For baseball fans, spring training is a time of hope and optimism. Soon there will be better weather, sunny days, and baseball most nights, as long as it doesn’t rain. Even for the pessimist, the regular season starting out with an 0-0 record represents a lot of possibilities.
For the gambling complex, spring training is a time to make money off of all of those optimists - and, for that matter, off of the pessimists, too. The house always wins. Don’t bet on sports!
Still, it’s always interesting to see what the gambling world thinks about the season to come. A projection system like PECOTA at Baseball Prospectus or Steamer on Fangraphs can be wrong and nobody really cares. Partisans of a team that overperforms their projection might hold a grudge and mock the system, but that’s about it.
If the Orioles win 90 games this year, the people responsible at those sites can shrug their shoulders. You might hear something about how there are always outliers and how they were still within one standard deviation of the mean, or maybe about how the Orioles, or whatever team, were “lucky.” There’s no real harm done to their overall credibility.
On the other hand, if a sports book is wrong about the Orioles, or any other team, they could end up losing money on the bets that they take. If any idiot can look at the board and know a good bet better than the casino does, that would be a problem. Of course, any casino is always making money off of the people who think they know a good bet better than the casino does.
ESPN has helpfully compiled odds for each team for over/under win totals, division odds, World Series odds, and chances of making the playoffs from the Westgate sports book in Las Vegas, one of the bigger books out there.
They are not optimists about the Orioles at Westgate. The win total for the over/under is set at 71.5. That doesn’t directly mean they think the Orioles will win 71-72 games, just that they think half of people will bet the under and half will bet the over. That way, they make money no matter how many games the Orioles win, since there’s always the little cut the house takes when it sets odds, called, depending on who you ask, the juice, the vigorish, or the vig.
Not surprisingly, the other odds they are offering for the Orioles aren’t great. The Orioles are 200-1 to win the World Series and 80-1 to win the division. It could be worse for those World Series odds. There are three teams currently listed at 500-1.
A bet for the Orioles to make the playoffs currently pays +1000, meaning if you bet $100, you would win $1000. If you want to bet that the Orioles WON’T make the playoffs, that’s -2000 - or, it would take a $2000 bet to win $100.
Even for a pessimist like me, it’s hard to feel like the Orioles are going to win 71 games or fewer. That would be some bad baseball, a brand with which Orioles fans who stuck it out through the dark years are familiar, since the team won under 71 games every year from 2006-2011.
The 2017 season felt brutal, and it was, but for all that went wrong, the Orioles still won 75 games. That was even with the worst starting rotation in MLB and an offense that averaged fewer than three runs per game once the calendar turned to September.
I don’t like to think about things getting worse than that. If they do, that would probably (hopefully) spark some July fire sale trades as the team recognizes it’s time to punt and look to the future. This possibility of a snowball effect of players like Manny Machado and Zach Britton getting traded away after things start going bad is probably priced into that Orioles over/under bet.
Here’s how things look for the over/under win totals for the rest of the AL East according to this sports book:
Yes, the Orioles are even below the Rays, despite all of the Rays salary dump trades and the injury suffered by their top pitching prospect, Brent Honeywell. It is expected to be a tough climb for the Orioles this season.
If you’re curious, the defending champion Astros have the highest over/under number, at 96.5. It would take quite a lot of confidence to bet over on that number even if you know the Astros will be good. It’s hard to win 97+ games! The Dodgers and Indians are also up there at 95.5, while the Orioles’ pharmacy neighbors to the south are even with the Yankees at 94.5.
The gambling world is another group that Orioles fans have to hope are very wrong about the potential of this year’s team or it won’t be a very fun summer in Birdland.
Are you going over or under the Orioles at 71.5 wins?
This poll is closed
Over (72 or more wins)
Under (71 or fewer wins)