Chicago Cubs win total: A deeper dive into playing the OVER
Chicago Cubs win total: A deeper dive into playing the OVER
A second sportsbook has released MLB win totals, offshore book BetOnline, and with the Cubs opening at 88.5, a half-win shy of their opening number of 89 at Caesars, it's another example of tempered expectations for them.
A second sportsbook has released MLB win totals, offshore book BetOnline, and with the Cubs opening at 88.5, a half-win shy of their opening number of 89 at Caesars, it's another example of tempered expectations for them. Action has pushed the total at Caesars to 91.5, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the same at BetOnline. It's Jan. 23 and all the Cubs have done is signed Daniel Descalso and a rehabbing Kendall Graveman and picked up Cole Hamels' option. The Cardinals traded for Paul Goldschmidt. The Brewers signed Yasmani Grandal and added Alex Claudio to the pen. The Reds rebuilt the starting rotation with Alex Wood, Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark, not to mention adding Yasiel Puig. It's fair to say those division rivals have improved this offseason and the Cubs haven't. And with another book adding to the fire with a win total posted at only 88.5, maybe it's time to take a deeper look at expectations as to why I think this OVER is a safe bet -- if such a thing exists. <a href="https://twitter.com/StokkeTommy/status/1088123716712652800" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="0">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/StokkeTommy/status/1088123716712652800</a> The low win total is a sign of expectations similar to Caesars, but without the action to start moving it. The same goes for BetOnline's World Series [odds](https://www.betonline.ag/sportsbook/futures-and-props/mlb-futures) of 12/1, compared to 10/1 at the Westgate in Las Vegas. "We're not seeing too much action on the Cubs, either for World Series or win total, and that is partly a reason we're a bit lower on them," said BetOnline Sportsbook Brand Manager Dave Mason. "Odds and numbers will vary from book to book, whether it be Vegas or offshore, and is why it is always a good idea to shop around for the best prices based on what side you like." Maybe bettors will start looking more at MLB win totals once the Super Bowl has passed. The juice is up to -130 on the Cubs OVER, while the UNDER is even money, and because the Cubs are a popular public team, I wouldn't be surprised to see the line move up to 90 or 91, like Caesars. The line makes sense. Winning 90 games isn't easy. There's no sure thing. Look at the Nationals last year (82-80, second place in the NL East) as an example. Teams will surprise. FanGraphs projects the Cubs at 87 wins. It's a reasonable line. We'll use their projections, because the only thing I can do with math is spell it. Why is OVER 88.5 one of my favorite plays? Let's break it down. ## Roster The depth chart is very similar to last season, assuming everyone stays healthy. And health in a few key spots has me optimistic from the start. Remember, this is a team that won 95 games last year. Kris Bryant should be [healthy](https://www.cubsinsider.com/2018/12/14/kris-bryant-back-to-old-swing-attacking-offseason-strength-and-conditioning-program-like-quiet-assassin/) for spring training, with all the reports saying his shoulder is fine and his swing is back to normal. He clashed stylistically with former hitting coach Chili Davis, and FanGraphs [projects](https://www.fangraphs.com/projections.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&type=steamer&team=17&lg=all&players=0) him at 5.5 WAR, second-best in the NL. Just using WAR projections compared to last year, Bryant, Javy Baez, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are projected to combine for 18.5 WAR in 2019. Those five combined for 16.3 WAR in 2018, even with Baez's MVP campaign. Jason Heyward is a safe, if unspectacular, starter, and perhaps still has some unreached offensive ability. Even still, he's a Gold Glove outfielder. Ian Happ and Albert Almora are solid depth pieces with everyday-player potential. If he's on the team, Addison Russell has value, and Ben Zobrist doesn't have to repeat last season's strong campaign to be valuable. Those pieces are all fine and dandy, but it's the big five combining to improve over last year that has me optimistic in the offense without adding pieces. The starting rotation also projects to be better. Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Hamels are projected at 12.2 WAR, according to FanGraphs. The five starters with the most innings last year combined for 9.2. That didn't include Darvish or an abysmal year of Tyler Chatwood. Removing Chatwood, adding Darvish and having Hamels for a full season makes the rotation better. The question is in the bullpen, but Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Steve Cishek are solid, when healthy. Another really good piece is preferred, and perhaps could be added in the next few weeks as the free-agent market continues to shrink. Maybe it happens in July. The front office, which has previously acquired Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis and Justin Wilson (good at the time), has shown it'll be aggressive with the pen. The core members of the lineup and the five starters are expected to perform better than last season, so regression will have to come from somewhere else to lose seven more games than last year. ## Schedule Standard thought would suggest because the division is improving, wins won't be as easy to come by. But it's not like the Cubs beat up on the division last year. The Cubs were 11-8 against the Reds, 10-9 against the Pirates, 11-9 against the Brewers and 9-10 vs. the Cardinals. This isn't the Braves, who finished 27-11 against the Mets and Marlins. Chicago was 8-10 in walk-off games and 26-25 in one-run games, while the Braves were 7-2 and 23-12, respectively. This isn't to pick on the Braves, but those numbers suggest the 84.5 win total for Atlanta maybe isn't that crazy. There isn't some looming regression in the numbers for the Cubs. The one scheduling component working against the Cubs is interleague play. Instead of playing the Tigers and Royals in the AL Central, Chicago has to play the AL West, including a road trip to Houston. ## Division The Cardinals improved on paper with Goldschmidt, but I still have questions throughout their roster. I don't know what I'm going to get in the starting rotation, whether it's the health and performance of Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez, or Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty in Year 2. Andrew Miller really struggled last year with the Indians. Is he healthy and ready to contribute at a high level again? I think the offense has more of a bust factor than the Cubs, with the age of Yadier Molina and the inconsistency of the outfielders. As long as the Brewers continue shopping in the clearance rack for starting pitching, there will be questions about whether or not they can again eclipse 90 wins. They also beat up on the Reds last year, going 13-6. A 33-19 record in one-run games looks like there's room for regression, considering even the Yankees and their super bullpen finished 23-17 in one-run games. The Reds' push to improve was largely based around players set to hit free agency after this season. Seven games against them following the trade deadline for the Cubs could be an even bigger boost to the schedule if Wood, Roark, Puig or any other pieces are sold off should Cincinnati not be competing. ## Conclusion If there was such thing as a guarantee in sports betting, I wouldn't be writing this story. But when looking at the places for positive and negative regression for the Cubs, there are far more good things than bad. The team should absolutely use as many resources as possible to take advantage of the current championship window, and even without a big splash this offseason, things line up favorably for Chicago compared to their counterparts in the NL Central. OVER 88.5 wins is the play. __More MLB:__ [Early leans on win totals](https://www.betchicago.com/mlb-season-win-totals-bets-brewers-cubs-2019)2019-01-24T00:25:02.993Z2019-01-23T16:00-07:00