By the end of this weekend, Major League Baseball will have reached the quarter pole of its marathon 162-game season.
The old saying in baseball is that all the teams are going to lose 60 games and win 60 games. It’s what you do with the other 42 that determines what kind of season you’re going to have.
This year’s Oakland A’s just might challenge that old saw by winning fewer than 50, while the Tampa Bay Rays are pushing on the other end of things. The Rays are on pace in the early going to break the MLB record of 116 wins in a season, achieved most recently by the 2001 Seattle Mariners. The St. Louis Cardinals, so far, have been nowhere near the team they — or any of the sportsbooks — thought they would be.
It’s clear that not all of the over/under win totals set before the season by the sportsbook operators have retained their predictive value. Using FanDuel’s preseason odds, let’s take a look at MLB’s biggest overachievers and underachievers so far:
Rays o/u 89.5
The level of excellence this team has achieved playing in an ultra-competitive division is nothing short of breathtaking. The Rays lead MLB in virtually every key category, including runs scored (230), OPS (.865) and ERA (2.97). It’s impossible to find a glaring hole in this roster. If there’s a threat to the Rays, it might come from the sleeping giant in their division, the New York Yankees, if the Yanks snap out of their injury-related swoon to offer stiffer competition. Still, this Tampa team is far better than just about anybody thought, including oddsmakers.
Baltimore Orioles o/u 76.5
It’s a beautiful thing when a young team is able to build toward sustained success. The Orioles are showing the sportsbooks that last season’s dramatic improvement was no fluke. Catcher Adley Rutschman has had a transformative impact, following up a great rookie season with, so far, a better sophomore campaign. The former No. 1 overall pick ranks third among MLB catchers in wRC+, at 33% above league average, and he’s helped the Orioles’ pitching staff go from an embarrassment to about league average. Some aspects to this renaissance seem somewhat unsustainable, such as Jorge Mateo’s dramatic hitting improvement, but there’s enough burgeoning talent here not to expect the O’s to fall off a cliff at crunch time.
Pittsburgh Pirates o/u 67.5
The best redemption story in baseball is tailing off, with the Pirates having lost nine of their last 10 games after a blistering start. Some of the statistics suggest this team was due for a fall, considering they’re roughly league average in both ERA (11th) and OPS (14th), but there are good things happening in Pittsburgh that could play well for years to come in a highly winnable division. General manager Ben Cherington seems to have a good plan, and with strong young talent like Brian Reynolds, David Bednar, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, and Jack Suwinski, a decent shot to pull it off.
Texas Rangers o/u 81.5
Nobody really knew what to make of the Rangers. They had been highly active in free agency before, only to see it fail, but their revamping of the pitching staff is paying dividends. New additions Nathan Eovaldi (3.22 ERA) and Martín Pérez (3.86 ERA) have stabilized the pitching staff, while catcher Jonah Heim (.944 OPS) has been pacing the club offensively and from behind the plate. With the Astros and Mariners down, the Rangers have picked a good time to hit their stride.
Arizona Diamondbacks o/u 75.5
The D’backs are in deep in a division with free spenders like the Dodgers and Padres, but they’ve more than held their own so far with a roster stocked with good up-and-coming players. Zac Gallen (2.36 ERA) and Merrill Kelly (2.75 ERA) have given Arizona a formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation, and good young position players like Corbin Carroll, Christian Walker, Josh Rojas, and Ketel Marte have allowed them to hang with the big-boy lineups in the National League. They’re ahead of schedule, at least ahead of the sportsbooks’ idea of their schedule.
Cardinals o/u 88.5
When the team with the most World Series titles in the National League struggles, other fan bases rejoice. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for the 11-time world champs. It has been an unmitigated disaster so far around Busch Stadium, with the Cardinals struggling to emerge from last place while making some puzzling roster decisions along the way. For one thing, they’ve already announced that catcher Willson Contreras, who just signed a five-year, $87.5 million deal, will play exclusively designated hitter while he works on his pitch calling, and they demoted top prospect Jordan Walker despite the fact he was hitting .274. The Cardinals are better than their record indicates, but a few more weeks of struggling could lead to more permanent changes.
Chicago White Sox o/u 83.5
Apparently, last year wasn’t a matter of underachieving. This team simply isn’t good. The White Sox rank 22nd in OPS (.693) and 29th in ERA (5.60). They’re also the 18th-best fielding team, according to Outs Above Average (-3). Nothing to see here, folks, other than a team that’s even more disappointing than the sportsbooks thought they would be.
A’s o/u 59.5
The A’s can’t get to Las Vegas soon enough, for all of our sakes. The owner essentially forced the issue by fielding a team with a $43 million payroll (roughly one-eighth what the Mets spend) and it has worked out just as planned. The A’s appear to be a lock to move to the land they bought near the Strip, and now the poor fans in Oakland have to watch this clown show play out as long as they remain in the East Bay. It’s an embarrassment to baseball.
New York Mets o/u 93.5
Meanwhile, Steven Cohen wonders when he’s going to start getting a little more bang for his buck. The Mets haven’t been able to gain any traction so far and they’re beginning to lose touch with the first-place Braves, who have forged an eight-game lead over them. The Mets (4.82 ERA) simply haven’t pitched well enough, and the lineup is lacking in power beyond Pete Alonso, who leads the majors with 12 long balls (twice as many as the nearest Met). This team should be good, but it can’t continue to tease its fans and expect to make a World Series run.
Houston Astros o/u 95.5
The co-favorites along with the Dodgers haven’t been able to shake their World Series hangover through the first quarter of the season. You really don’t have to look beyond the injured list for the reason why. With Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Lance McCullers Jr. all out, this simply isn’t the same club that bulldozed its way to its second title in five years last October. The sportsbooks were wrong so far about the Astros, but who could have predicted this much lousy luck?
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