The gaps between the good teams, the ordinary and the bad continue to exist and expand with as many in the extreme groups as at any time in recent memory this deep into the season.
I touched upon this topic about a month ago but the stark differences that existed then concerning the vast disparity in performance of baseball teams this season still exists and the gaps seem to be widening.
I define these groups based upon the number of wins teams are expected to achieve if they continue to play at the pace they’ve display over the first 70 or so games this season.
I feel 70 games is a fairly representative data base that includes nearly half of a full season of 162 games. There are seven teams currently on pace to win at least 95 games with the Yankees, Boston, Houston and Seattle on pace to win between 103 and 111. Atlanta and Milwaukee are on pace for 96 and the Cubs 95.
For most of the season Boston and the Yankees were well ahead of the rest of MLB in terms of winning pace. While that AL East duo continues to play extremely well both Houston and Seattle have been closing the gap.
The defending World Series Champion Astros are currently the hottest team in the game. At the start of June, Houston lost three in a row at home, the last of the three to Seattle. After ending their homestand with a win to split their series with the Mariners, Houston embarked on a 10-game road trip and won all 10 at Texas, Oakland and Kansas City.
Sure, the Rangers and Royals are among the worst teams in baseball and Oakland is a .500 team, but winning 10 straight games against any competition is a very impressive feat made even more impressive when all 10 wins are on the road. The Astros started this week on an 11-game winning streak.
At the other end of the spectrum are four teams on pace to lose 100 games and two others to barely escape that many. Baltimore is on pace to fashion an ugly 46-116 record with Kansas City (50), the Chicago White Sox (56) and Cincinnati (59). Just falling shore of 100 losses at their current pace are Miami and Texas, on pace to win just 63 and 64 respectively. The other 13 teams are grouped within a range between 71 and 89 at their current pace.
It should not be surprising to learn the four teams on pace to win over 100 games have been extremely profitable thus far whereas the four on pace to lose at least 100 have proven extremely costly to the bankroll.
For bettors the key question is whether the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and Mariners have peaked as to their level of profitability and are due for a regression. Also, whether the Orioles, Royals, White Sox and Reds have bottomed out and are now poised for overall profitability from this point forward.
After 70 games the linesmakers and the betting marketplace have formed strong opinions on most teams, especially those at the extremes.
Through this past Sunday the four top teams have shown an overall profit of 48.3 net units led by Seattle (17.5) and followed by Boston (13.1), the Yankees (10.6) and Houston (7.1).
The four teams on pace for the fewest wins have shown a collective loss of an astounding 77.2 nets units, “led” by Baltimore (29.9) and followed by Kansas City (20.3), Cincinnati (13.9) and the White Sox (13.1).
Here are thoughts on three series to be played this weekend.
Philadelphia at Washington: In their lone prior series this season Washington won 2 of 3 home games from the Phillies when the teams met in the first week of May.
Aaron Nola has been Philly’s best starter and will be the one pitcher to back in this series as an underdog of any price. Both Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin have been more good than bad but neither can be played unless the price is +150 or more and Washington does not start Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg (who is currently on the DL).
Otherwise Washington can be backed in starts by Scherzer or Gio Gonzalez against other than Nola, Arrieta or Eflin with laying the run and a half a viable option to consider if the straight up price is greater than -160.
With the exception of starts by Nola and Scherzer look OVER 8.5 or lower and if Nola faces Scherzer; UNDER 7 or higher is playable in addition to the play on Nola.
Seattle at Boston: This is a quick reversal of the series played this past weekend in Seattle in which the visiting Red Sox won the first and closing game of the four-game series and the Mariners won the middle two. The series produced both a pair of OVERS and UNDERS.
Two of the games produced 2-1 and 1-0 results with the other two producing finals of 7-6 and 9-3 in what could best be classified as a “feast or famine” series when it came to offense. Seattle’s ace is James Paxton with both Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc posting solid stats through 14 and 9 starts respectively. Chris Sale is Boston’s ace and is enjoying another Cy Young caliber season through his first 15 starts.
David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez have both pitched well over the past month, giving the Red Sox an imposing trio of lefties at the top of the rotation.
Boston is the better team but can only be recommended for play if laying no more than -150 in starts by Sale, Price or Rodriguez against other than Paxton.
Seattle can be played in a start by Paxton if made an underdog against the Red Sox trio or if favored by no more than -120 against any other Boston starter. If Paxton opposes Sale, Price or Rodriguez consider playing UNDER 8 or higher. In matchups not involving any of these four pitchers consider OVER 8.5 or lower.
Baltimore at Atlanta: Atlanta was considered a season or two away from contender status back in the spring but as the season approaches the midpoint the Braves are 42-29 and lead the NL East by 3.5 games over Washington, a pace that would produce 96 wins. Their Season Wins Total was just 75.
The closest the Orioles come to having an ace is Dylan Bundy whose 3.81 ERA and 1.19 WHIP would rank him at the back part of the Atlanta rotation. Atlanta’s best starters have been Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz with veteran Anibal Sanchez having pitched well over his six starts. Julio Teheran’s stats are very similar to Bundy’s. The concern with the Braves is no starter is averaging more than 5.8 innings per start. This suggests the Braves might make for a solid First 5 Innings bet throughout the series.
The Orioles are averaging just 3.5 runs per game, tied with Miami for the lowest output of all 30 teams. The Braves average the fifth highest runs per game, 4.9. Although a sweep of the series will be expected based on the lines, a more realistic expectation is for the Braves to take 2 of 3. If this occurs the break-even line for the Braves would be -200, winning $100 for each of the Braves’ two wins but losing $200 for the lone loss.
If you decide to play the First 5 Innings look to lay no more than -160 with the Braves. If you are more comfortable playing the full game consider laying the run and a half with the Braves if the line is greater than -150. Over their first 70 games the Orioles are being outscored by an average of 1.6 rpg, second only to Kansas City for the worst average scoring margin of all 30 teams.