National League favorites in Vegas: Cubs, bets

Bet on it: Suzuki has handicapper Barton feeling bullish about the Cubs; he also touts the White Sox’ Jimenez as MVP.

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Seiya Suzuki

Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki flips a water bottle after taking live batting practice at the Cubs Spring Training facility in Mesa, Arizona.

John Antonoff/Sun-Times

LAS VEGAS — We discussed the Dodgers being -500 in some games and his affinity for the Brewers and Phillies. He bemoaned the Red Sox beating his beloved Bronx Bombers to Trevor Story.

Long Island handicapper Tom Barton and I drifted into many topics. Thirty-five minutes later, however, we returned to the conversation starter — Wrigley Field’s inhabitants.

“I can’t believe they went and got Seiya Suzuki,” says Barton. “Shocking. I like it. If you’re a Cubs fan, you got one of the better offseason acquisitions that nobody’s talking about. Wow.”

The 27-year-old Suzuki, a five-time All-Star outfielder in Japan who smacked 177 home runs over his last six seasons, inked a five-year deal worth $85 million — a record pact for a Japanese position player.

A ray of hope, says Barton, after the franchise unsurprisingly dumped Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo when last season went south.

With 18 games against divisional bottom-feeders Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Barton envisions the Cubs as a .500 squad. Informed that Station Casinos’ projected total is 72.5, he pauses.

He estimates the Cubs’ victory range between 75 and 85.

“I’m selling myself on the Cubs now, during this conversation. I don’t think they’ll tank, especially in that division. Over 72.5 makes sense. If everything goes wrong for the Cubs, I [still] think they’re a 75-win team.”

PHILS, BREWERS OVER

Barton salivated one year ago when interest in San Diego soared, after it had acquired three starting pitchers, including Yu Darvish. He distrusted the hype, which he termed “helium.”

The Padres hadn’t won at least 94 games since 1998. Barton hammered Under 93.5 at a sportsbook. He found 94.5 at another shop and doubled down, forming his largest preseason investment.

San Diego finished 79-83.

“Just unreal expectations,” says Barton. “Give me a helium team and I’m going against it all day. Shortstop Fernando Tatis is unbelievably talented, but he’s reckless and a butcher in the field.”

Tatis broke his left wrist in a December motorcycle accident and is out until June. San Diego’s victory total is 90.5 at William Hill, but Barton has invested elsewhere.

A host on the nationally syndicated Sports Garten radio network, his lone bets, so far, have been Phillies Over 84 and Brewers Over 88, which is 94.5 at Stations.

He raves about Philly starters Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, whom he projects as having a Cy Young-type of season. Nola is 30-1 to win that NL award at the Westgate SuperBook.

Plus, outfielder Bryce Harper is coming off his second MVP season.

“Philly is very overlooked,” says Barton. “All I have to do is get to .500? And I get to beat up on the Marlins and Nats in that division? Philly was my number-one bet, Milwaukee number two.”

He favors Brewers starting pitchers Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. Should outfielder Christian Yelich and first baseman Rowdy Tellez excel, Barton foresees a big campaign.

“If [Yelich and Tellez] click, they could win 100 games. Year after year, the Brewers are overlooked, too. They’re very good, excellent if a few things work their way.”

ELATED ABOUT ELOY

Chicago native Sam Panayotovich took -180 (risk $180 to win $100) at Caesars on the White Sox to win the AL Central, having seen -200 and up at most Vegas sportsbooks.

The New England Sports Network and Fox Sports betting analyst gauges the Sox as having an 80% chance, or -400, “to win the weakest division in baseball,” so paying less than half that represents exceptional value.

“Minus-200 being cheap is the old boxing theory, Let ’em all bet McGregor and I’ll lay it with Mayweather.”

In 2017, Conor McGregor’s rabid fans dumped bricks of cash on the MMA legend, giving pugilist Floyd Mayweather rare value. Money May scored a methodical 10th-round TKO over McGregor in the boxing ring.

Panayotovich also says the Sox are “live” at 6-1 to win the AL pennant. Circa has +475, Stations +500, and William Hill, the South Point and SuperBook are all 6-1.

Sox stars Luis Robert (hip) and Eloy Jimenez (torn pec) missed significant time last season, but Barton believes Jimenez will flourish in 2022.

He is 75-1 to win AL MVP at William Hill, 60-1 at the SuperBook, where he’s also 20-1 to lead baseball in homers.

Says Barton, “If you’re putting money on an MVP coming from this team, while everyone is staring at Robert, I’m staring at Eloy.”

He praises a Sox pitching staff that registered a second consecutive sub-4.00 ERA last season for the first time since 1993-94. SuperBook Cy Young odds on Lance Lynn are 20-1, 10-1 on Lucas Giolito and 50-1 on Dylan Cease.

The lifelong Yankees fan compares the Sox bullpen of Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Kendall Graveman and Aaron Bummer to what Mariano Rivera helmed for some scintillating seasons in the Bronx.

However, Barton advises passing on a White Sox win total that’s 95.5 at Stations, 92.5 at William Hill. Chicago has won more than 93 games once, at 99-63 in 2005, since 2000.

“They’re good enough to win 100, but that division can work against you. They could have a lead of eight or 10 games with a week left, then they rest people. You need two wins, and they drop seven of their last nine.

“You barely get there, or you don’t. They just might not be crunched to win that division again.

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