by Josh Nagel - 06/25/2008
It's an interesting coincidence that the Philadelphia Phillies can lose six straight and still be in first place, while the Kansas City Royals can win seven straight and still find themselves in dead last. It basically indicates that we're far enough along in the season that a short-term variation on a good or bad team should not be an indicator of permanent change in their long-term value.
Here are some MLB trends through June 25:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - Perhaps inevitably, the Rays have fallen out of first place in the American League East. However, they show no signs of falling out of contention for good. After a recent mini-slide, they have rebounded to win seven of 10, including a three-game home sweep of the Cubs and taking two of three from the Astros. For those who have kept the faith, Tampa Bay has rewarded its backers with a season profit of 1,256 units.
Toronto Blue Jays - After the Blue Jays had showed signs of turning things around, an ugly seven-game skid cost manager John Gibbons his job. This wasn't much of surprise, considering the club has woefully underachieved during a season in which it had the talent to contend. Toronto called on a blast from the past in naming two-time World Series winner Cito Gaston to replace Gibbons. How much of a difference he makes remains to be seen. But the good news is, Toronto's stagnant offense went for 22 hits and 14 runs in a win over the Reds on Tuesday, so perhaps that is a good start.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins - Just when it looked like the erstwhile lifeless Twins might be out of contention for good, their starting pitching has come to life, and they have won seven straight and nine out of 10. During this streak, they have given up three or fewer runs eight times and the most they have allowed is four. This recent surge has put them at an uptick of nearly 1,000 units for their backers, and they are now just a couple of games behind the erratic White Sox in this division.
Kansas City Royals - Tapping into the starting pitching that got them off to an optimistic start, and finally scoring some runs to go with it, the Royals have won seven straight and nine of 10. During a 5-0 road streak last week that included two wins against Arizona and a sweep of St. Louis, the Royals put 612 units of cash in the wallets of their bettors, nearly drawing to even on the season. In four-straight wins over the Giants and Rockies, the league's 27th-ranked offense has scored 31 runs.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - The first-place Angels have won five-straight to widen their lead in this division, and they are doing it with starting pitching. They have allowed three runs or fewer in each of their last five games. Joe Saunders leads the way with a record of 11-3 and a 3.03 ERA, but no starter on this staff has fewer than seven wins. Their team ERA of 3.85 ranks seventh in MLB, and they have turned a tidy profit of 1,307 units to their backers on the season.
Texas Rangers - It seems like the Rangers have followed a pattern of win-loss-win-loss for about a month now, which, accordingly, has allowed them to hang on with a record exactly at .500 for the season. However, they have turned in a solid profit of 701 units for the season, which shows that they have enough punch in their lineup to take the cash as a significant underdog from a quality starter form time to time. For instance, they took +140 for an 8-7 road win against the Mets June 15, with Kevin Millwood throwing against John Maine.
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies - There's no "o" in Philadelphia, at least for the time being. After a torrid surge that saw them catapult to the top of MLB in offensive production, the Phillies have scored just 11 runs combined during their current six-game losing streak. They have lost eight of 10 overall, and it might be a good idea to stay away until there's clear evidence that their bats have picked up for good. They are now down 130 units on the season.
New York Mets - It's amazing how many people evidently were angling for this job once the inevitable ousting of Willie Randolph became a reality. They ranged from former Mets great Gray Carter, who is rumored to be coaching an independent A-level team somewhere between Bakersfield and Tijuana, to Jerry Manuel, the on-staff recycled retread of a manager who they handed the job. Nice touch of class by Manuel, who claimed he was a "gangster" and threatened to "cut" Jose Reyes after he and the player had an angry exchange. Randolph's assertions that Manuel was stepping on his toes probably are true, but the best thing Randolph can do is let it go. He's better off without them.
National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals - What appears to be a makeshift starting staff continues to overachieve - who would have thought Kyle Lohse would have nine wins already? - and the Cardinals lineup has held together admirably during the absence of Albert Pujols to injury. Two road wins at Boston and another in Detroit as a huge underdog raked in 553 units, and pumped up the season profit to 1,256 units for St. Louis backers.
Milwaukee Brewers - The Brewers have quietly won eight of 10 and have gotten a boost from their starting staff, which has allowed four runs or fewer in each of the eight wins. There some thin values to be had on Milwaukee, as it sometimes seems that the Brewers don't get a whole lot of respect. For instance, last Saturday they were just -120 at home for Seth McClung at home against Daniel Cabrera of Baltimore. The pitching match-up was close to even, but the Brewers are 25-13 at home this season, making the line an easy value in their favor.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers are down 1,032 units on the season and it's no mystery as to why. They have one of the most plodding, anemic offenses seen in recent memory, and you can't trust them to do enough to bring home the cash even when they have a clear advantage in the pitching matchup. Even their 4.20 runs per-game average is misleading, as they tend to score runs in bunches when the outcome already has been decided. Their median output is about one run per game.
San Francisco Giants - If the Giants hadn't found a way to snatch defeat from the hands of victory twice in Kansas City, and taken just one game from the A's at home in the Bay Bridge series, they would be just a few games out of first place in this awful division. But alas, the Giants are bad enough to collapse against teams like the Royals, which means there's probably no team in this division capable of taking advantage of Arizona's collapse from having a firm grip on the NL West.