Major League Baseball is deep into spring training and, believe it or not, we are less than two weeks away from Opening Day 2019. What will be the effect of Bryce Harper on the Philadelphia Phillies? What about Manny Machado is San Diego? How will your team fare this season? Stick around as we take a look at what’s to like and what’s not to like about this season’s projected regular season win totals.
In the words of the comical philosopher known as Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, “Me likey.” That would be in reference to the Boston Red Sox projected win total of 94.5 for 2019.
The Red Sox won an MLB-high 108 games last season and return virtually the same lineup. Last year’s MVP Mookie Betts (.346, 32 HR, 80 RBI) is back. J.D. Martinez (.330, 43 HR, 130 RBI) is back. Andrew Benintendi (.290, 16 HR, 87 RBI)? Yes, he’s back to and don’t forget SS Xander Bogaerts (.288, 23 HR, 103 RBI) and CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
The Red Sox also have what could be the best pitching rotation in baseball. Chris Sale (12-4), David Price (16-7), and Rick Porcello (17-7) all return. Boston won 108 games last year and 93 games each in 2016 and 2017.
The Harper Effect
The Bryce Harper signing in Philadelphia helped move the Phillies projected 2019 win total to 89.5 games. A late-season collapse last year left Philadelphia at 80-82 for the season, but Harper’s career Wins Above Replacement of 27.4 should have Philadelphia fans excited about the new season.
Yes, Harper only it .249 last season, but he was on fire during the second half. The new Phillie hit .300 with 11 homers and 46 RBI after the All-Star break. He will make his entire team better and don’t forget, the Phillies have a lineup that includes young star Rhys Hoskins, who hit 34 home runs and had 96 RBI last year. Odubel Herrera hit 22 homers and Jean Segura comes over from Seattle after batting .304 last season.
Add in the fact that Philadelphia plays in the relatively weak AL East – 19 games each against the New York Mets and Miami Marlins – and you can see why the Phillies should hit 89-plus wins.
The Little Red Machine
Give the Cincinnati Reds credit. After four straight last-place finishes in the NL Central, the Little Red Machine went out and got some players. Cincinnati worked out a trade for former Dodgers outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. Then, the Reds went out and revamped their pitching staff adding Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, and Sonny Gray.
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The Reds projected win total for 2019 is 78.5, which would be an 11-game-plus improvement over last season’s 67-95. The Reds last four season win totals are 67, 68, 68, and 64. Cincinnati has not won more than 68 games since 2014 (they won 76). Oh, and they happen to play in the toughest division in baseball.
While the Reds might overtake the Pittsburgh Pirates for last place in the division, 57 games against St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee makes for a tough gig.
Cincinnati will be better in 2019, but not 11 games better.
We Have a Problem Houston
The 2017 World Series champs were ousted in the postseason last year by Boston. Houston is uber-talented and actually won more games (103) last season than they did in 2017. The Astros, along with the Yankees, have the highest projected 2019 win total at 96.5 games.
Don’t expect Houston to get there.
Sure, they still have former MVP Jose Altuve (.316) and perennial All-Stars Carlos Correa and George Springer (.265, 22 HR, 71 RBI). Don’t forget third baseman Alex Bregman who hit a team-high .286 and a team-best 31 homers.
Where the Astros lose their edge is in the pitching staff. They will still have 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (16-9) and Gerrit Cole (15-5) in the starting rotation, but the Astros lost Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 Cy Young winner and former reliever Collin McHugh now becomes a starter.
When factoring in the rest of the AL West – Mike Trout and the Angels, an Oakland team that made the postseason last year, and 89-game winner Seattle – it will be much tougher for the Astros to get to 96.5 wins in 2019.
Article by Rick Bouch
Posted March 16th, 2019