In recent weeks attention was paid to the seven teams considered the teams to beat in 2018. Several of the teams were – and remain – on a pace to greatly exceed their projected Season Win Totals while others are pretty much on target. One team in particular, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are on a pace to greatly fall short of expectations.
Through this past Sunday roughly 25 percent of the regular season’s 162 game schedule has been played. The weather related postponements of early season games and other vagaries of the schedule have teams having played between 36 games (Minnesota) and 42 games (four teams) giving us a reasonable amount of games to analyze.
At 16-24 the Dodgers are in fourth place in the NL West, just one game ahead of last place San Diego and eight games behind first place Arizona. The Dodgers’ Season Wins Total was pegged at 95.5 yet their results through one quarter of the season has them on pace to win just 65 games.
Their current record and the corresponding wins pace is surprising given the Dodgers have a runs differential of just -1, having scored a total 171 runs while allowing 172. It is yet to be determined if the Dodgers have reached the low point of their season but they entered this week’s play having just been swept by lowly Cincinnati in a four game home series. In fact, the Reds had won six straight through Sunday, which “improved” their record from 8-27 to 14-27.
But the Dodgers are not alone in their disappointing start. Of baseball’s 30 teams the one held in lowest regard prior to the start of the season was Miami. The Marlins were projected to win just 64 games, a full three games fewer than the next most lightly regarded team, Detroit.
The projection of 64 wins would mean the Marlins were expected to lose 98 games. A look at the current standings through Sunday show seven teams – including the Marlins – on pace to lose at least 100.
Currently on pace for the worst record in baseball are the Chicago White Sox who, at 10-27, are on a pace to go 44-118. The other six at their current pace are Baltimore (111), Kansas City (109), Cincinnati (107), Miami (105) and both San Diego and Texas (100).
It is unlikely more than perhaps one or two of those teams will actually finish the season with more than 100 losses, which suggests there will be value in playing ON those teams over the next several months. Depending on the matchups, especially when facing some of the better teams, these seven are likely to be highly priced underdogs and should be considered for play either when their best starting pitchers are on the mound or when they are facing the opponent’s weakest starting pitcher.
And these teams are likely to have modest winning streaks perhaps a couple or three times this season. As noted earlier, Cincinnati just won six in a row, including a four-game road sweep at the Dodgers, earning a profit of 8.5 units, 6.5 of which came in Los Angeles.
Baltimore began this week as winner of five of their prior six games, all at home, as they prepared for an interleague series starting Tuesday, hosting Philadelphia for a pair of games.
Here are previews of three weekend series.
LA Dodgers at Washington: Expect Washington to be favored throughout this series and they will be playable behind any starter if priced at -150 or less with two exceptions. The Dodgers are playable in a start by Buehler if getting +150 or more and not facing Scherzer. The Dodgers are playable as underdogs of +125 or more against Jeremy Hellickson. It would not be surprising if the Nats sweep this series or, at the very least, win two of three. Look UNDER Totals of 7.5 or higher in starts by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez and UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in starts by Roark or Hellickson.
It is worth noting Washington is 8-1 in starts by Scherzer whose 1.69 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 6.5 Innings per Start suggest laying the run and a half against the light hitting Dodgers (who are averaging just 3.9 runs per game, slightly more than a half run per game below the MLB average) a viable consideration.
Cleveland at Houston: Houston leads MLB in allowing just 111 runs (2.6 per game) with an outstanding starting rotation that has lessened the pressure on their bullpen. Arizona has allowed the second fewest number of runs, 136. It’s hard to pinpoint Cleveland’s lack of early season success. Four of their five starters are having fine seasons and the Tribe is averaging 4.9 runs per game. Their rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger each have ERA’s of 3.6 or less, average at least 6.4 Innings per Start and have WHPs of 1.21 or less.
Houston’s starters have all been effective with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole leading the way while Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton have also been solid. The so-called “weak link” has been fifth starter Lance McCullers whose ERA of 3.72 and WHIP of 1.26 would have him as a number two or three starter on many staffs. Cleveland’s weakest starter, Josh Tomlin, has been very bad and his hold on a spot in the rotation is getting shaky.
The Underdog and the UNDER are the preferred ways to look throughout this series. With the exception of a start by Tomlin, look to play either team as an underdog of +120 or more and also UNDER Totals of 7.5 or higher. Should Tomlin get a start in the series Houston is playable straight at -150 or lower, or if favored by more than -150, laying the run and a half. Note the Indians are 26-14-2 to the UNDER through Sunday.
Milwaukee at Minnesota: The Twins’ two offseason signings – Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn – have had contrasting starts to their seasons. Odorizzi has been the better of the two but even his 3.83 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 5.3 IPS do little to inspire confidence. Lynn has been horrible with 7.33 ERA and 1.98 WHIP in his seven starts, which have averaged just 4.9 innings. Young Fernando Romero has posted nice stats but his three starts are far too few to make any confident assessments.
Both lineups are capable of putting up crooked numbers and the preference throughout this series will be to look OVER Totals of 8.5 or less and to back either side if getting at least +140 as an underdog. There is no starter on either team in which confidence can be backed although it may be worth noting the Brewers have won seven of Jhoulys Chacin’s nine starts although Chacin’s 4.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 5.0 IPS are a fine example of little correlation between a pitcher’s performance and his team’s results.