by Josh Nagel - 08/21/2008
With the regular season winding down and the pennant races heating up, this is a good time to hone in on a few teams that should bring in good money down the stretch. The teams that added a key player near the trade deadline, and are clearly serious about contending, historically play with a greater sense of urgency and intensity by comparison to those who didn't. Some of this already has taken shape, as teams such as the Dodgers and White Sox appear to be playing with a renewed intensity.
Here is a look at some Major League Baseball trends through Aug. 19:
American League East
Boston Red Sox - Although Boston still trails the surging Rays in the AL East pennant race, the Red Sox have done their part to stay close in the division and remain the frontrunner for the wild-card berth. The Red Sox have covered the run line in each of their last seven wins, pushing them over .500 for the year against the run line and boosting their season result to a 442-unit win against the run line.
Toronto Blue Jays - Just think, if the Blue Jays competed in the National League West, their 65-60 record would be good enough for a first-place tie. Unfortunately for them, it's only good enough for fourth place in the AL East and a spot on the sidelines during the playoffs. Even so, there might be bright days ahead for this team if they can add a few bats to augment the majors' best team ERA (3.60). Toronto pitchers, particularly ace Roy Halladay, seem to benefit from nice values, especially on the road. Halladay was better than even money last week in Boston against Paul Byrd, and the Jays rolled to a 4-1 win.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox - While it's not exactly stunning news that the White Sox have won eight of 10 while beating up on the likes of the Royals, A's and Mariners, it's certainly better than the alternative. They have covered the run line in seven of those wins, defraying some of the juice for the risk-taking types, and the profit has brought their season-long run-line profit up to a whopping 2,041 units.
Cleveland Indians - This season's official fire sellers of the American League, and one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this season, the Indians are squarely out of contention after trading Casey Blake and Paul Byrd and packing it in for the season around the All-Star break. They have been on a bit of a run by winning seven of 10, but your best bet with this club is to try and find a nice price when 17-game winner Cliff Lee takes the mound. There was a good one lurking earlier this week when was just -125 at home against Jered Weaver and the Angels, bringing home the cash with a 3-2 win.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - The Angels have tumbled a bit in losing five of six, but you can't fault them for dropping a couple of games to a Tampa team that is desperate to make the most of its first run at a postseason berth. One trend worth noting is that the Angels' overachieving pitching staff has been the hallmark of this club, which previously was noted for its explosive lineup but has been inconsistent this year. This is at least partly responsible for their 50-67-7 record against the under.
National League East
New York Mets - For the longest time, it did not look as if the Mets were the prime candidate to take control of this division. Strangely, it's appearing that way all the time. While they have been helped by a steady starting staff that is 41-29 on the year (not including oft-injured Pedro Martinez's 4-3 mark), it's no secret that New York's bullpen is a bunch squarely capable of snatching defeat form the jaws of victory and taking your cash in the process. The good news is, the Mets have covered the run line in five of their last seven wins, temporarily putting this concern on hold.
Florida Marlins - With no clear-cut frontrunner emerging in this division, the Marlins have failed to take advantage of the opportunity to grab it themselves. They dropped four of seven to the Cubs and Cardinals in their latest homestand. Slumping offense was a problem, as they scored just 17 runs in those seven games and watched their once-potent offense dip to 17th in the majors at 4.64 runs per game.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs - The Cubs have continued their torrid pace, and put some distance between themselves and the Brewers, by winning eight of 10. They have covered the run line in six of those, and played over in seven. Their run-line profit of 1,911 units has now eclipsed their straight-up mark of 1,747 units, suggesting that it's worth laying the 1.5 runs every now and then.
St. Louis Cardinals - Although they appear to have dropped out of contention, at least for the division title, the Cardinals always seem to stick around just when it seems they have faded for good. They have taken the money in five of their last eight games, cashing three times as an underdog. For the season they have turned in a tidy profit of 1,292 units.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks - The plodding Diamondbacks at least showed some fight when they acquired Adam Dunn to offset the Dodgers' acquisition of Manny Ramirez. Dunn's presence in the lineup has provided some punch that Arizona was sorely lacking; the Diamondbacks have scored 48 runs in their last six wins, a sign of encouragement for their starting staff that been increasingly pressured to throw shutouts if they stood any chance of winning.