by Josh Nagel - 07/09/2008
With the All-Star break right around the corner, it's time to assess the big winners and losers of the first half of the season, and see what might be a prelude of things to come. Already, some teams are going into the "buy or sell" mode that determines whether they believe they can contend this year or must start building for the future. Of course, these big deadline trades will have an effect on the value of all teams.
With that in mind, here is a look at some Major League Baseball betting trends throughout the first half of the season:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - Not only the colossal surprise of the season, but now, at least record-wise, the Rays are the best team in baseball. What do you think the pre-season odds would have been of this statement being true by the midpoint of the season? While it remains to be seen if the young Rays can keep their poise in the thick of an intense pennant race, thus far they have been the gold mine for panning handicappers with a net win of 1,851 units.
New York Yankees - They have struggled under first-year manager Joe Girardi and, despite rising above the .500 mark and playing better of late, most indications are that they are a few good players - mainly starting pitchers - away from being a true contender. Overvalued by line makers and bettors, New York is a disappointing -929 units on the season.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox - They are about as erratic as their manager Ozzie Guillen's behavior, and it's a good thing they've won eight of 10 to stave off Minnesota's recent surge and stay in first place. This is a team that generally tends to defy handicapping sensibilities but, even so, they are up 1,342 units on the year.
Minnesota Twins - The Twins had won 18 of 20 before a recent slide against the Red Sox, but where did they come from? Similar to the Oakland A's, Minnesota always will dump high-priced players and outperform its projected talent level, but it seems just a few weeks ago the Twins were struggling to reach .500 and the division race was a foregone conclusion. Not anymore. Their recent burst has out them just a couple of games out of first and spiked up their season profit to 1,548 units.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - The Angels have an overachieving starting staff that has combined to go 38-21 and carry and offense that is 22nd in the league at 4.27 runs per game. If their starters can keep up this pace and the bats just pick up a little, this division is a lock and the Angels could be poised for an A.L. pennant run. Somewhat under the radar for odds makers - the -125 for Jon Garland against Toronto's Jesse Litsch was a steal last weekend - Anaheim, er Los Angeles, has rung up a tidy cash wad worth 1,154 units to its backers.
Texas Rangers - What the Rangers lack in pitching - and they lack a lot - they sometimes make up for in hitting. Such a wild disparity that they score a league-best 5.46 runs per game but have the 29th-ranked team ERA at 5.00. Their bad arms give them a nice edge on the betting line and when they score in bunches, they win, as do their bettors. Texas has a surprising profit of 1,259 units thus far.
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies - For a team with this potent of a lineup, the fact that the Phillies are just a few games over .500 and have not started to pull away with this division has to be considered a disappointment. The Phillies followed what is becoming a ritual thumping of the Braves in a three-game sweep by losing four straight, dropping their season result to -354 units for their supporters.
Florida Marlins - Just when it seemed you could start to buy into the idea of the Marlins contending this year, they took a precipitous dip and fell off the radar. Even so, despite losing four of their last six, they are ahead 978 units for the season. What's more, their 53-30-7 record against the over has brought in some nice cash for those believing in the high-scoring fish.
Chicago Cubs - Things were already well for the Cubs when they landed Rich Harden, which seems a little unfair and even excessive. But you know things are going in Chicago's favor when erstwhile journeyman Ryan Dempster earns 10 wins before the break. The Cubs' potent lineup is still second in the league at 5.36 runs per game. It all adds up to an NL-leading 1,241 units of cash for their backers.
St. Louis Cardinals - Their starting staff has overachieved and the lineup held together nicely despite some major injuries to keep the Cardinals in contention. But there are a couple of concerns: for instance, pleasant surprise Kyle Lohse, who has 10 wins, has been knocked around soundly a few times by the Cubs. This is a bad sign down the stretch, but even so, the upstart Cardinals have stuck nearly 1,200 units of cash into their backers' wallets.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks - This division is the baseball equivalent to the NBA's Eastern Conference, strengthening the argument to make the playoff format one in which the teams with best records get in regardless of their conference affiliation. It's likely that the "winner" of this division could finish below .500 and that is a sad sign on the state of the N.L. West. The Diamondbacks have collapsed after starting out of the gates fast; their slide has cost bettors 970 units.
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers are a maddening team if you are a fan or a bettor. This team appears to have the most talent in the division and a championship-caliber manager in Joe Torre. But their bad hitting seems to be contagious, and it has spoiled many a fine start from the rotation. Their offense scores 4.12 runs per game for 25th in the majors and even that number is a bit misleading because Los Angeles tends to score in bunches when it does score. If the Dodgers can make a move to acquire a productive hitter - one who still hits once he gets to L.A. - or their current lineup can finally come around, the Dodgers pitching staff (3.72 ERA, fifth in the majors) is more than respectable enough for this team to dominate the division.