There is no greater dream than to get rich quick, and if gambling on sports were legal in most of the United States, one might be tempted to leverage PECOTA to try to beat the big Vegas casinos. On the eve of spring training (and in anticipation of our imminent PECOTA 2016 release), let’s see if there are any places where PECOTA might be on to something the bookies are missing.
Team Win Totals (via the Atlantis Casino)
In the sabermetrician’s bag of surgical tools, PECOTA—like all projection systems—is a bone saw, not a scalpel, so we’re looking for big gaps—ideally five games or more—between PECOTA and the sports book.
Kansas City Royals UNDER 87 wins
Truth be told, I’d rather bet the over on PECOTA’s 77-win projection for the defending champs than the under on 87 wins, since PECOTA famously pegged the Royals for 72 wins last year and…well let’s just say the Royals hit the over.
Nevertheless, when you look at the Royals’ lineup, no individual projection feels that off. Lorenzo Cain’s probably in line for at least some regression, the big offseason acquisition Ian Kennedy is simply not all that good, and the rest of the lineup is full of the same low-OBP or high-volatility players we all mocked the Royals for acquiring before they started making the playoffs. Plus there’s not a bad team in the AL Central, which will make Kansas City’s road to a repeat title a little tougher. I don’t know if I’m completely on board with the projection, but the gap’s too just big not to comment on.
Tampa Bay Rays OVER 78 wins
PECOTA has Tampa Bay at 90 wins and atop the AL East, which, again, feels a little aggressive. But then again the over/under of 78 wins feels low, so if you were going to bet the over anyway this should be a pretty good enticement. The route to 90 wins for Tampa sort of feels like last year’s Astros—one great starting pitcher, a couple star-quality position players and figure out the rest as you go along. I don’t know if that gets them to 90, but I feel pretty good about going over 78.
Cleveland Indians OVER 84 wins
This isn’t the third-biggest gap (PECOTA has Cleveland at 90 wins), but I’m all-in on the Indians-to-win-the-division train already, so I’ll just mention that PECOTA has 10 different Cleveland players at two wins or more, with plenty of room to grow for the likes of Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis.
World Series Odds (via topbet.eu)
Seattle Mariners at 50-1
It’s a tough division, but the division’s only tough because there are at least four teams in it capable of winning it. PECOTA has the Astros at 88 wins, the Mariners at 84, the Rangers at 80 and the Angels at 76, but a better way to show how scrunched together those four teams feel is that Atlantis has all four within three and a half games of each other. But Top Bet makes the Astros a 14-1 shot to win the World Series, which is only a good bet if you think the Astros have a better-than-even shot at making the divisional round. The Rangers are at 20-1, the Angels at 33-1 and the Mariners at 50-1. That’s probably the order of finish I’d predict, but I certainly don’t think the Astros are three and a half times more likely to win the division than the Mariners, and neither does PECOTA. It’s still a long shot bet, but it’s a long shot bet with some value.
San Diego Padres at 100-1
“No, I’ve been burned before!”
Yes, I hear the cries of the anguished, those huddled, weeping masses who got sucked into A.J. Preller’s vortex of trades in 2015 and were chewed up and discarded like industrial waste. But PECOTA makes the Padres an 80-win team in 2016, which is not World Series-worthy on its own, but this team isn’t nearly as bad as those odds suggest. PECOTA projects three teams that are getting better than 50-1 odds at more than 76 wins: the Padres, the Rays (who were already covered in the win over/under section) and the Brewers, who have a much tougher division to smash-and-grab.
MLB Home Run Champion (via sportsbook.ag)
PECOTA doesn’t have any one player hitting more than 37 home runs, which is not the same as saying nobody will hit more than 37, only that it’s tough to back any single horse. Of course, that’s what makes this bet so difficult, because by virtue of the field being so crowded, all bets are long shots.
Miguel Sano at 30-1
Sano hit 18 home runs in half a season in 2015, and while his 50th-percentile projection has him at 33 home runs, his 90th-percentile projection (because whoever wins the home run title will probably wind up hitting his 90th-percentile projection) has him at 40. That’s in the same neighborhood as Jose Bautista, Chris Davis and The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton, but at 30-1, Sano’s got much better odds than anyone above him on the projected home run leaderboard.
Kyle Schwarber at 100-1
Anyone who’s seen this cubical Cub hit a baseball knows his power, and as rookie seasons go, Schwarber’s did to expectations what he did to 16 baseballs last year in only 273 plate appearances: knocked them out of sight.
Schwarber, if the Cubs find a way to hide his glove, will get closer to 600 PA this year, and PECOTA expects him to keep up a similar home run rate, with 31 homers in 593 PA as a 50th-percentile projection and 38 homers in 649 PA in the 90th percentile. Schwarber’s got a few things in common with Sano: as a young player there’s probably a little more uncertainty to his projected numbers, and with less name recognition than established sluggers, Schwarber’s priced lower than he probably ought to be on merit.
Beyond that, we all know that Schwarber, who perhaps more than any other player in the league, looks as if he’s powered by hydraulics, plays in a home park that will turn medium-depth pop-ups into home runs in the right meteorological conditions. Is he even close to one of the favorites to win the home run title? No, but with odds that good, he doesn’t have to be.
 All of this is for fun, so if you actually try any of this at home and lose a ton of money, please don’t sue us.