American League East Betting Preview

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USA TODAY Sports

The American League East is expected to feature one of the tightest division races in baseball in 2016. You can make an argument for almost all five teams to win the division and despite two straight last place finishes, thanks to some big offseason acquisitions the Red Sox are the slight favorites over the defending champion Blue Jays.

Baltimore Orioles (2015: 81-81, -352 units, 73-80-9 O/U)

 
Division odds: +900
Season win total: 79.5
 
Why bet the Orioles: Buck Showalter is the reason the Orioles have finished .500 or better in four straight seasons after going through over a decade of losing. He is a solid manager that can keep Baltimore in contention. The Orioles strength is their bullpen and if the starting rotation can revert back to its success of two years ago, they will be relevant in September once again.
 
Why not bet the Orioles: The aforementioned starting rotation is a huge weakness on this team. In 2014, the team ERA was 3.43 which was third best in the American League but that jumped to 4.05 last season including 4.53 from the starters. Making matters worse, Baltimore lost its best starter Wei-Yin Chen to the Marlins via free agency and failed to make an upgrade in the offseason.

Season win total pick: Under 79.5 Wins
 
Boston Red Sox (2015: 78-84, -651 units, 83-73-6 O/U)
 
Division odds: +185
Season win total: 86.5
 
Why bet the Red Sox: Major upgrades to both the starting rotation and the bullpen should improve the staff that finished with a 4.31 ERA, 25th in baseball. Boston signed starter David Price to a $217 million contract and traded four prospects to the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel. First baseman Hanley Ramirez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval have nowhere to go but up after dismal seasons a year ago.
 
Why not bet the Red Sox: While the Price signing was a big advantage, the rest of the rotation is still pretty bad and it may take a midseason trade to keep Boston in the running. The offense carried the Red Sox but it was not good enough as they finished with a losing record for the third time in four years. Defensively, the Red Sox were eighth worst in fielding percentage and errors. 
 
Season win total pick: Under 86.5 Wins
 
New York Yankees (2015: 87-75, -339 units, 77-81-4 O/U)
 
Division odds: +375
Season win total: 85.5
 
Why bet the Yankees: New York was three games better in 2015 than the previous season but was unable to catch the Blue Jays in the American League East. Still, the Yankees made the postseason as a Wild Card and bring back virtually everyone. The additions of Starlin Castro, who takes over at second base, and reliever Aroldis Chapman should have them in the mix again.
 
Why not bet the Yankees: While the Yankees have improved their roster, it may not be enough to keep up with the rest of the division. Chapman is out for the first 30 games of the season and the starting rotation had trouble staying healthy last season. Even if they avoid the injury bug, aside from Masahiro Tanaka, there are numerous question marks with the ability of the rest of the rotation.
 
Season win total pick: Under 85.5 Wins
 
Tampa Bay Rays (2015: 80-82, -542 units, 73-76-13 O/U)
 
Division odds: +650
Season win total: 82.5
 
Why bet the Rays: Pitching can go a long way to success and the Rays have plenty of it. They led the American League in starter ERA at 3.63 and are buoyed by Cy Young candidate Chris Archer. Despite an offense that finished 25th in runs scored, Tampa Bay was only two games under .500. If they can find some production with the bats, the Rays could be a sleeper in the American League East.
 
Why not bet the Rays: Replicating the success of the starting rotation could be difficult as there were several overachievers in the mix. The Rays did nothing much to improve the offense in the offseason as they got Steven Pearce and Corey Dickerson which is not saying much. This is the weakest offense in the division so the starters are going to be asked to again carry the load and overachieve.
 
Season win total pick: Over 82.5 Wins
 
Toronto Blue Jays (2015: 93-69, +1045 units, 78-73-11 O/U)
 
Division odds: +190
Season win total: 86.5
 
Why bet the Blue Jays: The best offense in baseball returns virtually intact with Ben Revere being the lone defection. He was dealt to Washington for relief pitcher Drew Storen to solidify and already solid bullpen. With the departure of David Price, Marcus Stroman is the ace of the staff and he proved what he can do in seven starts after coming back from a torn ACL.
 
Why not bet the Blue Jays: While the offense is potent, it can only go so far and it will be tough to duplicate the mashing from last season. After Stroman and Marco Estrada, the starting rotation falls off considerably and it will be up to R.A. Dickey and newly acquired J.A. Happ to step up. Toronto could be an injury or two away from just being average once again.
 
Season win total pick: Over 86.5 Wins

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