Bank on Royals to Exceed Expectations

The Royals' Greg Holland. Via Facebook

The Royals’ Greg Holland. Via Facebook

This being the week that a book is released about Pete Rose’s Hall of Fame worthiness (Spoiler alert: The Hit King thinks he deserves a plaque in Cooperstown), what better time to release my favorite MLB win-total selections for 2014? (Memo to Pete: What you’re about to read is for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any actual wagers.)

Royals (Over 82 wins): My strongest recommendation, and here’s why: Kansas City’s victory totals have increased each of the last five seasons, with the biggest leap by far coming in 2013, when the Royals jumped from 72 to 86 wins. Don’t let the lack of a superstar name fool you—with a strong starting staff, a deep bullpen, a productive (if not powerful) offense and a top-five defense, the Royals should post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1987-89 and challenge the Tigers in what is otherwise a weak American League Central. Which brings me to …

Indians (Under 81): Terry Francona proved the value of a having competent manager in his first season in Cleveland, guiding the Indians from 68 wins in 2012 to 92 and a playoff berth. Francona’s genius aside, the 2013 Indians caught every break imaginable, including a favorable schedule that helped them close the regular season on a 10-game winning streak against three Triple-A-level clubs (Astros, White Sox and Twins). Expect a big regression for the Tribe. (Could you say the same about the Royals? You could. But I won’t.)

A’s (Over 89): Over the past two seasons, two teams have registered an MLB-best 190 wins. One is the Braves. The other? Oakland. Mock “moneyball” all you want when it comes playoff time, but the A’s have figured out a winning regular-season formula. It starts on the mound, as they boast the AL’s best young arms, even though I’m convinced 85 percent of A’s fans couldn’t name the five-man rotation. Oh, and did I mention Oakland gets 19 games against the Astros?

Rays (Over 88): If a team wins 90-plus games year after year, but nobody’s there to see it, does it count? Apparently so. Tampa Bay’s victory totals since 2008: 97, 84, 96, 91, 90 and 92. This is what happens when you’ve got one of the game’s best arms (David Price), sluggers (Evan Longoria) and managers (Joe Maddon). Hey, since Tampa clearly has no use for this team, perhaps Vegas can swing a trade: Carrot Top and Terry Fator for the Rays. Not enough? Fine, we’ll throw in Deadmau5 …

Best of the Rest: Mets (Over 73½); Brewers (Over 80); Mariners (Under 80½); Padres (Over 78½); Phillies (Under 75½).

Matt Jacob appears Wednesdays on’s First Preview, which airs 10-11 a.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1100-AM. Jacob also appears on “Vegas Wise Sports” at 9 p.m. Sundays on KDWN 720-AM.

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