Within the next week to 10 days teams will reach the mathematical halfway point of the regular season by playing game 81 of the scheduled 162.
The 2014 season continues to unfold as one of great parity with no truly outstanding teams or any very terrible ones. The gap between the team with baseball’s best record (Oakland, 47-29) and the worst (Tampa Bay, 31-46 and Arizona, 32-47) is just 16.5 games.
To put that number into perspective, the best to worst gap over the past three seasons at the same point in the season ranged from 19.5 to 22.5 games.
Despite the best record in baseball Oakland is only third in terms of net profits at the betting windows.
Using the closing lines at the LVH Sports Book as a source, the Athletics’ 47-29 record has translated into 9.9 units of net profit.
The two teams that have been more profitable than Oakland also happen to have the second and third best records in baseball respectively. Milwaukee’s 47-30 record has rewarded backers with 14.9 net units of profit and San Francisco (45-30) is up 13.3 net units.
Only three other teams are showing net profits of 5.0 units or more –Minnesota (7.5), Baltimore (6.7) and Toronto (5.6). Not surprisingly, the magnitude of losses being suffered by losing teams is greater than that of the profits shown by the winners.
Part of this can be explained by the fact the public at large often “chases” losses by repeatedly backing favorites that have disappointed their backers in recent games.
After all, according to this line of thinking, the favorite is, supposedly, the “better” team and hence is more likely to rebound from a loss than is a supposedly weaker team likely to continue winning.
The results don’t bear this out and that line of thinking has been very costly.
Less than halfway through the season four teams have already cost their backers double digit units in terms of losses.
The “King of Bankruptcy” this season has been Tampa Bay. The Rays were expected to again contend in the AL East but a rash of injuries, especially to the pitching staff, combined with an offense that lacks depth, has resulted in the worst record in baseball, percentage wise, 31-46 (.403), through Sunday.
That record of 15 games below .500 has been costly to the tune of a loss of an astounding 27.7 net units!
Arizona has baseball’s second worst record (32-47, .405) but their “investment” loss is nearly half that of Tampa Bay’s at minus 15.2 net units.
Rounding out this “expensive” quartet are San Diego (-14.0 net units) and Boston (-12.8).
The much discussed “regression to the mean” concept suggests there will be a reversal of sorts as the linemakers continue to adjust to these first half results and the teams themselves reverse direction.
As such it would not be a surprise if over the balance of the season two of the top three money makers (Milwaukee, Oakland, San Francisco) show net losses from here through the end. Also, three of the four biggest losers (Tampa Bay, Arizona, San Diego, Boston) could show profits between now and season’s end.
Over the next few weeks the subject of betting the run line in major league baseball will be discussed. This is a subject of much debate insofar as to whether it is best to lay the run and a half with the favorite. This strategy often turns that favored team into an underdog. Another option is to take the run and a half with the underdog, often turning a betting underdog into the betting favorite.
Here’s a look at four series for this weekend.
St. Louis at LA Dodgers: This is a four game series that starts on Thursday as the teams meet for the first time this season. Both teams start the week in second place in their respective divisions. St. Louis trails Milwaukee by 5.5 games in the NL Central while the Dodgers are 4.5 behind the Giants in the West.
Both teams are more known for their pitching than their offense although the Dodgers do have the much better lineup. St. Louis’ rotation is led by Adam Wainwright but has been dealt a blow with both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia placed on the DL following Sunday’s game. That puts added pressure on both Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller.
The Dodgers have as deep a starting rotation as any team in baseball with fifth starter Dan Haren, who is as good as many second or third starters on several teams. With ace Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, HJ Ryu and Josh Beckett leading the rotation the Dodgers have the potential for getting at least 6 innings from their starter in any game they play.
In contrast to what has been the norm for many years the Dodgers have been a strong OVER team at home this season at 23-11-4. More than any increase in offense or weak pitching this may be more reflective of the lower totals that are being posted in Dodgers home games – 28 of 38 games have been lined at 7 or lower.
St. Louis has a below average offense that is averaging just 3.3 runs per game on the road. But the Cards are also allowing just 2.8 rpg away from home, which has led to St. Louis’ road games resulting in a 22-11-3 UNDER record. A sharp and interesting contrast to say the least.
Plays: St. Louis -125 or less, or as underdogs of any price in a start by Wainwright against any Dodgers starter; Dodgers -125 or less if not facing Wainwright; UNDER 7 or higher if Wainwright is matched against Kershaw, Ryu or Beckett.
Cincinnati at SF: This is also a four game series beginning on Thursday. In their only prior series this season the Giants took 2 of 3 in Cincy in early June. The teams were 1-1-1 to the total, combining to average 7.7 runs per game.
Both teams have decent starting pitching with the Giants’ most effective duo of Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson matching up nicely with the Reds’ Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon. After those duos there is a noticeable dropoff to the rest of both teams’ rotations.
Although the Reds are considered to have the better offense the Giants have actually been more productive thus far, averaging about .3 runs per game more both at home and on the road. The Giants are also allowing fewer runs per game than Cincinnati, both at home and on the road.
Plays: Giants +120 or more against Cueto; Giants -125 or less not facing Cueto; Giants -140 or less in starts by Bumgarner or Hudson not opposing Cueto or Simon; Reds as underdogs of any price in a start by Cueto; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher if Cueto or Simon oppose Bumgarner or Hudson.
LA Angels at KC: The teams met in Anaheim in late May with the host Angels winning 2 of 3. The OVER/UNDER record was 1-1-1 as the Royals and Angels averaged a combined 8.3 runs per game. Both teams start this week in second place in their divisions.
The Angels have played well since stumbling to start the season. Kansas City started the week on a 4 game losing streak, perhaps having a letdown after briefly taking the lead in the AL Central over Detroit after winning 3 of 4 in Detroit last week.
Both teams have gotten solid starting pitching. The Angels have been more productive at the plate, and better balanced, scoring 4.6 runs per game at home and 4.8 rpg on the road.
The Royals have been average overall on offense but with a sharp home/road contrast, averaging just 3.7 runs per game at home while besting that by nearly a full run per game on the road (4.6). Neither team has a dominant starting pitcher but the statistically best starters on each staff are surprises – Garrett Richards of the Angels and Danny Duffy of the Royals.
Neither is overpowering but each has displayed solid control and is allowing less than a hit per inning. The Angels’ top duo remains Jered Weaver and C J Wilson and the Royals rely most on James Shields and Jason Vargas although rookie Yordano Ventura continues to impress.
Plays: Angels +120 or more in starts by Richards, Weaver or Wilson against any Kansas City starter; Angels -120 or less in starts by that trio against other than Shields, Vargas or Ventura; Kansas City as underdogs of any price with any starter against other than Richards, Weaver or Wilson; Kansas City +140 or more in any matchup; UNDER 7.5 or higher in matchups of Richards, Weaver or Wilson against Shields, Vargas or Ventura; OVER 8.5 or lower if none of those six pitchers is involved.
Cleveland at Seattle: The Indians and Mariners are meeting for the first time this season. Seattle starts the week with a winning record (40-36) and very much in the mix for a Wild Card. Even at 37-39 Cleveland also has to be considered as a playoff contender considering the overall level of parity discussed earlier.
The Tribe has one of the best home records in the AL (23-15) but has struggled on the road (14-24). Cleveland also has an evenly balanced offense that is plating 4.5 runs per game at home and 4.3 rpg on the road. Seattle’s strength is on the mound, both with its starting rotation and bullpen.
The Mariners’ top two starters of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are the equal of any top duo in the game. The offense is improved over recent seasons but has been more effective on the road (4.4 rpg) than at home (3.5). Safeco Field remains a pitchers’ park and the Mariners have played 20 UNDERS, 13 OVERS and 4 pushes in front of their home fans.
Cleveland’s rotation is below average with only young Corey Kluber posting “acceptable” statistics (3.30 ERA, 1.26 WHIP). There is a huge dropoff after Kluber with no other starter having an ERA below 4.40. Kluber is the only starter averaging more than 5.9 innings per start (6.5) and that places a greater than average burden on the bullpen, which gets magnified as the season progresses.
Plays: Seattle -150 or less in starts by Hernandez or Iwakuma against any Cleveland starter; Seattle -120 or less in starts by any other starter not facing Kluber; Cleveland +150 or more in a start by Kluber against Hernandez or Iwakuma; Cleveland +125 or more in a start by Kluber not opposing Hernandez or Iwakuma; UNDER 7.0 or higher if Hernandez or Iwakuma oppose Kluber; UNDER 7.5 or higher if one or none of those three starters is involved.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]