If the recently released Vegas odds are a reliable indicator of how the 2015 pennant races will turn out, fans are in for a few surprises. I have included current payroll estimates in the table below because--as much as this makes some people uncomfortable--there is a strong correlation between player salaries and postseason success. Counter-intuitive to the "Moneyball" philosophy, the general rule of thumb is: the higher the payroll, the higher the order of finish. It's an inconvenient but incontrovertible principle. The Giants had the seventh highest payroll in baseball last year. Three of the six teams with higher salary costs appeared in the playoffs. Billy Beane and his followers can rage against the establishment all they want, but it won't change the fact that the A's haven't won a World Series since 1989. Chances are good that they won't until they start shelling out some real money.
Anyway, here's how the teams will stack up in 2015--according to Vegas odds makers:
East Central West
Red Sox ($182.1M) White Sox ($115M) Angels ($145.9M)
Blue Jays ($127.3M) Tigers ($172.3M) Mariners ($125.9M)
Yankees ($214.3M) Indians ($85M) A's ($80.5M)
Orioles ($121.2M) Royals ($111M) Rangers ($141.1M)
Rays ($74.6M) Twins ($107M) Astros ($69.7M)
East Central West
Nationals ($160.5M) Cubs ($117.5M) Dodgers ($264M)
Mets ($98.2M) Cardinals ($120.5M) Padres ($97.2M)
Marlins ($69.5M) Pirates ($88.2M) Giants ($170.6M)
Braves ($96M) Reds ($117.7M) Diamondbacks ($89.8M)
Phillies ($139.3M) Brewers ($101.7M) Rockies ($101.3M)
Of course there are those who beg to differ with the current odds. In a recent article, Bleacher Report correspondent Stephen Nelson labeled the Giants as "contenders" and the Cubs as "pretenders." A writer from the Boston Herald echoed that sentiment, stating that the Cubs will go nowhere in 2015 while the Blue Jays and Marlins will be teams to watch. Jesse Spector of the of The Sporting News feels that the Pirates will be in Wild Card contention. Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group predicts a fifth straight AL Central title for the Tigers.
Three Things I'll be following this season:
1.) Ichiro's quest for 3,000 hits.
The most successful Japanese player in major league history will be 41 years old and playing for the Marlins this year. He needs 156 hits to reach 3,000. With all the young talent in the Miami outfield, it's doubtful he'll get enough playing time to make a serious run, but hey--you never know.
2.) The Return of A-Rod
Like it or not, Alex Rodriguez will be in spring training with the Yankees. He hasn't seen live pitching in well over a year. He wasn't hitting it very well before then. Does he have anything left in the tank at all or will he just end up embarrassing himself? Most people (myself included) are pulling for the latter scenario.
3.) The Red Sox Back on Top?
After winning a World Series in 2013, the Sox traded away their best players and ended up in last place. They made some blockbuster deals in the offseason. Will they be as good as everyone says? It will be interesting to find out.