Though two pitchers earned 20 or more victories last year, oddsmakers have given the highest number of MLB regular season wins at nearly four less than that total.

Corey Kluber
Cleveland Indian pitcher Corey Kluber is expected by oddsmakers to have the highest win total this season. (Image: AP)

Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber had 20 victories in 2018, and oddsmakers don’t think he’ll reach that number of regular season wins this season. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has set the line at 16.5 for the Indian’s ace.

Kluber got his first game action on Monday, but that is by design. The soon to be 33-year-old has eased into Spring Training every year since 2017. Manager Terry Francona said he wants him to pitch in intrasquad games and live batting practice, then get into games. That strategy is fine with Kluber.

“One of the goals is to stay with your delivery by controlling the adrenaline to work on things,” Kluber said. “If you have things to work on delivery-wise, or pitch-wise, it’s a lot easier to work on them when you control the setting. You’re going to pitch over 100 innings in the regular season, so 10 innings on the back field is not going to make much difference.”

Big Drop Expected for Snell

One of the surprises of last year was the 21-5 record of Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell. He led the majors in victories, but the Westgate doesn’t believe he will do it again. They have the reigning Cy Young award winner at 14 wins for the season.

Snell, who just received a small raise and is making about $15,000 more than the league minimum $555,000 this season, might be extra motivated to repeat his 2018 performance. Still, he wasn’t happy about the move.

“The Rays have the right under the collective bargaining agreement to renew me at or near the league-minimum salary,” Snell said in a statement. “They also have the ability to more adequately compensate me, as other organizations have done with players who have similar achievements to mine. The Rays chose the former. I will have no further comment and look forward to competing with my teammates and field staff in our quest to win the World Series in 2019.”

Trio Behind Kluber

Boston’s Chris Sale, Washington’s Max Scherzer, and Houston’s Justin Verlander are all expected to win at least 15 games this season. The Westgate put the trio on 15.5 victories as the over/under for this year.

Of those three, two are expected to have less wins than they did in 2018. Scherzer went 18-7, and feels good going into this season, despite a rough Spring Training.

“My fastball location was a little off, my tempo was a little off, I mean those are just between-year fixes that I can get back out there and . . . I need to pick up my tempo and that’s when usually everything sinks in, and my fastball location comes off that. That’s an easy nip in the bud,” Scherzer said after his first start a week ago.

Verlander went 16-9 last year, and comes into Spring Training with a new pitch. He told Sports Illustrated that he feels confident in throwing a change up.

“I’ve been working on this thing for three years because it vacated me,” Verlander said. “Every bullpen last year I was working on it. I just couldn’t get it. I’ve never tried to go away from it. The hitters told me to go away from it. That’s pretty simple for me.”

Sale didn’t come close to 15 wins last year, finishing 12-4. He was bothered by a shoulder ailment, but said offseason work should make it a non-issue.

“I think that was more addressed in the offseason just with the training program, with the shoulder program, throwing program,” Sale said, via WEEI.com. “Like I said, this was kind of a full circle off-season for me with lifting, running and training room stuff. I think all those things were the build-up to where we are now and I think that’s going to hopefully get us over the hump throughout the year and towards the end of the year.”

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