Odds: Over/under win totals for National League teams

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Bookmaker.com has posted its initial over/under odds for regular season team wins. Here are the National League totals (for entertainment purposes only, of course):

Phillies          97
Giants            88
Braves            88
Rockies           87
Reds              86.5
Brewers           85.5
Cardinals         83.5
Dodgers           83
Cubs              82
Marlins           81.5
Mets              77
Padres            76
Diamondbacks      72.5
Astros            72.5
Nationals         72
Pirates           67

Just about everyone would agree that the Phillies are clearly the class of the National League and probably enter the season as World Series favorites, but 97 wins is an exceptionally high baseline for even a great on-paper team. For example, the last NL team to win more than 97 games was the Cardinals in 2005 and a total of just six NL teams have topped 97 wins since 2000. Philadelphia is definitely capable of joining that group, but I’m not sure it makes sense to bet on it.

Colorado also stands out as a strong “under” bet at 87 wins considering they won 83 games last season and didn’t really make any significant offseason additions. Plus, it’s not as if Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki can be much better than they were in 2010. I’m also not sure I see why the Cubs have an over/under as high as 82 wins after going 75-87 last season. They should be better after adding Carlos Pena and Matt Garza, but it’s tough imagine them being much above .500.

Adrian Gonzalez is really good and San Diego came out of nowhere last season, but setting their over/under at 76 wins seems pretty low coming off a 90-win campaign. I’d be surprised if they aren’t at least around .500. Arizona also seems like a solid “over” bet at 72.5 wins, as their historically awful bullpen–much like Seattle’s historically inept lineup in the AL–almost can’t help but be much better, particularly if J.J. Putz stays healthy.

With the caveat that I haven’t exactly spent a lot of time breaking down projections and crunching numbers to come up with these opinions, I like the Padres, Diamondbacks, and Mets the most for “over” and the Phillies, Rockies, and Cubs the most for “under.”

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.