More than any other sport, baseball is a game of patience.
It’s not how you start, but where you finish. With a 162-game regular season, there is a lots of baseball left.
One year ago this week the eventual AL champion Tampa Bay Rays were 10-11, second to last in the AL East and looking up at three teams (Boston, NY, Baltimore) they would soon overtake. The eventual World Series champion Phillies were 11-11, looking up at the Marlins and Mets in the NL East.
The best record in baseball at the end of April was (sorry, Cub fans), Chicago. The Cubbies did make the playoffs, but didn’t come close to sniffing a rare World Series berth.
Oakland GM Billy Beane once said you spend the first third of the season seeing what you have and evaluating your team. The middle third trying to acquire pieces to fill weak spots and the final third watching the team try to make a run at the postseason.
In the same way GMs need patience when analyzing baseball, so do handicappers.
The Red Sox quietly began to turn things around after that dreadful start, winning seven in a row. Tim Wakefield started the roll with a much needed complete game win at Oakland, one that saved the bullpen, which was in tatters after an extra inning game the night before.
The Marlins have been the big surprise in the NL, third in runs scored, third in stolen bases and third in team ERA. However, consistency over the long haul is the real key.
Note that the young Marlins are ranked 14th in the NL in quality starts and just called up Burke Badenhop from Triple A New Orleans to replace starter Andrew Miller, who is on the 15-day disabled list.
Pitching depth and quality starts go a long way to stabilizing a staff and preventing long slides.
Surprises will emerge over a long season and offer smart bettors good value for their wagering dollar, even with individual players. After going 17-8 and 16-8 from 2004-05, Cardinals lefty Mark Mulder was expected to have a strong 2006 season.
Mulder was often installed as a favorite on such a good team, yet struggled badly with a 6-7 record and a 7.14 ERA. Arm trouble put him on the shelf. It can take a while before oddsmakers catch on to a struggling or injured pitcher.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Jim Fiest