The baseball season is still young, but we’ve already been thrown a few curve balls. Where is that World Series contender (Cleveland) we saw come up short in Game 7 last year? Or the club (Seattle) that just narrowly missed making the postseason for the first time in 16 years?
On the other end of the spectrum, there are also a few pleasant surprises. The Reds sit atop the NL Central after finishing 2016 last in the division, and the Angels have seemed to find their groove in a season that many thought would be Mike Scioscia’s last.
With his job safe (for now), who’s on the chopping block? And how long will these slumps and surprises last? Have a look below for some answers.
Early 2017 MLB Odds
O/U Total Wins
Cleveland Indians: 89
L.A. Angels: 84
Tampa Bay Rays: 81
Toronto Blue Jays: 80
Seattle Mariners: 78
While the Indians are in a bit of a slump to start the season, they are still playing .500 ball. Not great, but not horrible either. In the last four seasons, Cleveland has consistently finished with over 81 wins, and I can’t see that changing, not with this staff, a resurgent Michael Brantley, and a lackluster quartet of division rivals.
Both the Angels and Rays are looking better than expected early on, and if that continues, they too could reach 80 wins. The Rays have the pitching to do so. The Angels have the Mike Trout to do so.
On the flip side, the Mariners and Jays have had such a rough start to the season, it’s hard to see a full-blown rebound happening. The Mariners and Jays put up 86 and 89 wins last season, respectively. Achieving those numbers this year seems like a long shot for a Seattle team that can’t hold a lead and a Toronto team that can’t even take one in the first place.
St. Louis Cardinals: 84
San Francisco Giants: 83
Arizona Diamondbacks: 81
Cincinnati Reds: 77
What is going on in St. Louis? In the last four seasons, the Cards have never finished with fewer than 86 wins. In 2015, they put up 100. That’ll change this year if they keep down this path. Last place in the division and well below .500 is not the place anyone thought they’d be at any point in the season. Expect to see a downswing in the Giants record too.
Countering the disappointment of the Cards and Giants, both the Reds and Diamondbacks have come to play for the first time in years. Neither managed to crack 70 wins last year, but they sit at the top of their respective divisions to start the season. Improving by ten-plus wins is very possible.
Odds to Make the 2017 MLB Playoffs
Cleveland Indians: 1/6
A .500 start in the first eight games isn’t ideal for a team that just made it to the World Series, but it’s not something to be overly worried about either. Edwin Encarnacion will figure it out, giving the offense a needed boost. Expect them to still be playing come October.
San Francisco Giants: 1/1
The Giants were eliminated in the Division Series last season and, like the Indians, are off to a slow start. They’ve always had it tough with the Dodgers in their division, but now the Diamondbacks and Rockies are providing some competition too, which means it won’t be an easy path.
St. Louis Cardinals: 2/1
The Cards seem to be caught in a downward spiral, as they’re playing some of their worst baseball in years. Stuck in a division with the World Series champs, the last thing they needed was for the down-trodden Reds to turn into a respectable team. It’s hard to count them out in the first month, but there’s cause for concern.
Toronto Blue Jays: 3/1
The good news for the Jays is that their pitching has been decent and the other teams in their division aren’t playing great, either. The bad news is that they’re last in the league in basically every offensive statistic. If they can find their bats, a Wildcard or even playoff spot isn’t entirely out the question. But things could get out of hand quickly if they don’t start putting up some runs, and with Josh Donaldson battling a lingering leg injury, an offensive explosion might not be on the horizon.
Seattle Mariners: 5/1
The Mariners don’t have a good history when it comes to the postseason: They haven’t been there since 2001. And with the way they’ve started the season, it appears fans will have to wait a bit longer.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 3/1
This could be the year for the Diamondbacks. Okay, they probably won’t win the World Series; they’re still a flawed team with a young bullpen (outside of the geriatric Fernando Rodney). But their division is lacking a bit to start off the season. That alone could help them make the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Tampa Bay Rays: 2/1
They’ve only won more than 80 games once since 2013, but the Rays have a lot going for them this season. It also helps that their usually tough division is currently lacking a bit.
L.A Angels: 2/1
A couple epic early-season comebacks have morale high, and Mike Trout looks well on his way to another MVP-type season. The pitching was expected to be the problem this year, and there’s still a good chance it will be. Plus, the Astros, a popular AL World Series pick, are breathing down their necks. As great as it’d be to see the Angels back in the postseason, they’ll struggle a bit against divisional opponents as the year goes on.
Cincinnati Reds: 6/1
It’s been a long five years of no postseason for the Reds. Are they on their way to changing that? Don’t count on it, especially since they are in a division with the Cubs and Cards. That said, if they keep getting the pitching they’ve gotten so far, they’ll crush their O/U.
First Manager Fired Odds
A few guys who entered the year on the hot-seat may just be safe for now. The likes of Mike Scioscia (Angels), Bryan Price (Reds), and Clint Hurdle (Pirates) have impressed to start the season or at least kept their clubs above water. Their spots at the flaming table have been taken by some of the longest-tenured managers in the bigs.
Mike Matheny, St. Louis: 2/1
Mike Matheny tops the list. He’s been in St. Louis since 2012, and has done great things with the club. But they lost in last year’s NL Wild Card game, failing to make the ALDS for the first time since 2010, and haven’t gotten off to a good start this season. Matheny re-signed with the Cards at the end of 2016, but we all know that doesn’t mean much.
John Gibbons, Toronto: 5/2
John Gibbons also recently extended his contract with the Jays, but it might not matter. The club started the season an atrocious 1-7 and sits in the basement of the AL East. With the exception of losing Edwin Encarnacion, not much has changed and Gibby doesn’t have many excuses. He needs to right the ship if he wants to keep his job.
Bruce Bochy, San Francisco: 4/1
Bochy has served as manager since 2007. That’s the longest tenure in the NL. Sometimes it’s just time for a change. Usually that time is when a team is losing and the manager has been around for a while.
Scott Servais, Seattle: 7/1
Servais is in just his second year as manager with the Mariners, and after improving the team’s record by ten wins last season, there were high hopes going into this year. But the M’s have failed to live up to exceptions, and yes, you can largely blame pitching, but some of it goes on the manager when you keep blowing leads.
Terry Francona, Cleveland: 20/1
Tito has been with the club for five seasons, and has done some impressive things during that time, including nearly winning the World Series last year. But the team hasn’t gotten off to the start many thought it would, which could lead Francona to being the fall guy. However, there are still lots of games left, and unless the team suddenly tanks, his job is safe.
Photo credit: By Arturo Pardavila III [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons