Eight major league baseball teams had better regular-season records than the Detroit Tigers last year, but oddsmakers figure that number will be reduced in 2008 — perhaps to zero.
For Steve Mikkelson, it was an easy call to project that Detroit will finish with more victories than any team other than the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
When he posted baseball team season-win over/unders recently at the Grand Sierra in Reno, Mikkelson attached 94 victories each to the Tigers and the Red Sox, the highest number on the board.
Boston finished with 96 regular-season wins last year, tying with the Cleveland Indians for the most in baseball.
The Tigers, second in the AL Central at 88-74, were active in the trade market during the offseason, beefing up their lineup to an extent they created a minor stir with the announcement that veteran slugger Ivan Rodriguez would bat eighth this season.
“Just take a look at their lineup,” said Mikkelson, the Grand Sierra’s director of race and sports operations and a baseball specialist. “Who’s an easy out?
“When you sit down and look at this team, you realize they don’t need Pudge Rodriguez to hit .300. All he has to do is call a good game and be a team leader.”
The Tigers have traded for third baseman Miguel Cabrera, outfielder Jacque Jones and shortstop Edgar Renteria since the end of last season. They’ll join a lineup led by leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson, who just signed a five-year, $30.25 million contract; Magglio Ordonez, who hit .363 to win the AL batting title; and veteran DH Gary Sheffield, who hopes to show he’s fully recovered from a shoulder injury.
Left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who came to Detroit from Florida with Cabrera, joins staff ace Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers.
“Willis was one of the best pitchers in baseball a couple of years ago, and now all he has to do is fit in on the back end of this rotation,” Mikkelson said. “This pitching staff looks stacked.”
Mikkelson does not rate the Tigers’ bullpen as high as some observers, but that did not deter him from making the team’s victory over/under as high as any in baseball.
“I’m not a big fan of Todd Jones as a closer,” Mikkelson said. “But will that really matter when you’re winning 8-3 in the ninth?”
Behind Boston and Detroit, the Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets and New York Yankees each opened at 93 victories at the Grand Sierra.
The Mets and Yankees appear as one of the Grand Sierra’s 10 “regional” props, which feature a combined over/under for two teams. Bettors can play over or under 186 wins for the Mets and Yanks combined.
The Grand Sierra offers 20 head-to-head team matchups based on 2008 regular-season wins, with each major league team represented at least once. The Yankees, for example, are a half-game favorite against the Mets. In separate props, the Tigers are a one-game favorite against the Mets and a 9 1/2-game favorite against the San Diego Padres.
Mikkelson, who regularly puts up betting lines on UNR baseball games, also made “yes/no” props on whether 26 major league baseball teams will make the playoffs. They range from heavy favorites such as the Mets (yes, minus-300; no, plus-200) and Angels (yes, minus-250; no, plus-180) to big underdogs such as the Pittsburgh Pirates (no, minus-7000; yes, plus-4500) and San Francisco Giants (no, minus-4300; yes, plus-2800).
At the Las Vegas Hilton, which also posts early seasonlong baseball odds, the Red Sox opened at 94 wins followed by the Tigers, Mets and Yankees at 93 1/2 and the Angels at 92.
The Mets, who finished a game behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East with a record of 88-74, made the most celebrated acquisition of the offseason, signing left-hander Johan Santana to a six-year, $137.5 million contract.
Eddie Calandro, a baseball statistics aficionado from West Haven, Conn., pointed out that the analysts at AccuScore made a compelling argument that Santana could be worth nine extra victories to the Mets in 2008.
The smallest win total on the board at the Hilton belongs to the Baltimore Orioles at 64 1/2. That’s two games lower than last year’s smallest posted total, the 66 1/2 attached to the Washington Nationals, who finished 73-89 to make winners of “over” bettors.
Las Vegas Sun, March 7, 2008