MLB Season Outline

OUTLINING EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 2012 MAJOR LEAGUE SEASON

With the start of Major League Baseball on the mainland Wednesday night (St. Louis at Miami on ESPN), this seemed like the perfect time to run through the market's expectations for the coming season. We'll do that today by looking at projected victory totals for all 30 teams. We'll do our best in the coming days and weeks to alert you to teams who are likely to miss those expectations for better or worse.

Since the season officially started last week with a pair of games between Seattle and Oakland in Tokyo, let's start with the AL West. The Texas Rangers have won the American League the past two seasons, and brought in a Japanese pitcher (Yu Darvish) in hopes of getting over the top with a World Championship this year. Let's see what the market is expecting for the smallest division in the sport.

AL WEST WIN PROJECTIONS
Los Angeles Angels 92.5
Texas 91.5
Seattle 72
Oakland 71.5

You can still bet the Angels and Rangers in Las Vegas. Seattle and Oakland are off the board in season win props because they've stated already. Those were the numbers before last weekend's games for those two probably irrelevant teams.

We mentioned that Texas added Darvish. They're still picked to finish second because the Angles added a guy named Albert Pujols! The Rangers were 10 games better in the standings last year. The market believes Pujols and other changes will allow the Angels to make up the full distance and even surpass Texas.

What does JIM HURLEY think? We're going to keep the NETWORK line of thinking under wraps for the most part here early in the season. We do have strong opinions about the Angels and Rangers (and at least certain pitchers on the other two teams), and those opinions will influence our opening sets of released picks this weekend. We will note for you though that oddsmakers tend to inflate the lines of major market teams like the Angels and Dodgers in good seasons...and they are also known to inflate the lines of teams with big sluggers. Don't' forget that St. Louis had Pujols last year, and only won 90 games in a Wildcard campaign that improbably launched them to a world title.

AL CENTRAL WIN PROJECTIONS
Detroit 92
Kansas City 79
Cleveland 78.5
Chicago White Sox 75
Minnesota 73.5

Is this race over already? Detroit won the division last year with 95 victories, and went out and grabbed Prince Fielder in the offseason. There's not currently much optimism with the bottom four franchises. But, we will note that this division has a history of spitting out a surprise contender from out of the blue. In fact, we'll tell you know that we think one of those bottom four teams is going to comfortably fly past its win total. We're just not going to tell you who!

We do agree with the general assessment that Detroit is well clear of the field if they stay healthy. The trick with them will be finding line value. Will Vegas overprice the Tigers because they're seen as the obvious power? That happens all the time to the Yankees...and the Tigers are seen as equal to the Yankees at the moment. The bulk of betting value with this group will largely involve finding the surprise surger that makes the race interesting.

AL EAST WIN PROJECTIONS
New York Yankees 93
Boston 90
Tampa Bay 87
Toronto 82
Baltimore 69.5

Little changes in this division from year to year. Baltimore has little chance to compete. The big three are going to challenge for league dominance. Toronto would be more of a contender in another division, but they play too many games against the big three to make a run at 90 wins. Same old story.

We'll talk a lot about the Yanks, Red Sox, and Rays this season because those teams are on TV so much. We'll save the bulk of our commentary for those opportunities. For now...you can be confident that JIM HURLEY believes one of the big three is going to lay an egg this year...and he plans on taking advantage of that right out of the gate here in April.

NL WEST WIN PROJECTIONS
San Francisco 87.5
Arizona 86.5
Los Angeles Dodgers 81.5
Colorado 81
San Diego 73.5

Arizona was the surprise division winner last year, and has to be a little chapped that they're not the division favorite this year after winning 94 games. San Francisco's pitching staff is still the class of the sport. This is tightest division we've seen so far in terms of the top four teams...nobody else has that many contenders packed within seven games of each other. That should set up a very entertaining race.

The LA Dodgers may have a chance to get back into the discussion as many of their off-the-field soap operas are starting to get settled. That franchise has the kind of resources that many franchises can only dream about. It's a travesty that things got as bad as they did because of questionable ownership. The Dodgers are one of two teams we have an eye on in this division in terms of potential fast starts to the season.

NL CENTRAL WIN PROJECTIONS
Cincinnati 87
Milwaukee 85
St. Louis 84.5
Pittsburgh 73.5
Chicago Cubs 73
Houston 63

Another division with nobody projected for 90 wins. But, this time only three contenders are packed together instead of four. The Cardinals will try to win without Pujols. The Brewers will try to win without Fielder. Cincinnati only won 79 games last year, but did make the playoffs two seasons ago. They're kind of picked first in the markets by default here.

To us, this is the most volatile of divisions in terms of potential ups and downs. If the powers don't adjust to their new looks, they could fall back below .500 in a finger snap. And, in an era of heavily unbalanced divisional schedules...that kind of development could launch somebody else to a big record. We're not going to get specific...but we will say that THIS division will be a point of emphasis for us in April.

NL EAST WIN PROJECTIONS
Philadelphia 93
Atlanta 86.5
Miami 85
Washington 84
NY Mets 73

The Mets have become doormats, projected to battle Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Houston for the worst record in the league. Philadelphia still has the horses to dominate this division and the league. Atlanta just missed the Wildcard last year, and will be in the mix again. To us, the interesting teams are Miami and Washington. Miami has a new stadium, a new manager, and a new enthusiasm about baseball. That's often been a trigger for surprise seasons in the recent era of new stadiums. Washington made it to 80 wins last year, and has a young team that could continue to improve.

That probably sums up the whole league right now. The teams near 90 wins are known quantities...and the teams in the low 70's and worse are known quantities. Those teams projected for the 80's can blow up into contenders or crash into disaster movies with little notice. You'll make most of your money this year by properly anticipating those good and bad surprises. You can grind out a profit by fading overpriced powers, or backing really big dogs with their best pitchers. The big money will come from studying those midlevel squads.

JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is anxious to get things going. You can purchase our play in St. Louis/Miami Wednesday afternoon here at the website (along with our top pro basketball picks). Be sure you take care of business EARLY Thursday because there are SIX day games on tap. The best way to get the most bang for your buck is to sign up for the full baseball package online, or at the office (1-800-323-4453).

Our advice is simple. PLAY BALL!

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