by Josh Nagel - 08/14/2008
With a nod to an economy that is nearing full-blown recession, it's fair to say baseball betting also can be a financial disaster if you are picking in all the wrong places. Interestingly, there is a bit of a regional phenomenon that's taking place. At least in the baseball world, things in the Midwest are looking up, while the West Coast is facing dire straits.
To illustrate: We'll call the National League Central the Gold Stock Division of Major League Baseball betting. The woeful Reds are the only team that hasn't turned a profit in the NL Central, and the division combined is ahead 3,356 units for the season.
By comparison, we'll call the NL West the Foreclosure and Repossession Division of MLB betting. This division has no team that has posted a season-long profit, and its members are a combined -7,688 units in arrears.
With this in mind, here are some MLB betting trends through Aug. 13:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays have gone from the surprise of the league to surprisingly consistent, both in their on-field performance and their return for bettors. Their rock-solid starting staff has carried the lineup of late, but the Rays are finding a way to get the job done and still find themselves atop the AL East. Seven wins in their last 10 have kept their season profit at a steady 1,928 units.
New York Yankees - Just when it seemed the Yankees had turned the corner, they are dealt a couple of setbacks and suffer another slide. Occasionally this looks like a veteran-laden team that mirrors manager Joe Girardi's tough attitude; other times they appear uncertain, and a team that is a year or two away from contending. The injury to Joba Chamberlain depletes an already-thin pitching corps. It's going to be a tough go the rest of the way for New York, which has lost seven of 10, but the Yankees are still worth a look if they have 15-game winner Mike Mussina or 12-game winner Andy Pettitte on the mound.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins -- Just when it looks like the Twins are ready to concede this division to the White Sox, they inevitably seem to come up with a big surge that keeps them in the race. This young team has been rewarding its money backers, too. The Twins are up 1,916 units on the year, and have cashed for an astounding 2,988 against the run line. In winning six of their last 10, the over has played in seven of those games.
Detroit Tigers - After fighting for several months to overcome their disastrous start, the Tigers finally got above .500 and suddenly burst into contention. However, they have since slid back down the mountain at a rapid pace. Detroit's inconsistent pitching hasn't been enough to carry its fourth-ranked offense, and it has lost seven of 10 including three straight to Toronto and two of three to division rival Chicago. Detroit's underachieving ways has costs its backers nearly 1,500 units.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - For a team that, record-wise, is the best in baseball, it's amazing how much value continues to be found for followers of this Angels club. Last week's home series against the Yankees was a bargain hunter's paradise; all three games offered a delightful price for the Angels, not the least of which was -125 for 10-game winner Jered Weaver against winless Ian Kennedy (0-4) of New York. The Angels won 10-5, and have covered the run line four times in their last six wins.
Oakland A's - It seemed to be just a matter of time before the A's inexperience, youth and lack of punch in the lineup caught up with them. That time is now. Oakland was a surprise contender early, but all indications were that it wouldn't last, and it hasn't. But it's also hard to believe the A's would fall this hard, this fast. They are 4-21 in their last 25 games and any bettors who have hoped things would turn around have been sent home broke. A profitable club for the first half of the season, Oakland's betting deficit has now reached four figures, to the tune of -1,007 for the year.
National League East
New York Mets - This sometimes feels like the division that nobody wants to win. The Mets have the higher expectations, but the Phillies often appear to be the more playoff-ready team. However, they have recently reversed roles, and they currently find themselves tied for the lead in the standings. The Mets have won six of 10 and their starting pitching is the main reason. John Maine has quickly turned into one of the National League's top starters, and the price has been right: he was just -125 for Tuesday's 12-0 win against the Nationals. Fellow young starter Michael Pelfrey also has emerged as a force.
Florida Marlins - The Marlins, despite sitting in third place, remain by far the big money winners in this division with a profit of nearly 1,700 units on the season. This is largely because they are a solid enough team to compete when they are a mild to significant dog, and they have an overachieving lineup. The profits can add up fast; in their past four wins, Florida was an underdog three times, and the victories netted gamblers 559 units.
National League Central
Milwaukee Brewers - The Brewers are refusing to let the Cubs run away with this division, but it is taking a Herculean effort to do so. The hot-and-cold Brewers are red-hot again, winning eight straight and covering the run line in seven of those. Although gamblers took a hit on Milwaukee during its post All-Star break skid, the cash has been put back in their pockets for those who had the patience for the team to come around. Milwaukee now has an uptick of 1,266 units on the season.
Houston Astros - This is a bit of a lost season for the Astros, who have a nice mix of young talent and experienced veterans, but suffered from injuries and inconsistency from its starting pitching and key hitters. They have taken out their season-long frustrations on the hapless Reds and Giants, resulting in a seven-game winning streak and a tidy 756-unit nugget for savvy bettors.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - Well, the Dodgers finally acquired the big bat they have long needed for a playoff run. They also have learned what it's like to have Manny Ramirez on your team. Of course, the good part was the immediate production that helped the Dodgers score 35 runs in their past seven games (five wins); the five runs per game is almost a run more than their season average. The other side was watching him bumble around in the outfield per his usual mode of operation for "defense," and his failure to take the field in the top of the ninth inning of a game the Dodgers were leading against the Phillies. He eventually stumbled onto the field half-dressed to many chuckles, but if his gaffes cost the Dodgers a playoff spot, it's unlikely anyone in Los Angeles is going to find it funny.
San Francisco Giants - For a while, the Giants had been one of baseball's best road teams, snapping off big wins as a pretty significant underdog in the opponent's park on a semi-regular basis. This trend has faded, as have all others that involve a Giants' victory. This isn't a huge surprise, as not much was expected of this club, but its 26-33 road record is still better than its awful 24-36 home mark. This is a bit unusual because AT&T Park, with its odd-shaped outfield and various quirks, had long provided a distinct advantage for the Giants.