The 10 best MLB betting seasons from the past 20 years

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Which MLB teams were the best bets over the last 20 years? (1:16)

Doug Kezirian and Preston Johnson give their picks for the best MLB teams to bet on in recent history. (1:16)

When the MLB season will begin and in what form is still uncertain. While we wait to see what transpires, we decided to take a look at some of the best teams to bet on in recent history.

Here are the teams with the most units won in a season over the past 20 years (based on one-unit bets), courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information research.


No. 1: 2001 Seattle Mariners (39.84 units won)

The Mariners had already made a 12-win jump from 1999 to 2000 to earn a wild card, so anticipating some potential regression, even before they lost Alex Rodriguez to free agency and aging slugger Jay Buhner for most of the season after getting hurt in his first spring at-bat, was mathematically reasonable -- but completely wrong. The combination of adding Ichiro Suzuki from Japan and free agent Bret Boone helped power the league's best offense and a deep pitching staff to an MLB-record 116 wins. Ichiro won the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year awards with an MLB-record 242 hits as a first-year player (not to mention 56 steals), while Boone belted a career-best 37 home runs.


No. 2: 2012 Baltimore Orioles (36.49)

The Orioles hadn't had a winning season in 14 years and finished last in the AL East four straight times coming into 2012. So nobody expected them to compete for a wild card, not even with franchise-fixer Buck Showalter in his second season in the dugout. But the Orioles improbably won 16 of 18 extra-inning games and finished 29-9 in one-run games. When they fell to 55-51 in early August, more than a few analysts thought regression was finally pulling the Orioles back down, but a 38-18 kick down the stretch obliterated that expectation. The O's Pythagorean projection was for an 82-80 season, but they repeatedly came out winners in coin-toss outcomes, providing a reminder that sometimes the math doesn't add up, even over 162 games.


No. 3: 2012 Oakland Athletics (35.13)

If 2012 provided an even bigger upset team than the Orioles, it was the A's. At the end of June, the A's were five games under .500, 13 games behind Texas and not too far ahead of their preseason expectations. That was before a second-half blitz through the schedule where the A's went 57-26 over the final three months to catch the Rangers and win the AL West on the last day of the season. A large number of salvage projects delivered for Billy Beane. Bartolo Colon had his best year since his 2005 Cy Young season, and journeymen such as Brandon McCarthy, Travis Blackley and Brandon Moss broke through and were joined by Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup.


No. 4: 2014 Orioles (31.62)

Knowing that Manny Machado was on the shelf at the start of the year after reconstructive surgery on his left knee dialed down expectations. Seeing Matt Wieters exit for the season in May and losing Machado for the rest of the year in August with a right knee injury didn't help. But moving Zack Britton to the bullpen cemented one of baseball's best relief crews behind a deep rotation while free-agent addition Nelson Cruz delivered his first 40-homer season to help give the O's a puncher's chance in any game, setting up another year for Showalter's O's delivering lots of late-game drama and tight wins (plus-9 in one-run games, plus-8 in extras) -- and helping bettors again.


No. 5: 2018 Athletics (28.61)

Three straight last-place finishes in the AL West set expectations low, and the initial mystery over where the A's were going to conjure up a starting rotation kept them there. But juggling 13 different starters for five or more turns, plus a breakthrough season from Blake Treinen as a closer, gave Oakland enough pitching to play with a developing core of hitting talent. This fueled another huge second half as the A's went on a 63-29 finishing kick to earn a wild card.


No. 6: 2016 Texas Rangers (27.83)

After seeing the Rangers go from a 67-win last-place finish to an AL West title in 2015 by adding 21 wins, projecting some backsliding didn't seem like a bad idea. However, the Rangers did better still, thanks in large part to a deep bullpen that helped set up an astonishing 36-11 record in one-run games. But in-season reinforcements also played a part, starting with the return of Yu Darvish to the rotation for the second half after he missed all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery, plus adding Carlos Beltran and Carlos Gomez in-season to a lineup keyed by Adrian Beltre.


No. 7: 2015 Rangers (27.63)

Jeff Banister's rookie season in the Texas dugout involved some cleanup from the wreckage of the 67-win meltdown of 2014 that ended Ron Washington's tenure as manager. Before that dip, the Rangers had put up five straight winning seasons while making three playoff appearances, so the low expectations built off 2014 proved to be too low.


No. 8: 2008 Los Angeles Angels (26.72)

There was a stretch on Mike Scioscia's long watch where the Angels were routinely bettering their expected records (as measured by Pythagorean projections) by several wins. The 2007 Angels were four games better, having gone plus-6 in one-run games. With much of the same personnel, they topped that in '08, winning 100 games to finish 12 games better than their expected record, in part by going plus-10 in one-run contests. Hallmarks of these Angels teams? Strong bullpens -- highlighted by Francisco Rodriguez in his record-setting K-Rod heyday -- deep rotations and an efficient offense that maximized its opportunities.


No. 9: 2000 Chicago White Sox (25.31)

A big chunk of this might be tied to the lowered expectations for the Sox after Frank Thomas' injury-shortened '99 season. The Big Hurt roared back with a huge season in 2000, finishing among the top 10 in WAR for the last time in his career while putting up his only 40-double/40-homer campaign. Adding a big year from Jose Valentin to the young duo of Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko gave the Sox a lineup firing on multiple cylinders to back a young rotation.


No. 10: 2007 Colorado Rockies (25.02)

The Rockies' lone pennant-winning season certainly surprised some, but how could anyone anticipate the stretch run that made "Rocktober" a thing? Winning 13 of their last 14 regular-season games to force a one-game playoff (which they won) was already epic, but then they swept their NLDS and NLCS rounds as well. Cramming the lineup with as much offense as they could get out of the corners helped, and the arrival of Ubaldo Jimenez in the rotation made a difference, but there was an element of seeming impossibility that made the Rockies' run pure magic.