Earliest Start To Baseball Season Ever
As Major League Baseball gears up for the earliest Opening Day ever on March 29, baseball bettors gear up for season-long wagers like team win totals and divisional champions.
The early start will create additional off days for teams throughout this season. As a result, all 30 clubs will open on the same day for the first time since 1968.
Let’s take a look at all six divisions in the American and National Leagues, and try to pick the winner in each (odds provided by Bovada). The champions from 2017 and their record are listed after the division name.
East Division (Boston 93-67)
The Yankees stole the free agency spotlight with the signing of home run king Giancarlo Stanton. He joins a lineup already loaded with young talent — like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. Their fate will likely hinge on health and performance of their starting pitchers.
The defending champs are the main contenders with Chris Sale anchoring the starting rotation. The Red Sox added free agent designated hitter J.D. Martinez, which will only help another young lineup.
Both teams enter the season with first-year managers. That should make this longtime rivalry even more interesting as rookie coaching mistakes will be magnified.
VGB’s pick — New York Yankees (-145)
Central Division (Cleveland 102-60)
The Indians ran away with the division title last year, and this season should be no different. The Tribe will play their four division rivals 19 times each. Their combined record? 296-352 (.457). That’s almost half of their 162 games against teams with losing records.
The Twins and White Sox did little in the offseason to get better, and the Royals and Tigers lost key starters to free agency.
The Indians have a deep starting staff, including Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Add an overpowering bullpen and deep hitting lineup and anything but a division title in the Central would be a colossal upset. They are the biggest favorites of all six divisions.
VGB’s pick — Cleveland (-650)
West Division (Houston 101-61)
The defending World Series champions might not win the division by 21 games again, but they should definitely repeat in the West. The Astros scored more runs than any team last season, thanks largely to the front four of World Series MVP George Springer, Alex Bregman, AL MVP Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
A full season of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole on the mound should help the Astros threaten 100 wins again this season.
The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes in the offseason and also added Justin Upton, Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler. Los Angeles should challenge for one of two AL wild card spots.
VGB’s pick — Houston (-500)
East Division (Washington 97-65)
The Nationals were the only team above .500 last season in this grouping. They have won four division titles in the last six years, but failed to advance beyond the NLDS all four times.
With Cy Young winner Max Scherzer pitching every fifth day and former NL MVP Bryce Harper in a contract year, the Nationals should walk away with the title.
The Mets, who were a wild card team in 2016, slumped badly last season. The Phillies and Braves continue to rebuild, while the Marlins have dumped most of their starting lineup. How do they expect to win any games?
VGB’s pick — Washington (-400)
Central Division (Chicago Cubs 92-70)
This might be the tightest race in all of baseball, with three teams battling for the title.
The Cubs declined off their World Series victory in 2016, while the Brewers and Cardinals were both legitimate wild card contenders.
Chicago’s starting rotation and bullpen have many more question marks this season, while Milwaukee has added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain to what was already a potent offense. St. Louis, which has been in the playoffs in six of the last nine seasons, has a budding star in Marcell Ozuna (37 HRs) in the middle of the lineup.
VGB’s pick — St. Louis (+325)
West Division (Los Angeles 104-58)
The race in this division isn’t about any decline in the Dodgers. It’s more about the improvement the Giants have made in San Francisco.
Three teams grabbed a spot in the playoffs last season. That’s likely to happen again in 2018.
The Dodgers are anchored by three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and a formidable lineup which includes Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger.
The Rockies and Diamondbacks were wild card teams last year, while the last-place Giants have added Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen and look to drastically improve on a 64-98 record.
VGB’s pick — Los Angeles (-260)