3 Teams to Bet for ’08 MLB
Odds on winning 2008 World Series
Last year I predicted the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians as my surprise teams, and despite the Brewers’ youth catching up to them, both teams still exceeded virtually everyone’s expectations. With one exception (which was the 2005 season) every year since 1994 has had a team make the play-offs that had a losing record the season before. This doesn’t even include “surprise” teams that went from barely .500 to playing in the World Series.
To give even more hope to some potential dark horse teams, many teams improved by 20 games in only one season, with the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks taking the cake for huge turnarounds with a 35 win improvement. So we can clearly expect someone to really come out of “nowhere” to do it again this season. So who is this year’s Brewers or Indians?
Chicago White Sox
This team reminds me of the Cleveland Indians before last season. They performed far worse than they actually were, had an amazing string of bad luck, and injuries strike all at the same time. Remember, this team is only three years removed from a World Series, and was coming off a 90 win season when they started last season.
Basically for things to get as bad as they did, about a half dozen players had to have the single worst season of their careers at the same time, and self destruct all simultaneously. Then they all did. It won’t happen two years in a row. Konerko won’t bat .198 in April this year, Jermaine Dye won’t bat .215 at the same time, and chances are Thome won’t be out for all of April like last year, and they lost Crede, too. Konerko had his worst season in his career, and even Thome often looked sluggish.
This team improved their offense even further, so if these vets rebound (and there’s no reason to think they won’t) this written off team will give Detroit and Cleveland all they can handle in the regular season, and are a good bet for the wild card.
The Cincinnati Reds finished the 2007 season with a 72-90 record, 13 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. They then hired Dusty Baker as manager. Despite his late struggles with the Giants, Baker is an expert at getting a quick turnaround with a new team, and in what is arguably the weakest division in baseball, he’s in the right spot to do it.
Cincinnati was an excellent offensive team last year, but their pitching struggled. The Reds have made some excellent moves to address this need. They added closer Francisco Cordero, formerly of the Brewers. Not only did they weaken a division rival, but Cordero had a huge year for the Brewers with a 2.98 ERA and 44 saves. This should instantly boost the Reds, who also added pitcher Jeremy Affeldt to help strengthen the rotation. It will be enough to get the Reds above .500, and they have an excellent shot of even winning the division, if everyone stays healthy.
I have the Twins here because everyone assumes that with Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, and Torri Hunter all leaving (among others) that the Twins will crash and burn. This is certainly possible, but even with these players the Twins failed to reach .500 last year, so maybe an overhaul with an infusion of young talent will have a surprise effect.
If there’s something the Twins are renowned for, it’s getting young talent that can step right in and perform. The Twins have mastered the art of staying competitive with a smaller salary pool than the big boys, and they know how to handle roster turnover maybe better than any other team in baseball.
It’s not like the Twins are shooting with an unloaded gun. Any lineup with Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer and Delmon Young is going to have its moments, and they added some power by adding ex-Astros Mike Lamb and Adam Everett, who should definitely pick up the batting of the infield (the 2007 starters contributed a measly 6 HR and 68 RBIs in 982 at-bats).
I don’t expect the Twins to win their division, but they have a lot of young talent and know how to play as a team, which is always dangerous. I predict they will finish a touch over .500, which for all there losses, would definitely make them a surprise team.
Shane Dayton (Senior Writer for BetVega.com)
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