As long as Madison Bumgarner makes his usual 31-34 starts, he should hit about 60 home runs this season. Alright, maybe it’s unreasonable to expect Mad-Bum to keep up his two-homer-per-game pace; I guess pencil him in for a modest 30.
That’s just one of the many broad conclusions you can draw now that roughly half of the teams in the MLB have played one of 162 regular-season games. Here are some others:
The Cubs have no hope in the NL Central; Gary Sanchez won’t reach double-digit homers; Randal Grichuk is going to win NL MVP …
[Editor’s note: the writer who started this article has been terminated. I’ll take it from here.]
Assessing MLB futures one game into the year is basically the same as assessing them in January. One game does not a sample-size make. But there’s still ample data from the last few seasons to give us an idea of what to expect in 2017, even from teams that will be relying on new faces.
Who are the 2017 World Series, MVP, and Cy Young favorites? The odds are below.
I also take a fresh look at which sports curse will be the next to fall now that the Curse of the Billy Goat has gone the way of that troll under the bridge.
2017 World Series Odds
Chicago Cubs: 7/1
Cleveland Indians: 8/1
Boston Red Sox: 17/2
Los Angeles Dodgers: 10/1
Washington Nationals: 10/1
Houston Astros: 13/1
New York Mets: 16/1
Toronto Blue Jays: 18/1
San Francisco Giants: 18/1
Texas Rangers: 28/1
St. Louis Cardinals: 30/1
Seattle Mariners: 33/1
Detroit Tigers: 35/1
New York Yankees: 45/1
Baltimore Orioles: 55/1
Kansas City Royals: 55/1
Colorado Rockies: 60/1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 66/1
Tampa Bay Rays: 70/1
Los Angeles Angels: 75/1
Arizona Diamondbacks: 90/1
Miami Marlins: 110/1
Atlanta Braves: 125/1
Philadelphia Phillies: 200/1
Minnesota Twins: 250/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 275/1
Oakland Athletics: 300/1
Cincinnati Reds: 350/1
Chicago White Sox: 400/1
San Diego Padres: 500/1
Yeah, the Cubs are still the favorites. But the rest of the league isn’t just going to roll over and die. Repeating in the MLB is extremely hard. Any team — usually the Giants — can get hot in October. The team with the best regular-season record has only won five of the last 27 World Series.
The Red Sox were the early chalk over in the AL, but no team had a worse Spring Training and the injuries are mounting. With some newly acquired power and a healthy rotation, the Indians have the (very slight) edge now.
2017 American League Odds
2017 AL pennant
Cleveland Indians: 29/8
Boston Red Sox: 15/4
Houston Astros: 6/1
Toronto Blue Jays: 17/2
Texas Rangers: 27/2
2017 AL MVP
Mike Trout (Angels): 3/2
Jose Altuve (Astros): 6/1
Mookie Betts (Red Sox): 6/1
Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): 15/1
Miguel Cabrera (Tigers): 16/1
I’ll be shocked if one of the first three guys on this list doesn’t win AL MVP. Mike Trout is going to be the best player in the bigs again. Last year showed the Angels don’t need to be a playoff team for him to win the award. But the voting block changes from year to year, so this year’s voters may see things differently. That’s a big part of Altuve and Betts being next on the list. They’re going to be the go-to guys for high-scoring, playoff-bound teams.
2017 AL Cy Young
Corey Kluber (Indians): 5/1
Chris Sale (Red Sox): 5/1
Felix Hernandez (Mariners): 9/1
Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays): 14/1
Chris Archer (Rays): 15/1
Cy Young voters tend to value win-loss records to a concerning degree. Only two of the last 12 recipients (AL and NL combined) didn’t post 20 wins. That’s one reason why Chris Sale has never fared better in Cy Young voting. But, in moving from the Chi-Sox to the Bo-Sox, Sale should see his record improve; run support will not be an issue.
Kluber should also get more support with Edwin Encarnacion and his 40-homer potential inserted into the Tribe lineup.
Some people are sleeping on Felix Hernandez after a sub-par 2016 (11-8, 3.82 ERA). It feels like he’s been around forever, but he’s only 30 years old and should see his ERA trend closer to his career average (3.16).
2017 National League Odds
2017 NL pennant
Chicago Cubs: 3/1
Los Angeles Dodgers: 4/1
Washington Nationals: 4/1
New York Mets: 15/2
San Francisco Giants: 17/2
2017 NL MVP
Bryce Harper (Nationals): 5/1
Kris Bryant (Cubs): 11/2
Corey Seager (Dodgers): 8/1
Nolen Arenado (Rockies): 9/1
Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks): 12/1
I was actually somewhat surprised Bryant won in such a landslide last year. Daniel Murphy had more RBIs and an average that was more than 50 points higher. He also had a lot less support in the Nationals’ lineup, whereas the Cubs’ order also featured other mashers like Anthony Rizzo. I — like everyone else — expect Murphy to regress. But Bryce Harper is primed for a bounce-back campaign. I see him being to the Nats what Murphy was last year: i.e. the bulk of the offense.
Bryant may still be on the rise, of course, entering just his third year in the majors. If he improves on his 39 HR, 102 RBI, .939 OPS, it won’t matter how much power Chicago has elsewhere in its order.
2017 NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 3/1
Max Scherzer (Nationals): 6/1
Noah Syndergaard (Mets): 6/1
Madison Bumgarner (Giants): 8/1
Stephen Strasburg (Nationals): 8/1
Good Lord, the NL has good pitching. There are about four or five guys not in the top-five who would be co-favorites in the AL: Jon Lester, Johnny Cueto, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke … But these five are the cream of the crop.
Clayton Kershaw just might be the best pitcher of all-time. His odds would be shorter, but he’s coming off a back injury and there’s a decent chance he misses time again this year. There’s also a decent chance that someone like Scherzer, Syndergaard, Bumgarner, or Strasburg puts together a historic season.
Odds on the next sports curse to be broken
Cleveland Indians (Curse of Rocky Colavito): 7/3
Toronto Maple Leafs (Curse of Bill Barilko): 9/2
Arizona Cardinals (Pottsville Curse): 5/1
Win Super Bowl on home field (Super Bowl Curse): 11/2
Baltimore Orioles (Curse of Jeffrey Maier): 11/1
Win the Masters’ Par 3 Contest and tournament (Masters Curse): 12/1
Chicago Bears (Honey Bears Curse): 15/1
The Indians are set up the best of the accursed teams, entering the 2017 season as legitimate World Series contenders. If They don’t get it done in the next couple years, the young and emerging Leafs have a great chance to win this race: they’re already a playoff-caliber squad even though three rookies lead the team in scoring.
It feels like the Arizona Cardinals might have missed their window. Steve Keim is a hall of a GM, though, and David Johnson and Tyrann Mathieu are a great core to build around. I give them a slightly better chance to win than the next crop of Super Bowl hosts: Minnesota (2018), Atlanta (2019), and Miami (2020). I give them a much better chance to win before the rebuilding Bears.
As for the Orioles, they’re headed in the wrong direction as division-mates Boston and New York build themselves back into perennial contenders. The O’s aren’t built to win this year or next, and then Manny Machado could be out the door.
Featured photo credit: Arturo Pardavila III (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]