Baseball is a game of stats and streaks. The Orioles started 7-7 and 23-21 before getting it together. Now they are battling Boston for first place.
Cleveland got off to a 5-10 start before playing some impressive baseball, while the Dodgers started 7-4 with their “super payroll team” before falling apart and settling into last place.
Last year the Yankees started 0-3 and 21-21, with all kinds of problems with pitching, before turning things around and winning the division. Five years ago the Tigers started the season losing seven straight games, despite being favored in the first five.
The Angels went 14-1 UNDER the total that May when their offense was banged up.
In 2009 the Florida Marlins started 11-1 before going in a massive funk, not even coming close to the postseason.
There will be all kinds of streaks over the course of a 162-game season: Consecutive shutout innings thrown by pitchers, a batter hitting safely in X number of games, or consecutive saves by a closer.
Last year at this time R.A. Dickey of the Mets was dazzling NL hitters with his knuckler, including back-to-back one-hitters. This year? Let’s just say things haven’t been the same in the AL East for him.
You will see 10-game win streaks, 10-game losing streaks, pitchers ripping off seven straight wins, teams losing four straight one-run games. All these add to the excitement and interest in the game.
From a betting perspective, streaks need to be approached with a careful eye and a cautious head. Playing against “the law of averages” is no way to wager.
For example, some bettors think, “This team has won nine in a row, therefore it is time to bet against them, as they are due for a losing streak.” This doesn’t work in the world of 11-to-10.
A little perspective: one year ago the Giants were 46-40, losing 7 of 9 heading into the All-Star break. Do you need to be reminded how they did in October? Two years ago this week the Cardinals were 41-38 after dropping their third in a row. They won the whole thing in October.
Three years ago at this time the Giants lost seven straight games and 13 of 18. They didn’t look like postseason material while sitting at 40-39, but put it all together down the stretch for a World Series title.
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox played close to .500 baseball much of the season from May through mid-August. Starting on Aug. 16, the Sox won six in a row.
If you supported the law of averages, you might conclude that the Sox would be due for several losses and bet against them.
In fact, they did lose – 3-0 to Toronto ending that streak – only to then go on a 10-game win streak.
When that streak ended, they won nine of the next 12 games. The “anticipated” losing streak never arrived. Simply put, the law of averages can’t predict what is going to happen the next game, or the next 10.
This year’s LA Angels have talent, but have been huge underachievers. Some teams can slip out of a funk that has gone on for months, as the 2004 Red Sox did, and begin to play very well, while others do not. In fact, that is the point – there are almost always tangible reasons why a team goes on hot or cold streaks, more so than the law of averages.
The Angels have had pitching problems; note that the OVER is 25-10-2 when they face the AL West. Washington has offensive problems, though the Nationals are 14-6 OVER the total as a favorite.
Sometimes injuries can play a role, especially if an ace pitcher is out, and other times teams go into a collective hitting or pitching slump, like the 2011 Red Sox in September.
Remember the start of the 1988 season when the Baltimore Orioles lost their first 21 games? Sports bettors playing the law of averages hoping the Orioles were “due to win” blew out their betting bankrolls before May 1.
Overall, it is better to ride a hot team or continue to bet against a cold team, than to rely on the law of averages and simply bet the other way.
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]