Finding Value in MLB Regular Season Win Totals: AL East
New York Yankees 2019 Win Total
The 2018 Yankees won 100 games last year, obliterating their Vegas win total of 94.5 games, but also came up well short of the Boston Red Sox who won 108 games. Only the Cleveland Indians (54 games) played fewer games against teams >.500 than the Yankees last year, who went 41-30 in those games. The Yankees path to 100 wins a year ago benefited from playing the 47-win Orioles 17 times, as well as a top-heavy American League in general. In the AL in 2018 the good teams feasted on the bad, as most of the league was in a rebuild as the four superpowers (Indians, Astros, Red Sox, Yankees) fought it out.
The 2018 Yankees won 100 games last year, obliterating their Vegas win total of 94.5 games, but also came up well short of the Boston Red Sox who won 108 games.
To be fair, the Yankees would put a hurting on teams no matter what division or league they play in. The lineup is a frightening collection of mashers, starting with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield. Center fielder Aaron Hicks is a quality player coming off a 5 WAR season and just signed to an extension in center. A lesser version of Hicks, Brett Gardner has been 2.5 WAR in the bank for six consecutive seasons in left field. The Yankees also feature a young infield with upside across the board. Miguel Andujar was nearly the AL ROY in 2018 at third base, and second baseman Gleyber Torres would have challenged him for that award if he wasn’t hurt midway through the year. The sky is the limit for Torres with both the bat and the glove. At first base, two power threats are still battling for the job in Luke Voit who had an excellent finish to the 2018 season, and the often-injured Greg Bird. Oh, and then there’s the best catcher in the AL by far behind the plate, Gary Sanchez.
So the Yankees are completely stacked on offense, and all they did to their rotation was add James Paxton. Pax will pitch behind ace Luis Severino and the mysterious Masahiro Tanka. Tanaka has ace stuff, but home runs have been a problem. Home runs were also a problem for Paxton last year, and while he also has ace upside, he's not without injury or gopheritis concerns. JA Happ returns as the #4 and C.C. Sabathia should be a dependable #5 starter. So, the Yankees have a great offense, outstanding starting pitching, and an embarrassment of riches in the bullpen. The combination of Chapman and Betances at the back end, with newcomers Adam Ottovino and Zach Britton, to go along with the excellent Chad Greene and Tommy Kahnl--I'm out of breath just thinking about it. You do not want to be trailing to the Yankees after the 5th inning of any game.
My Take on the Yankees Win Total: It is honestly hard not to project the Yankees for another 100-win season. I wanted to hate on the Yankees, but it's impossible. This team is absolutely loaded and so far, to me, they look like the best team in baseball. I'll go with 96.5 wins as their over/under total. BetOnline has this right at 96.5 but with -125 juice on the over.
Boston Red Sox 2019 Win Total
The most significant move of the offseason for the Boston Red Sox was to sign Steve Pearce to a new contract. Pearce had come over in a trade from Toronto in 2018 and is both a notable Yankee-killer and lefty-masher. In his career vs. LHP Pearce has a wRC+ of 130, which would make him a perennial All-Star with regular playing time. The other big move the Red Sox made was keeping another pending free agent when they signed Nathan Eovaldi to a four-year deal. While it feels like the Red Sox are bringing back the same team that won the World Series, the move that will make the most impact on the 2019 Red Sox is the one that hasn’t been made yet. Closer Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned, and it doesn’t appear that the Red Sox will be bringing him back.
Instead, Boston will likely turn to Matt Barnes in the ninth inning, and by K-BB% Barnes looked similar to Kimbrel last year, with a 24.5-percent K-BB% compared to Kimbrel at 26.3-percent. Ryan Brasier would be next in line, and he also impressed last year, putting up a 1.69 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched. The pen does get a little shaky after that, with Brandon Workman and Hector Velazquez coming off disappointing seasons. Tyler Thornburg is also a year removed from a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings. Thornburg was thought to be an elite reliever when the Red Sox traded Travis Shaw to the Brewers in 2016. It looks like the Red Sox could really use Craig Kimbrel, so there must be an impasse between what the Red Sox are willing to pay Kimbrel and what he is willing to accept. Looking at the Red Sox bullpen, it’s easy to see why he and his agent would try and wait the Red Sox out. While the bullpen is a question mark, it's the only weakness on the Red Sox roster, and it's one that the Red Sox will address if needed during the season. The starting rotation is led by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello, who each get the job done in different ways. Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez round things out, and both have the upside of a 2 or 3.
On offense, it’s an embarrassment of riches in Boston.
On offense, it’s an embarrassment of riches in Boston. Mookie Betts is the best player in the league not named Mike Trout, and Andrew Benintendi still has room to grow into an elite player as well. Xander Bogaerts finally consolidated his skills for a full season, hitting .288/.360/.522 with 23 home runs and eight steals. He also plays excellent defense, which is a common theme among the Boston position players. The right side of the infield is where the old guys hang out, with Dustin Pedroia at second base and Mitch Moreland at first base. The great part about the designated hitter in the American League is that it allows an elite bat like JD Martinez to protect his fragile body from injury but still hit 40 bombs a year. Martinez was third in the league with a .170 wRC+ last year, behind just his teammate Mookie Betts at .185, and Mike Trout at 191.
My Take on the Red Sox Win Total: Boston won a ridiculous 108 games last year, and while they return the majority of that team in 2019, the loss of Craig Kimbrel will hurt that bullpen. I do not like this roster as much as the Yankees, so I’ll go with a win total of 95.5 for the Red Sox. BetOnline is slightly more pessimistic and has Boston at 94.5 wins.
Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Win Total
The Tampa Bay Rays feel like a team that beats their Vegas win total at a higher rate than any other team in MLB. You’re never quite sure how they get it done, but this is a competitive team year-in, and year-out. One look at their depth chart is all you need to know that this team is different.
The Tampa Bay Rays feel like a team that beats their Vegas win total at a higher rate than any other team in MLB.
The most obvious sign of that is that the Rays will employ a 3-man starting rotation of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow. Morton is coming off his best season in the Majors, Glasnow has an ace ceiling, and Snell just won the Cy Young, so as far as top-3’s go, this one has the potential to be one of the best in baseball. In games not started by those three pitchers, the Rays will employ “the opener” strategy, in which a relief pitcher starts the game off. The Rays unveiled this strategy last year after using it in the minor leagues. It’s weird, but it works, especially for the Rays.
The Rays feature intrigue across the diamond on offense, starting with a power/speed-laden outfield of Austin Meadows, Kevin Kiermaier and Tommy Pham. On the infield, Willy Adames was a high-end prospect at shortstop, Joey Wendle is coming off his best season at second base, and veteran Matt Duffy will handle third base duties for now. First base will be played by a combination of two talented young players in Yandy Diaz, acquired for Jake Bauers from the Indians, and Ji-Man Choi, obtained from the Brewers in 2018. Choi is a righty-mashing power and patience guy, while Diaz generates excellent exit velocity and could benefit from an increase in launch angle.
My Take on the Rays Win Total: This is a team that won 90 games a year ago, and I believe they have an improved roster from the one they entered the season with a year ago. I would not set their win total as high as 90 games because I don’t think there would be much action on the over, but I feel like 85 wins would be too low. I would have to set the Rays win total just above that, at 85.5 wins. BetOnline mostly agrees and has the Rays 2019 win total set at 84.5 games. This will be a pass.
Toronto Blue Jays 2019 Win Total
The Blue Jays are in the middle of a rebuild, so this is a team that will be lucky to play near the .500-mark in 2019. With that said, they have a stable of prospects led by a couple of guys who had dads tearing up MLB in the 90s (and into the 2000s in the case of Vladdy). Those two prospects are, of course, Vlad Guerrero and Bo Bichette. Vlad has been conveniently sidelined with an oblique injury and will miss the start of the season before heading to Triple-A to preserve his service time. Bichette though has been tearing up spring training, launching home run after home run to the delight of anyone lucky enough to watch him.
As far as the MLB team goes, there's not a whole lot to like. Kevin Pillar plays a great defensive center field, and in the corners, Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez bring power but too many strikeouts. The infield is made up mostly of replaceable position players, in Brandon Drury, Freddy Galvis, and Justin Smoak. Only second baseman Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. has upside as a young position player on the infield. Behind the plate, Danny Jansen is an impressive young bat and will be a rookie in 2019.
The Blue Jays rotation starts off decently enough, with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. Matt Shoemaker has had success in the past and is fine as a #3 for a non-competing team. Clayton Richard and Ryan Borucki round out the group in unspectacular fashion. In the bullpen, the Jays received Ken Giles in exchange for closer Roberto Osuna from the Astros and Giles will lead the cast of characters which include Ryan Tepera, Joe Biagini, Tim Mayza, and we can’t forget about Jacob Waguespack. Giles pitched to a 4.65 ERA in 2018 but did not blow a single save and record a FIP of 3.08, making him a very likely bounce-back candidate.
My Take on the Blue Jays Win Total: Vlad is coming. When exactly, no one can say for sure, and his convenient oblique injury gives the Jays a built-in excuse to take it slow with him. Will Bichette be up this year? It seems more likely with every spring training tater. This team won 73 games a year ago, and I could see them improving slightly on that. I would set their win total at 74.5 games. BetOnline agrees and has the Jays at 74.5 wins. I could see this total going over with Vladdy and Bo Bichette setting the world on fire, but then you remember that the Jays are in a division with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. They’re also in a division with the Baltimore Orioles, so you never know.
Baltimore Orioles 2019 Win Total
Speaking of the Orioles, I will not be doing a write-up on this excuse for a team. The Orioles lost 115 games in 2018, tying them with the 1935 Braves as the fourth most futile team in the modern era. Ahead of them were just the 1916 A’s at 117, the 2003 Tigers at 119, and the 1962 inaugural season of the Mets which saw them set the modern record at 120 losses.
We don’t bother tracking the Orioles wins, just their losses.
We don’t bother tracking the Orioles wins, just their losses. For the sake of the exercise, the Orioles went 47-115 last year. They have done nothing to improve their team this year and have lost Jonathan Schoop. They did add Jonathan Villar during the season last year, so the net loss isn’t much. If forced to set a win total on this team I would have to go with 50.5 wins. BetOnline has them at 59.5 with -125 juice on the under, +105 on the over. I won’t be touching that.