Analyzing MLB’s first half as All Star break arrives

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As baseball reaches its annual All Star break this is a good time to look at a snapshot of how the 2016 season has unfolded with slightly more than half of regular season schedule having been played.

Home teams have won 699 of the 1,331 games played through Sunday, or 52.5 percent. Scoring continues to increase over last season and at the All Star break teams were combining to average 9.01 total runs per game, up nearly a full run from the first half of 2015 when teams combined for 8.21.

The OVERS hold a 658-607-64 edge in totals or 52 percent. Through last Sunday 180 Interleague games have been played with the American League winning 97 (53.9 percent) including a dominating 53-37 record on the road. NL teams also have a slight 46-44 advantage at AL ballparks.

Interleague games have been high scoring, producing a 53-32-4 edge to the OVER at AL parks and 51-33-6 when NL hosts. It should not be a surprise that more games are being won by multiple runs. Nearly half of all teams have at least 75 percent of their wins by 2 runs or more with 13 teams achieving that level.

The leading team in this category has been Colorado with 35 of its 40 wins (87.5 percent) by at least 2 runs. Three other teams have seen at least 80 percent of its wins come by more than one run – St Louis (39 of 46), Baltimore (42 of 51) and Toronto (also 42 of 51).

In 75% or more club are in descending order, Boston, Tampa Bay, the Chicago Cubs, Miami, Arizona, Pittsburgh, the LA Angels, Cleveland and Minnesota.

Despite losing 3 of 4 games at home to Minnesota to close out its pre-All Star break play, Texas has been the most profitable team to back this season and by a wide margin. The 54-36 Rangers have earned their backers slightly under 24 units of net profit. The Giants are next at 17.1 units. Only Baltimore has earned more than 10 units of profit to date (15.0 units).

The biggest loser has been Tampa Bay. At 34-54 the Rays have shown a loss of 25.9 units, a full 8.2 more than second worst Minnesota (17.7 units). Also losing more than 10 units are the LA Angels (15.5), Arizona (14.9), Cincinnati (14.7) and Oakland (12.2). Just shy of double digit losses are the Chicago Cubs (9.4) and Atlanta (9.3).

Regarding the Cubs for most of the first half of the season they were on pace to well exceed 100 total wins. Back in May, sports books offered a prop bet on whether the Cubs would indeed win 100 games and the “yes” was heavily bet.

As we reach the All Star break San Francisco is the only team on pace to reach the century mark. At 57-33 the Giants are on line to win 103 games and exceed their projected season wins total by 14.5 games! The Cubbies, at 53-35, are on a pace to win 98 games.

The Giants having the best record in baseball should not be all that surprising as this is an even numbered year. Recall that San Francisco won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

The Cubs remain the clear betting favorite to win the World Series with their odds at the Westgate currently 3 to 1 (they opened last fall as one of four teams at 10-1 odds, second only to the 8-1 for the Dodgers).

The Giants opened at 20-1 but are presently one of four teams with the second lowest odds of 7-1 along with Cleveland, Texas and Washington.

Much of baseball handicapping and betting is based upon starting pitchers. Five starters have shown profits of at least 10 units by having been wagered on all of their starts.

The most profitable has been Baltimore’s Chris Tillman. The Orioles have won 16 of his 19 starts and bettors who have backed Tillman have earned 14.2 units of profit. Next most profitable has been San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto with 13.3 followed by Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (13.1), Detroit rookie Michael Fulmer (10.6) and Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin (10.4).

Only two starters have shown losses of more than 10 units and both have been pretty good pitchers during their careers. The most surprising has been Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer. The Rays have lost 14 of his 19 starts and Archer’s backers are down 10.7 units. Minnesota’s Ervin Santana has been just as costly at 10.2 in his 16 starts. Three other starters have produced losses between 9 and 10 units – the Mets’ Matt Harvey, Arizona’s Robbie Ray and Boston’s Clay Buchholz.

In preparing for the second half of the season and focusing on the upcoming trade deadline, which will be Monday, Aug. 1 because July 31 is on a Sunday, it may be helpful to learn how teams have fared entering the All Star break but taking more of a midrange look.

Teams have played 90 games, give or take a few. Some teams that got off to slow starts in April and into May have played much better through June and into July. Other teams that got off to quick starts have slowed down, often considerably, as the All Star break approached.

In looking back at the 40 games leading into the All Star break – the equivalent of a full quarter season – the results could be an indicator of which teams may be buyers and which teams may be sellers as the trading deadline approaches.

The best team in baseball over its last 40 games has been Houston as the Astros have gone 28-12 over that span. Other AL teams that have won at least 25 of its last 40 games are Cleveland (26), Texas (25) and Toronto (25). Baltimore has also played at a 60 percent pace over the last 40 games with 24 wins.

San Francisco has been the best NL team over its last 40 games with 27 wins, followed by Washington (25) and the L A Dodgers (24). None of the other 12 NL teams has fared better than 22-18 over the past month and a half.

The poorest performing team over the last 40 games has been Tampa Bay. The Rays’ 12-28 mark over that stretch has them 34-54 at the All Star break and in a position to be sellers over the next few weeks. The LA Angels have won fewer than 17 of its last 40 games and are 15-25 since late May.

Here’s a look at three weekend series coming out of the mid-season recess.

Pittsburgh at Washington: Washington has a decided pitching edge in this series. 2 of my top 5 rated starting pitchers are on the Nats – Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. My highest rated Pittsburgh starter is Gerrit Cole at 79. The other four Pirate starters who qualify for rating are above 100. My lowest rated Washington starter is lefty Gio Gonzalez at 79. The offenses rate almost even with each team’s superstar – Washington’s Bryce Harper and the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen – have underperformed for the most part but appear poised for big second halves.

Washington will be solid favorites throughout this series and can be played in starts by Scherzer, Strasburg and Tanner Roark at -150 or less. The Pirates’ best chances to pull the upset would be when facing any other Washington starter if getting +125 or more. With Washington’s strong rotation the UNDER would seem to be a strong play in most situations.

Kansas City at Detroit: These rivals meet for their third series of the season but the first in Detroit. In 7 previous games this season, all in Kansas City, the Royals have won 5 with the series played in mid-April and mid June. The OVER is 4-3. Neither team has an outstanding starting pitcher although the Tigers’ Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer rate highest. Detroit is averaging 5.2 rpg at home, Kansas City 3.2 rpg on the road. Even with closer Wade Davis on the DL the Royals have a solid bullpen edge so readers might consider playing the Tigers for the first 5 innings, before the bullpens take over.

For full game plays the Tigers at -150 or less in starts by Fulmer or Verlander would be Detroit’s best situations. Otherwise not facing that pair of starters, Kansas City can be played as underdogs of +110 or higher. The disparity in home/road scoring suggests playing UNDER 8.5 or higher and OVER 8 or lower. Detroit home games have averaged 9.8 rpg while Kansas City road games have averaged just 7.6 rpg.

Texas at Chicago Cubs: The lone weekend interleague series is the most attractive of any of the 15 to played coming out of the All Star break. Texas has been playing the better baseball for the past month and a half, winning 25 of its past 40 games, compared to just 19 wins for the Cubs in their last 40. The Cubs have the much better starting pitching 1 through 5 but the bullpen has been a weakness. No Cubs starter has an ERA above John Lackey’s 3.70 nor WHIP above Jason Hammel’s 1.13.

Lefty Cole Hamels has been their best starter with his 3.21 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 18 starts. In this three game series the Rangers will be worth playing at +150 or more in any matchup. However, if priced at -125 or less in any matchup, the Cubs are the play. The OVER should also be considered at totals of 8. This unusual counter-intuitive “or higher” restriction is due to the windy conditions at Wrigley Field that almost always impact the Totals line. Totals of 7.5 or less, the winds are generally blowing in. Totals of 8 to 9.5 are generally neutral with 10 or higher generally signifying winds that are blowing out.

Andy Iskoe and his Logical Approach provide popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long-time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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