finished the season 68-94. (That’s a 55-92 run after the first 15 games.) The Mariners have both Justus Sheffield and James Paxton on their roster now after they traded the uninspiring Paxton to the Yankees for Sheffield before 2019, so it would be fitting if they became a dominant 1-2 punch at the front end of the Mariners’ rotation. Even if that did happen and caused me more pain than I have already endured after being vehemently against that trade, the team still isn’t winning 73-plus games.
TEXAS RANGERS, 67.5
The Rangers might be the worst team in baseball. If they’re not, I’m going to lose a lot of money because I will likely be betting against them on most nights for the next six months. This is a 100-loss team, and 100 losses means less than 68 wins.
COLORADO ROCKIES, 63.5
How is Bud Black still managing the Rockies? As someone who frequently bets Coors Field unders, Black is the absolute worst bullpen manager in the league. He makes me feel fortunate to root for a team that has Aaron Boone as its manager. Black does things Boone wouldn’t dream of doing, and over the last three years I watched Jonathan Holder pitch in high-leverage situations and in crucial games.
The Rockies have the second-lowest win total number of all 30 teams, and rightfully so. They have two superpowers in their division and 38 games against the Dodgers and Padres means a lot of losses. In 2020, there were only two teams that played to a 100-loss pace in a 162-game season: Texas and Pittsburgh. In 2019, four teams lost at least 100 games, and in 2018, three teams lost at least 100 games. The Rockies can avoid a 100-loss season and still win this under with only 99 losses. I think 99 losses would be a good year for this roster.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES, 59.5
Yes, I’m taking the under on an expected 102-103-loss team. That’s how bad the Pirates are. I’m not even worried about the Pirates being able to hand me a loss if they go 60-102 this season. This roster is right up there with one of the all-time worst, and I would take this under even if it were set at 50.5
Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast. New episodes every Monday and Thursday during the offseason.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!