Before the first pitch of every baseball season, the folks at the Bovada sports book send along a lengthy list — numbering in the hundreds — of intriguing prop bets regarding the numbers specific players may or may not achieve in specific statistical categories.
Sorting through them and finding a few you’d bet a few bucks on (hypothetically) is a blast. So is looking back on what was offered the previous year, presuming you (hypothetically) fared OK.
Here’s one that is either amusing or aggravating from a season ago:
The over/under on homers for Will Middlebrooks was 25½.
To think, he came up just 23½ shy of a push.
I got that one right, and fared OK on others I wrote about here, getting six of 11 correct in 2014.
Here’s are a dozen that I thought were worth a wager this year. Right. A hypothetical one.
Home runs: 37½
For what it’s worth, the number was 38½ last year. He was at 37 and rocketing toward the over when he took a Michael Fiers pitch flush in the face in Game 145. I’m not betting against him, even though his decision to accept Jeffrey Loria’s $325,000,000 rendered my 3,250 Stanton-to-the-Red Sox columns through the years obsolete. Over.
Home runs: 25½
He was at 25½ last year, too. I took the over. He was under by a dozen-and-a-half. But … he did hit nine homers in the final 40 games, then whacked four more in the playoffs. True superstardom is happening, and it’s happening this year. Over. You realize he’s younger than Mookie Betts, right?
Home runs: 19½
He’s had a nice spring (3 homers, 1.026 OPS), and you almost — I said almost — find yourself rooting for him given how obvious the Yankees made it that they didn’t want him around. But the reality is that he turns 40 in July, missed a full season, and hasn’t hit more than 18 homers in a season since 2010. Under, unless he’s found the latest in undetectable performance-enhancers.
Games played: 129½
I’d guesstimate there are 250 players on Bovada’s over/under list. Tulo is the only one I saw who has a games played bet. It certainly makes sense — he is one of the game’s greatest current players, putting up 5.1 fWAR last year … and in just 91 games. He’s the game’s most snake-bitten great current player as well, having played more than 129 games just once since 2009. Logic suggests taking the under, but you know what? I’m going push. He’ll get hurt in the top of the fifth inning of the 130th game. How’s that for precise?
Stolen bases: 59½
The new Otis Nixon stole 56 as a rookie, and he did so despite getting caught 23 times and posting a .292 on-base percentage that confirms the old adage that you can’t steal first base. In this, his age-24 season, he should find his way to first base a few more times and become more efficient swiping second from there. Take the over. Beep-beep.
Pretty sure he won more than that last postseason alone. I realize there’s legitimate concern regarding effects of his ’14 workload (217.1 regular-season innings, 52.2 more in the playoffs), but Bumgarner is a horse (pronounced hoss) who already has four 200-inning seasons to his credit at age 25. He’ll hit the over before October comes around.
Fifteen-and-a-half? On that mega-beast of a team? Against NL lineups? Over and out . . . after out . . . after out. He might have 15 wins by the All-Star break.
Batting average: .279
From July 1 until a knee injury ended his season August 11, the Orioles’ precocious third baseman hit .351. Easy over He’ll win a batting title before he hits below .280 again.
Runs batted in: 89½
Papi has exceeded 89 RBIs five times in the last six seasons — and in the lost 2012 season, the year he did not do it, he drove in 60 in 90 games. If he’s healthy, this is easy money. Over.
Batting average: .252
Man, that’s precise, huh? Not .251 or .253, but .252. It’s like Vegas knows something. Speaking of precise, in 162 regular-season games, Bogaerts has a .241 average. He’s at .243 this spring, not that it matters much. Projection systems seem to like the over. PECOTA puts him at .256, Steamer at .260, ZiPs at .263 while the Bill James Handbook goes all the way up to .264. Finn? He has him at .270, an over which is just fine for a 22-year-old shortstop with pop.
Home runs: 19½
Kinda Fun Fact: Hanley had one more home run last year (13) than Bogaerts (12). Granted, he had 82 fewer plate appearances, but that is a surprisingly low total. Then again, the year before, Ramirez hit 20 in just 86 games. Ten years after he debuted with the Red Sox, he’ll find his Fenway home to his liking again. Over the Monster and gone.
Home runs: 27½
Do taters hit in Iowa count? He’s going to win multiple home run titles, but there will be an adjustment period once he gets to the big leagues. Under.