Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ian Desmond

  • With the MLB season officially ready to start Thursday, some big names like Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ian Desmond will be sitting out.
  • MLB betting odds have already been altered for a unique season, but will now have to factor in these player’s absences.

LAS VEGAS – After one of the most tumultuous summers the world has ever seen, sports fans are excited to welcome in the much-needed return of Major League Baseball.

The shortened MLB season presents many new challenges and opportunities for players, coaches, fans, and bettors who will look to make the best out of what they have been given. Amid the chaotic news of teams finding places to play, setting up testing systems, and deciding pitching rotations, lies news that reminds us of the serious times we live in.

Safety VS Competition

Many MLB players are being forced to choose between playing the game they love and keeping themselves and their families safe.

A small group of players, including Nationals’ slugger Ryan Zimmerman, have announced they plan to sit out this season. Zimmerman told the AP last week that the decision ultimately came down to protecting his family. The World Series Champion has three young children at home, including a newborn, and a wife who is at increased risk.

Zimmermann joins the likes of Ian Desmond, Buster Posey, and Nick Markakis in sitting out this season.

With a shortened schedule already in place, the parity of the league will be higher than ever before. Players sitting out to do various safety reasons only adds an additional layer of unpredictability to an already chaotic situation.

Betting Impact

The best way to analyze the potential impact these players will have on their ball clubs would be to analyze their WAR from last season and compare it to the win totals being assigned to each team.

Experienced MLB bettors will be the first to tell about how little preseason win totals mean in projecting a team’s success, but some of these teams may be caught in a tough position without one of their key players.

Here are some of the biggest names who are opting out of the 2020 MLB season, with their extrapolated WAR against their teams betting win total.

Atlanta Braves

Nick Markakis (OF) – 2019 WAR: 0.4
Felix Hernandex (RHP) – 2019 WAR: -0.1

Atlanta Braves 2020 Win Total

  • Over 33.5 Wins -115
  • Under 33.5 Wins +105

The Braves are the first team to undergo this scrutiny but may be one of the least affected. Nick Markakis was an important piece to the team that went 97-65 last season but only comes in at a 0.4 WAR.

The Braves added pitcher Felix Hernandez from the Mariners, but after posting an ERA over five in each of his last three seasons he seems to be a chip for bullpen depth more than a key contributor.

The biggest factor here is the DH position being added to both leagues in baseball this year. Markakis was slotted to be the Braves’ DH in many preseason lineups as he has played the position before in cross-division matchups.

Without Markakis, the Braves will likely throw new addition Matt Adams into the role, who does not have the same “professional hitter” moniker that Markakis enjoys.

With that said, the absence of these players will likely only affect the Braves if their replacements are not able to produce whatsoever. If the Braves can find DH production, they should easily win more than 33.5 games.

Colorado Rockies

Ian Desmond (OF) – 2019 WAR: -0.3

Colorado Rockies 2020 Win Total

  • Over 27.5 Wins +100
  • Under 27.5 -130

The Rockies were concerned when Ian Desmond announced he wouldn’t be participating in the 2020 season but should find some peace knowing that Desmond actually had a negative WAR in 2019.

Once a prolific hitter, Desmond has seen a decline in production over his time in Colorado, hitting .255 and .236 in his last two years.

With Desmond out of the lineup, the Rockies signed former All-Star Matt Kemp to pick up the slack. Expect this switch to balance out the loss and keep the Rockies from experiencing any major loss.

Los Angeles Dodgers

David Price (LHP) – 2019 WAR: 2.3

Los Angeles Dodgers 2020 Win Total

  • Over 37.5 Wins -110
  • Under 37.5 Wins -120

Pitcher David Price was one of the biggest names to opt-out of the season, announcing his attentions via Twitter on July 4.

If David Price were still pitching for the Boston Red Sox, then the analysis here would come from a very different perspective. Price has one of the highest WARs of the players opting out at 2.3 in 2019.

Luckily, Price joins a team in the Dodgers that have buzz sawed their way through the NL in recent years and just added another former Red Sox star in Mookie Betts. While Price would have been a terrific component of the Dodgers rotation, they have more than enough arm talent to make up the gap, especially in a 60-game season.

Betts alone brings in a WAR of 6.6, which should be enough to take the Dodgers over the 38-win mark.

San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey (C) – 2019 WAR: 1.8

San Francisco Giants 2020 Win Total

  • Over 24.5 Wins +115
  • Under 24.5 Wins -145

While Buster Posey isn’t the clutch producer he once was, he still held a WAR of 1.8 in 2019, preceded by a 2.3 and 4.7 in 2018, and 2017 respectfully.

Posey can still be placed among the elite catchers of the league but has diminished his role in recent years. Posey has gone from a tried-and-true 130 starts kind of catcher to more of a 100-start shared role kind of guy.

The problem isn’t Posey’s abilities, it’s the lack of those possessed by whoever might take the position behind the plate.

The Giants have two of the best catcher prospects in baseball with 2018 No. 2 overall pick Joey Bart, and recent draft selection Patrick Bailey lying in wait.

The consensus seems that both of these players are still too raw to get significant playing time, meaning the Giants are stuck between Russell Martin, Rob Brantley, or Tyler Heineman. Out of the three of them, Brantley has by far the most starts at 429 but hasn’t been a reliable option throughout his career.

While the win total for the rebuilding Giants is already low, it could come in much lower if they can’t find a solution at catcher.

Washington Nationals

Ryan Zimmerman (1B/3B) – 2019 WAR: 0.1
Joe Ross (RHP) – 2019 WAR: 0.7

Washington Nationals 2020 Win Total

  • Over 33.5 Wins -105
  • Under 33.5 Wins -125

The end of this list marks possibly the biggest name electing to opt-out in Ryan Zimmerman.

The reigning World Series champions find themselves looking for a new baseman to replace the 35-year-old Zimmerman. Zimmerman only played 58 games last season but was a pivotal part of the Nationals’ championship run, where he hit the first World Series home run in team history.

Zimmerman’s WAR number is skewed due to his lack of playing time in the early stages of last season and is more accurately represented by his 2018 number of 1.3. Zimmerman would have been perfect for the DH role this season, and now the Nationals will look to Howie Kendrick, as Eric Thames and Carter Kieboom pick up the starts on the bases.

Factor in that the Nationals also lost one of their best players in Anthony Rendon, who took his massive 7.0 WAR to the Angels. Additionally, the loss of pitcher Joe Ross adds another 0.7 WAR lost from the total, which sees the Nationals expected wins sit at 33.5.

Nevertheless, the Nationals are still the reigning champions and should be respected as such. They clearly aren’t valued well based on their win total, but it doesn’t come without reason.

If last season was over after 60 games, the Nationals would have missed the playoffs entirely.

It took a miraculous run to win the franchise’s first championship. While the Nationals still have elite pitching, dealing with the loss of Zimmerman’s leadership will be the biggest hit outside of Rendon’s production.

Expect the Nationals to fail to capture the same magic in such a short season.

Conclusion

In the end, statistics and projections can be crunched as many times as possible, but the only numbers that matter are the wins and losses.

They matter significantly more in a 60-game season (almost three times as much), so teams will need to figure out how to fill these holes sooner rather than later. There is no easy money to be won when legal sports betting on baseball futures this year, as any team can make a run over 60 games much like the Nationals did last year.

As far as players opting out, after looking at the data there doesn’t appear to be any significant player that will directly change the trajectory of their team via their absence. Instead, the real effect will be on the locker room, where these veterans won’t be around to guide their teams through one of the more mentally demanding situations the sport has ever seen.

When it comes to the 2020 MLB season, expect the unexpected.

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