Chicken Nugget Money: Reviewing MLB Futures Bets

Most everyone has heard the phrase, “Winner winner, chicken dinner.” In our household, we root for chicken nugget money. It began when I tried to convince my girlfriend, Kim, to actively root for my DFS teams during NFL season so I can win money. Now, I’m not a heavy gambler by any means. I rarely ever bet more than $5 on a game, in DraftKings and Draft I never enter contests more than $3 entry, and when placing bets on games, it’s typically $0.50. I’m the quarter slot machine grandma of sports betting.

Because I make such small plays, the outcome is never tremendous. When Kim asked, “What do I get out of you winning?” I responded that I could win seven dollars. To my amazement, she got excited because seven dollars is enough to buy her chicken nuggets from McDonald’s on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Thus, the phrase “chicken nugget money,” was born.


On February 16th, 2018 I placed $0.50 bets on MLB Futures over/under season win totals. The only teams I did not make a preseason wager on were the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals for some reason I do not remember. Six months later, and six weeks remaining in the season, I thought it would be worthwhile to check on my progress. Compare my bets to what ZiPS/Fangraphs is projecting to happen for the rest of 2018.

For those that don’t remember the MLB Futures lines, here were the preseason O/U win totals from Bovada:

Team O/U Line My Bet
Anaheim Angels 84.5 Over
Arizona Diamondbacks 85.5 Under
Atlanta Braves 74.5 Under
Baltimore Orioles 73.5 Over
Boston Red Sox 91.5 Over
Chicago Cubs 94.5 Over
Chicago White Sox 68.5 Over
Cincinnati Reds 73.5 Under
Cleveland Indians 94.5 Under
Colorado Rockies 82.5 Over
Detroit Tigers 68.5 Under
Houston Astros 96.5 Under
Los Angeles Dodgers 96.5 Over
Miami Marlins 64.5 Under
Milwaukee Brewers 84.5 Under
Minnesota Twins 82.5 Over
New York Mets 81.5 Under
New York Yankees 94.5 Over
Oakland Athletics 74.5 Over
Philadelphia Phillies 75.5 Over
San Diego Padres 69.5 Over
San Francisco Giants 81.5 Over
Seattle Mariners 81.5 Over
St. Louis Cardinals 85.5 Over
Tampa Bay Rays 77.5 Under
Texas Rangers 77.5 Under
Toronto Blue Jays 81.5 Under
Washington Nationals 92.5 Over

Total investment: $14.00

Out of the 28 bets, I’m not sure what my thinking was picking the over 16 times. At this moment, only seven teams are going to hit for me.

Team O/U Line Projected Final Win Total* Difference My Bet
Oakland Athletics 74.5 93 18.5 Over
Boston Red Sox 91.5 110 18.5 Over
Philadelphia Phillies 75.5 88 12.5 Over
Seattle Mariners 81.5 91 9.5 Over
New York Yankees 94.5 100 5.5 Over
Colorado Rockies 82.5 86 3.5 Over
St. Louis Cardinals 85.5 87 1.5 Over
Chicago Cubs 94.5 94 -0.5 Over
San Francisco Giants 81.5 80 -1.5 Over
Anaheim Angels 84.5 81 -3.5 Over
San Diego Padres 69.5 65 -4.5 Over
Minnesota Twins 82.5 77 -5.5 Over
Chicago White Sox 68.5 62 -6.5 Over
Los Angeles Dodgers 96.5 89 -7.5 Over
Washington Nationals 92.5 84 -8.5 Over
Baltimore Orioles 73 53 -20 Over

*Source: Fangraphs 

Boston Red Sox are having a season for the ages, but it’s also pretty amazing on how well Oakland is faring compared to what Vegas thought before the year started. For those White Sox fans still searching for hope for a contender in 2019, the Philadelphia Phillies are a team you can draw from as they are expected to go over by a dozen games in 2018. I thought going over on Seattle’s 81.5 was a bit risky as I thought they were going to fall in the 80 to 83 wins range in 2018. Going off Pythagorean W-L, the Mariners should have a winning percentage of .484 or a team on pace to win just 78 games in 2018. Instead, the Mariners are projected to win 91 games, and because life has a weird sense of humor, they would miss the postseason. Continuing the longest postseason drought for any North American professional sports team. Amazing.

The Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants could help change my fortunes with the over bets. Kind of weird to say that the best record in the National League is projected for only be 94 wins, but the Cubs are even as they’re still not firing on all cylinders. Yet, they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the National League. I didn’t think San Francisco was going to be a playoff team in 2018, but I figured with the off-season moves they would finish a few games above .500. If both can find some additional wins in the remaining six weeks, I could finish ahead with my over bets.

I’m not holding out for a hope that Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers get hot in September. Minnesota, in my opinion, has blown a great opportunity in 2018 of winning the AL Central due to the dread combination of injuries and underachieving performances. Then there is Baltimore. Man, what a dumpster fire.

Looking at my under bets, I’m having a bit more success.

Team O/U Line Projected Final Win Total* Difference My Bet
Atlanta Braves 74 88 14 Under
Tampa Bay Rays 77.5 81 3.5 Under
Milwaukee Brewers 84.5 88 3.5 Under
Houston Astros 96.5 100 3.5 Under
Arizona Diamondbacks 85.5 88 2.5 Under
Miami Marlins 64.5 63 -1.5 Under
Cleveland Indians 94.5 93 -1.5 Under
Detroit Tigers 68.5 66 -2.5 Under
Cincinnati Reds 73.5 70 -3.5 Under
Texas Rangers 77.5 72 -5.5 Under
Toronto Blue Jays 81.5 75 -6.5 Under
New York Mets 81.5 72 -9.5 Under

*Source: Fangraphs 

I wasn’t expecting the Atlanta Braves to be this successful in 2018. Figured that they were still a year away from their farm system bearing fruit, but there they are battling with the Philadelphia Phillies for a division crown. I’ve been impressed by Tampa Bay this season for finding new, creative ways to win games.

Two teams that I think are running out of gas are Milwaukee and Houston. The news that Jimmy Nelson is most likely not going to return in 2018 is significant bad news for the Brewers. A team that is already lacking in starting pitching now won’t get one of their best performing starters back. Then again, instead of focusing on improving on this issue the Brewers doubled down on offense at the trade acquiring Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop. Weeks later, I’m still confused by those moves. The Houston Astros are a battled tested group, but the longer Jose Altuve is on the disabled list, the longer Oakland and Seattle are going to be breathing down their necks in the standings. I figured that the World Series hangover effect would keep Houston below winning 95 games before the year started, and I still feel that’s where they will end up.

For some dumb reason I picked the Blue Jays to finish second in the AL East in March, but a month before that pick I had them under 81.5 wins, so I’m not giving myself a pat on the back for mixed signals. The Mets are having a season as the 2016 White Sox did. I was sweating when they started 11-1, but it’s clear they don’t have a strong enough supporting cast around Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to be a contender.

With six weeks remaining, I’m 14-14 with my preseason picks hoping that the Cubs and Giants find a way to go over pushing me to 16-12.


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Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at

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Never hope for the over on the Cubs!