by Josh Nagel - 07/24/2008
Now that the all-star break has come and gone and the trade deadline looms in the near future, we'll find out who the buyers and sellers are the rest of the season. For the most part, we already know.
Except, some surprises are always thrown in the mix; for instance, the Oakland A's continue to be sellers even though they don't have a whole lot more to sell. In the meantime, the American League West rival Los Angeles Angels have not only pulled away with the division, but they have quietly emerged as the best team in baseball.
Here is a look at some Major League Baseball trends through July 23.
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays have gotten back on track a little since their pre-All Star break seven-game skid, but it might not be saying much to beat up on the light hitting and undermanned A's. Even so, Tampa is back in first place, but given that the thick of the pennant race is yet to come, it might be a good idea to back off and see how the Rays handle the pressure.
New York Yankees - It seems like whenever the Yankees aren't in first place, they are at least looming somewhere very close behind. That hasn't been the case this year, when they have been in the cellar most of the time. However, it's true now. Thanks to a six-game winning streak and a recent surge in starting pitching, New York finds itself just a few games out of first place. The pitching, which has been the weak link, is encouraging; the Yankees gave up one run in three of their wins and have not allowed more than four.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins - The on-again, off-again Twins appear to be off again, having lost four in a row after winning five of six. It's been a season of unpredictable streaks for Minnesota, which is frustrating for the bettor, but to be expected from team ripe with youth in its lineup and pitching staff.
Detroit Tigers - It's been a slow climb back to respectability for the Tigers but, with wins in four straight and six of 10, they continue their quest and have jumped into the thick of the division race. Though its starting pitching still has struggled, the offense has surged with 5.02 runs per game, third in MLB.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - For a team based in Los Angeles - or at least the general region - the Angels seem to have gotten minimal press this year, despite the fact that they are emerging as the top team in the American League. Winners of seven of eight, the price to play has gone up a little, but values can still be found. The Angels covered nicely as a +110 home dog to Josh Beckett and the Red Sox last weekend, and the price was right the next night at -110 for Jon Garland against Tim Wakefield.
Oakland A's - The A's continue to unload players - Joe Blanton was shipped to Philadelphia, and Huston Street is rumored to be next - and the predictable result has been a free fall from contention. The A's have lost seven of eight and their woeful lineup has scored more than three runs just once in that span, an 8-1 win over Tampa Bay.
National League East
New York Mets - The surging Mets have won seven of 10 but, in their quest to wrestle control of the division, they seem to get in their own way an awful lot. A prime example was their colossal ninth-inning meltdown against the Phillies in an 8-6 loss. With an unreliable bullpen always a concern, they don't seem worth the high price that you'll be charged for Johan Santana, John Maine and Michael Pelfrey, which is a big reason why they are still down 400 units on the season for bettors.
Philadelphia Phillies - Fortunately for the Mets, the Phillies have been just as erratic, failing to capitalize on several chances to run away with the division. Their potent lineup has lost a little of its punch of late, dropping to 4.98 runs per game for sixth in the league, after leading MLB in runs scored for much of the season. In losing four of five at home to St. Louis and Arizona.
National League Central
Milwaukee Brewers - The red-hot Brewers, bolstered by the trade to acquire C.C. Sabathia, have reeled in seven straight wins and plenty of cash for their backers in the process. During the streak, they have won three times as a dog, and covered the run line in all but one as the chalk. It all adds up to a tidy profit for those investing in the Brew Crew, to the tune of a season profit of 1,091 units.
St. Louis Cardinals - The inconsistent Cardinals have lost three straight following a five-game winning streak. Their bats have cooled off a little, but their lack of a big-name starting pitcher still results in a pretty favorable line most of the time. A season profit of more than 1,100 units is pretty impressive for a team just 10 games over .500.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks - You would think at least one team in this division would have a winning record, if for no other reason than the fact that they have to play each other so often. But evidently this is not the case as the Diamondbacks, who were an early-season pleasant surprise, have tanked along with their NL West counterparts. Now a game under .500, their free-fall has cost anyone who stuck by them a hefty price, as they have turned in a season deficit of 1,073 units.
Los Angeles Dodgers - This is probably the division's most talented team, but also its biggest underachiever. While its starting pitching has been more than respectable (3.83 team ERA, sixth in the majors), its woeful offense isn't even as good as its 4.22 runs per game (24th in MLB) suggests. That's because when the Dodgers score, they do it in bunches, skewing their average. For instance, in their last four wins, they have scored 39 runs, but have just 14 total in their last six losses, indicating an inability to win close games. Their backers have lost 851 units for the season.