I’ll turn my attention this week to Major League Baseball where just three weeks into the 2018 season we already have a handful of teams that have gotten off to either terrific or dismal starts for bettors. I’m going to analyze those teams in this week’s column and try to forecast whether or not there will be good “bet on” or “bet against” value in the baseball betting markets with these teams in the immediate future.
The Top 5 most profitable teams in MLB so far this season in order are:
New York Mets 12-2 +11.4 units
Boston Red Sox 13-2 +10.43 units
Los Angeles Angels 13-3 +10.09 units
Arizona Diamondbacks 11-4 +8.73 units
Pittsburgh Pirates 11-4 +7.53 units
The New York Mets rely on their starting pitching, led by Noah Syndergaard and Jake DeGrom who are two legit aces at the top of the Mets rotation. Both have ERA’s of 3.06 or less to this point and the Mets are first in pitching ERA so far. The lineup has been more productive than some anticipated as they have plated 4 runs or more in 7 of their last 10 games and they have been adequately tested so far facing Washington, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Philadelphia. Only Washington of that group sits below .500 and only slightly at 7-9.
Miami is the only true bottom feeder the New York Mets have faced in their early season schedule. There may yet be value to keep betting on the Mets as long as their starting pitching rotation can stay healthy. Boston is a very good team. The potent lineup of the Red Sox has been lethal 1 through 9 with seven hitters batting at least .300 on this team right now. Their starting pitching has been solid as well but they are already starting to be priced on a daily basis like one of the best teams in MLB and I don’t think it will be too long before their residual ML value starts to dissipate.
Boston, even with a win/loss record that should be strong, is not a team I trust to be a long-term profit producer due to the inflated prices that will be attached to them.
Arizona has some questionable starting pitching depth in their rotation along with a somewhat shaky bullpen that I think might temper some of their early season profits and strong start despite a solid lineup.
Pittsburgh is the one team of this Top 5 profit group I most definitely expect to see regress a bit at some point and not sustain the over seven units of profit they have earned in the first few weeks of the season.
The Pirates have been carried to their 11-4 start by a lineup that has been pounding the baseball to the tune of averaging 5.8 runs per game (4th in MLB) but their pitching is ranked 20th in the Majors with a 4.40 ERA, which indicates to me their starting pitching is not something I can rely on long-term, especially the back end of the rotation where Ivan Nova and Chad Kuhl have really struggled. They are outhitting their problems right now but that is not something the Pirates can keep up for the duration of a long 162 game baseball season.
I will be looking for opportunities to go against Pittsburgh at the first sight of the Pirates starting to trend in the other direction, which I believe is bound to happen in the not too distant future.
The five biggest money losers in MLB so far this season are:
Kansas City Royals 3-10 -6.15 units
Washington Nationals 7-9 -7.93 units
Tampa Bay Rays 3-12 -5.21 units
Los Angeles Dodgers 5-9 -9.93 units
Cincinnati Reds 2-13 -10.69 units
The Reds being at the very bottom of this list is not a massive surprise to this bettor. The Reds do not have a single starting pitcher they can count upon right now to eat up innings or keep the opposition at bay as the collective team ERA for Cincinnati is a brutal 5.83 so far this season. The bullpen has been heavily overworked and taxed already just three weeks into the season and that unit is struggling to get outs.
The Reds lineup has underachieved, ranking 30th in runs scored, averaging a paltry 2.93 runs per game, which is drastically worse than the expectations were prior to the season for the offense. The Reds along with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Kansas City Royals are all expected to be among MLB’s worst teams in 2018, which is why there is no real surprise to see them ranked near the bottom in profitability so far.
I am not rushing to back any of those three teams in the near future as in any sport, my motto is it’s very difficult to make $$ consistently betting on the very worst teams in any one sport. The two teams on this list expected to not only be good teams but World Series contenders as well are the Washington Nationals and LA Dodgers, who have started out 12-18 and lost over +17 units of profit combined for their backers.
The Dodgers have been victimized by an offense that hasn’t been clicking on all cylinders yet despite boasting hitters like Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig, while their starting pitching and bullpen has been OK but certainly not dominant or lights out. The combination has led to LA losing a ton of close games as five of the Dodgers’ nine losses have been by two runs or fewer.
I think there will be a little small turn upward in the Dodgers’ unit count even if they aren’t always priced reasonably when Clayton Kershaw, among others, is on the mound because as we saw last season, the Dodgers are fully capable of an extended red hot winning streak.
Washington is middle of the pack in both hitting and pitching so far and that has led to them burning $$ for their backers because you can’t survive being asked to lay larger prices routinely when your overall stats are mediocre as a team, and that is what we’ve seen from the Nationals.
The big three starters of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have been solid but their No. 4 and 5 starters have bombed and their bullpen has been problematic as well. On the flip side, their lineup has been inconsistent as they are averaging 3.8 runs scored per game.
LA and Washington are teams where I will only look for certain games and spots to back them in the future. Riding teams like the Nats and Dodgers, who are well respected in the betting markets, will not yield profits backing them on a game in and game out basis.