Monday, April 4, 2016

Three bets for the 2016 MLB season

Zack Greinke had sensational spring for Arizona.
Arizona Diamondbacks (Over 82)

You never want to put too much emphasis on what happened during spring training, but it’s hard not to be impressed with what the Diamondbacks have done in Cactus League play. There were lots of questions heading into March, and many of those were answered in such a satisfactory mode that Arizona now appears to be the best team in the National League West, which makes taking 5-1 odds to win the division attractive.

The Diamondbacks’ big move was getting one of baseball’s elite starters, Zack Greinke, to anchor the rotation. Another significant move was trading for Shelby Miller to be the No. 2 starter. The hard-throwing Miller was 6-17 with Atlanta last season, but he got little support from the lowest-scoring team in baseball in Atlanta. He allowed two or fewer runs in 22 of his 33 starts, pitched two shutouts and finished with a 3.02 ERA. Greinke and Miller had outstanding springs, and that 1-2 combination Arizona will throw every five days will help pile up lots of series wins throughout the season.

But what about the third starter? That was one of biggest questions, and Patrick Corbin came through with one of the best springs of any pitcher. Corbin missed the 2014 season after Tommy John surgery, but he’s looking better than before the injury. In five spring starts over 21 innings, Corbin allowed four earned runs (1.71 ERA) while striking out 24 and walking three.

Arizona’s hitting never was a question, but it cranked things up a couple of notches with a spring-leading .319 batting average while also running freely and stealing 34 bases. The combination of great starting pitching and hot hitting gave the Diamondbacks the best record in Cactus League while regularly blowing out opponents.

If buying the theory that Arizona will be contending for the division title and a playoff berth, then the ripple effect is the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, preseason NL West favorites, can be expected to play below expectations. The loss of Greinke will have a much larger effect on the Dodgers than most experts believe.

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