The 2014 season is just five weeks old and teams have played just under a fifth of the 162 game schedule so it is still too early to form solid conclusions about how the Divisional races will turn out.
But there are a couple of Divisions that have shown to be incredibly competitive over these first five weeks. And both are the Eastern Divisions in each league.
The New York Yankees started this week at 16-14 but that record was good enough to lead the AL East. Last place Toronto trails the Yankees by just 2½ games with a 14-17 record.
That difference between first and last is not the smallest of the six Divisions. Atlanta leads the NL East with a 17-13 record but is just 1½ games ahead of last place Miami. The Marlins started the week 16-15, meaning that all 5 teams in the Division had winning records through Sunday.
The best record in the NL belongs to Milwaukee. Although just 5-5 over their last 10 games, the Brewers’ 21-11 record puts them just ahead of the San Francisco Giants who stand 20-11.
To the surprise of few Detroit has the best record in the American League at 17-9. Several rainouts have the Tigers playing the fewest number of games of any of baseball’s 30 teams. They are the only team in the AL Central that started this week with a winning record.
At 19-12 Oakland has the second best record in the AL and sits atop the West. What is interesting about the Athletics is that their schedule has been tilted heavily towards road games early in the season. Oakland is just 6-6 at home but a very strong 13-6 away.
Miami has baseball’s most lopsided home/road split. The Marlins are a major league best 14-5 at home but also an MLB worst 2-10 on the road. Winning on the road is an important factor as to how far a team can go in chase of a title. Two other teams have also started very strongly on the road as both Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers are 12-5. However, the Dodgers are just 6-9 at Chavez Ravine.
Thus it comes as no surprise that Milwaukee has been the most profitable team at the betting windows this season, showing a profit of just over 11 net units to date. San Francisco is next at just under 9 but then parity is in evidence.
The third most profitable team to date has been the New York Mets, at +4.8 net units. In fact, 11 teams have shown profits of less than 5 units and another 10 teams have net losses of less than 5.
Only two teams have produced losses of more than 7½ net units, topped by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Snakes are neck and neck with Houston for baseball’s worst record and their 11-23 record has translated to a loss of 12.4 net units. The second most costly team has been Pittsburgh. The Pirates’ 12-19 record has translated to a loss of 9.8 net units.
Houston is just 10-21 but by usually being heavy underdogs they have rewarded backers with some nice payoffs in their 10 wins. But even those hefty payoffs can’t offset the losing tickets arising from their 21 losses and the Astros are down 5.1 net units for the season.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.
St. Louis at Pittsburgh: These NL Central rivals are meeting for their third series of the young season. Pittsburgh won 2 of 3 at home in early April and the Cardinals won 2 of 3 in St. Louis three weeks later. After the first two games produced an OVER and a push, the last four have all stayed UNDER. In fact, after Pittsburgh won the first game against St. Louis 12-2, the next five games have produced just 25 runs — an average of 5 per game. Pitching is the strength of both teams and although the Pirates’ offense was expected to be below average St. Louis’ bats have also struggled. The Cardinals are averaging just 3 runs per game on the road. The UNDER and the underdog should provide the best opportunities for profit in this series
Plays: Pittsburgh +140 or more against Adam Wainwright, +130 or more against Michael Wacha or +110 or more against other St. Louis starters; St. Louis -130 or less in starts by Wainwright or Wacha or as underdogs of any price against any Pittsburgh starter; UNDER 7½ or higher in any matchup; OVER 6½ or lower in starts not involving Wainwright or Wacha.
SF at LA Dodgers: The Giants have won 4 of the prior 6 games, taking the first two games of each of their two game series. The three games in LA each went OVER, averaging 9.7 rpg. The three in San Francisco all stayed UNDER, averaging just 3.7. This is a 4-game series starting Thursday. Both teams’ strengths are starting pitching and the Dodgers are the better offensive team. The Giants will be without co-ace Matt Cain who is on the DL. The Dodgers should have their ace, Clayton Kershaw, back after missing more than a month. He may start Sunday’s series finale if he has no issues in Tuesday’s outing at Washington. H J Ryu is also on the DL for the Dodgers who have had to start 8 different pitchers already this season.
Plays: Dodgers -125 or less in starts by Kershaw, Zach Greinke or Dan Haren not opposing Madison Bumgarner or Tim Hudson; Dodgers +130 or more against Bumgarner or Hudson; Giants -120 or less in a start by Bumgarner or Hudson against any Dodgers starter or -130 or less not facing Kershaw, Greinke or Haren; UNDER 7 or higher if Bumgarner or Hudson face Kershaw, Greinke or Haren; OVER 7½ or lower if none of those 5 starters are involved.
Boston at Texas: In their only prior meeting Boston took 2 of 3 at home in early April. Both teams are noted for offense but each is actually performing at a below average level. The Rangers are averaging just 4.1 rpg at home and Boston just 3.7 on the road. In fact, in 13 road games the Sox have played 9 UNDER, 3 OVER and 1 push. Texas is just 8-7-1 to the OVER at home. Lefty Jon Lester has been Boston’s most effective starter although both John Lackey and Jake Peavy have also fared well. Yu Darvish is the ace of the Texas staff and has pitched well. Martin Perez has also been a pleasant surprise and has stats that rival Darvish. Perez has averaged 7.1 innings per start, tied for fourth best among all starting pitchers.
Plays: UNDER 7½ or higher if Darvish or Perez faces Lester, Lackey or Peavy; OVER 8½ or lower if none of those 5 starters is involved; Boston as underdogs of any price not facing Darvish or Perez or -120 or less in starts by Lester, Lackey or Peavy not opposing Darvish or Perez; Texas -130 or less in starts by Darvish or Perez against any Boston starter or -140 or less against Felix Doubront; Texas +125 or more in any matchup.
Washington at Oakland: Washington is hindered by the absence of rising start Bryce Harper due to injury. The Nationals have been stronger on the road, averaging 4.9 rpg with the OVER going 10-4. Oakland has long been known as having a pitcher’s ball park and there have been slightly more UNDERS (7) than OVERS (5) this season. The Athletics have been far less productive at home (3.3 rpg) than on the road (5.7 rpg). The Washington staff is anchored by Stephen Strasburg but Gio Gonzalez is actually off to the better start. And the staff should be even stronger when Doug Fister, acquired from Detroit in the off season, makes his 2014 debut which could be in this series. Oakland has gotten outstanding efforts from Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jess Chavez. Each has an ERA less than 2.15 and a WHIP below 1.20 while averaging over 6 innings per start. That has enabled the bullpen to be effective.
Plays: Oakland as underdogs of any price against Strasburg or Gonzalez in starts by Gray, Kazmir or Chavez; Oakland -120 or less against other Washington starters; Washington as underdogs of any price not facing Gray, Kazmir or Chavez; UNDER 7 or higher in matchups of Strasburg or Gonzalez against Gray, Kazmir or Chavez; OVER 7½ or less if none of those five 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]