The Nationals and Dodgers have overachieved while the Tigers have underachieved based on season win totals. Will it continue?
We have now reached the month of June, so we thought this would be a good time to take a look at which teams have overachieved and/or underachieved so far based on their posted season win totals before the season. More importantly when it comes to making MLB picks in the future, we also predict in which directions these teams will go the rest of this season.
Remember that there are surprise teams over the first two months of the season almost every year, but also remember that the cream will rise to the top and the dead weight will fall by year’s end, so do not overreact to early season results. In fact, having an idea of which overachievers will come down to earth, which are legitimate and which underachievers figure to come on strong can fatten your wallets the rest of the way.
Here are the top five overachievers and bottom five underachievers to this point, with their posted win totals before the season at Bookmaker Sportsbook, their current record through games of Wednesday, May 30, 2012, and their projected win totals if they continue to win at their current pace.
Baltimore Orioles (69½, 29-22, 92): This record is almost the inverse of what the Orioles were on June 1 of last year, when they were 24-29 en route to another last-place finish. More of the same was expected this season in the loaded American League East, but Baltimore is currently on pace to win 92 games, and that 22½ game variance between their pace record and their preseason win total is the largest in all of baseball, ½ game better than the Los Angeles Dodgers (more on them in a bit). The wheels appear to be already falling off of thee Orioles’ bandwagon though as they have lost five straight games as of this writing. Baltimore is batting only .238 vs. right-handed pitchers and the starting pitchers have a cumulative 4.45 ERA. Don’t expect the Orioles to maintain this 92-win pace when an 81-81, .500 season would be considered a nice accomplishment.
Los Angeles Dodgers (82, 32-18, 104): What a difference a year makes as last year at this time, the Dodgers were 26-30 and getting worse while having financial difficulties that ultimately led to the league taking over the team. Now, they have the best record in all of baseball, but we sense that a hard plummet back to planet earth is about to take place. First of all, they just got swept at home in a four-game series by the Milwaukee Brewers and secondly, Matt Kemp is back on the Disabled List with a hamstring injury after perhaps coming back too soon from the same injury. Kemp is the lone bona fide superstar in the Los Angeles lineup and we feel they will continue to struggle without him. Now the good news is that LA got off to such a great start that it can still finish with 90 wins even with regression, and that could win the weak National League West. That accomplishment becomes considerably harder if Kemp is out for a long time however.
New York Mets (72½, 28-23, 89): The Mets were 25-29 on this a date last year and their posted win total this season would have left them in last place in the National League East. The Mets could still finish in last place yet considering that only three games separates the first place Washington Nationals from the last place Philadelphia Phillies right now, and we predict right now that the preseason forecasts were correct and that the Mets will indeed finish last. The Mets have hit a bit better than expected, thanks to David Wright flirting with .400, and starting pitcher Johan Santana does not seem to have missed a step after being out nearly two years after arm surgery. However, the rest of the lineup besides Wright is suspect with many of those batters hitting over their heads right now, the rest of the starting rotation is nothing special and the bullpen has been abysmal, with a 5.45 ERA and a disgusting 1.51 WHIP. Don’t be surprised if the Mets finished under .500 with a final win total in the upper 70s.
Chicago White Sox (76½, 29-22, 92): The White Sox went from 26-31 and 8½ games out at this time last season to first place this year as of this writing. Unlike the top three teams on this list though, we actually thought that the White Sox would be better before the season, so we do not expect them to regress as much as the first three teams. With that said, the 92-win pace does seem a tad much, as we foresee something in the 84-87 range. We simply like the White Sox pitching staff this year, as Jake Peavy has returned to his Cy Young form, Chris Sale looks like a future star and the bullpen is solid.
Washington Nationals (84, 29-21, 94): The Nationals were in last place at this time last year at 23-31, but it was fairly obvious to us that the young pitching staff led by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann had a chance to be very special this year and that Washington would be a legitimate contender to win the East if it could score some runs. Well, the pitching has been so great that the Nats are in first place despite the offense doing nothing for much of the year, and that is starting to change now with them hitting better lately and they should improve even more once Jason Werth comes back. This is the only team among the overachievers that we feel can not only maintain its 94-win pace but possibly even get to 95 or 96 wins.
San Diego Padres (72½, 17-35, 53): The Padres were in last place at 24-31 at this time last year and they were exacted to be bad again this year, but not quite this bad. We still do not see too much upside though as San Diego probably has the weakest lineup in the National League, in fact ranking second to last in the league with a .224 team batting average. The Pads are not getting any better having lost nine of their last 10 games as of this writing, so we do see this team losing 100 games this year.
Detroit Tigers (92½, 23-27, 75): The Tigers were 28-26 at this time in 2011 en route to the American League Central title and they were expected to run away and hide in the division this year with the addition of Prince Fielder to the lineup. It has not turned out that way…yet! The key here is that as bad as Detroit has played, it is well within striking range at just five games behind the White Sox. It is basically a given that the Tigers will start scoring more runs soon and they have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander. This lineup is simply too good to be four games under .500 right now and to be on pace for only 75 win, as we see Detroit catching fire and ultimately winning the Central with 87-90 wins.
Minnesota Twins (74½, 18-32, 58): Believe it or not, the Twins actually have a better record now than they did when they were 17-36 at this time last year. They went on to finish 63-99 in 2011 and we see something nearly identical with this unit, something in the 63-65 range. Yes, that is better than the current 58-win pace, but not nearly enough to get excited about.
Colorado Rockies (82½, 20-29, 66): The Rockies have traditionally started slowly, but this year’s team is even lagging behind the 25-59 record the Rocks had one year ago. Even worse, this team is not as good as last year. The pitching staff is a mess with a collective 5.18 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, the team cannot win on the road and now one of its biggest stars Troy Tulowitzki has landed on the Disabled List with a groin injury. We have this team winning 70-72 games, which is not significantly better than the pace the club is currently on.
Chicago Cubs (74½, 18-32, 58): Now the Cubs are an interesting case. We get that this is not a good offensive ball club right now, but the team has two pitchers among the league leaders in FIP in Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija and it has been scoring more runs since snapping a 12-game losing streak We actually had the Cubs pegged for 75 wins this year, right in line with the season win total, and while this is not a team that will challenge for a division title or anything, we also do not think it is a 100-loss team. The Cubs could actually have a little bit of value going forward.
Future Plays (Odds from Bookmaker Sportsbook)
Washington Nationals to win World Series (+950): This is decent value for perhaps the best young pitching staff in all of baseball, but note that this play could be toast if Strasburg is more hurt than the Nationals are letting on.
Detroit Tigers to win American League Pennant (+975): This is a classic case of buying low, as Detroit has gone from one of the favorites to win the American League to nearly 10/1 to do so. As mentioned, we expect a humongous second half from this team.