by Josh Nagel - 09/04/2008
The past week or two has been a time of missed opportunity for Major League Baseball teams that have their sights set on winning their division and playing their optimal game as the postseason arrives. Instead, a slew of mini-slumps have kept the door open for other contenders who, coincidentally, have not been able to take advantage.
The White Sox and Twins have each failed to capitalize on numerous chances to run away with the American League Central, while the Cubs missed a golden chance to shut out the Brewers by hitting a rough patch right as the Brewers were doing the same. As usual out in the National League West, nobody seems too interested in laying claim to the division title.
Here is a look at some Major League Baseball betting trends through Sept. 3:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - Despite losing a couple of games to the back-to-the-wall desperate Yankees, the Rays still remain comfortably ahead in this division and had won five straight before the two-game skid. Behind the second-ranked pitching staff in MLB (3.70 ERA), Tampa has rewarded its bettors with an awesome return of 2,687 units on the season.
Baltimore Orioles - It's the favorite time of year for Orioles fans … another disappointing season is almost in the books and they can almost officially start talking about how things will get better next year. The team apparently already has mailed it in; the Orioles have dropped nine of 10 while being outscored 81-39 in the losses.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins - The sneakily good Twins lost a chance to make some serious strides toward winning this division by enduring a mini-slump at around the same time division rival Chicago suffered one of its own. Minnesota has dropped seven of 10, but there's a good chance the Twins could rebound in upcoming home series against Detroit and Kansas City. Those who stick with them might add to the 2,014-unit profit that Minnesota has delivered this season.
Detroit Tigers - The Tigers fought an uphill battle following a disastrous start to reach .500, and the effort seemed to take everything they had in them. It's been all downhill again since, with Detroit dropping 20 of 33 due largely to a pitching staff and defense that are among the worst in the majors. The result is an ugly -2,078 units of loss for its backers.
American League West
Texas Rangers - The Rangers continue their quest for baseball's most unlikely double play, leading the league in offense (5.45 runs per game) while offering the worst pitching in the majors (5.29 ERA). The fact that former All-Star-turned-journeyman Vicente Padilla is their staff "ace" with 12 wins, Texas has again proved that it is just a quality starter or five away from contending in this division.
National League East
New York Mets - Like their bullpen, the Mets have generally been unreliable for bettors this season and, if the past couple of seasons are any indication, they tend to save their worst for the last of the season. But just as they appeared headed toward their annual meltdown, the Mets somehow turned things around and have won four-straight and seven of 10. Although the streak has turned a season-long deficit into a 285-unit uptick on the year, you might want to take the money and run before the Phillies arrive for a big three-game series.
Florida Marlins - For a team that was a surprise early contender and is still mathematically alive, the Marlins continue to set new lows for fan "support." An estimated 600 warm bodies witnessed Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Braves. That's less than half of the 1,293 units they have netted bettors on the season, so at least they have that going for them.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs - As the Brewers were getting swept by the Mets, the Cubs had a chance to wrap up this division. Instead they have made things interesting with a five-game skid against Philadelphia and Houston during which they have been outscored 26-12. Look for their bats to get healthy in a three-game series against the Reds, but it might be best to wait for a banged-up pitching staff to heal before backing them with your cash.
Houston Astros - The Astros picked the wrong time to prove how impressive they can be when they get a little hitting to back up their solid pitching; but even so, their current eight-game winning streak is worth noting. Also worth mention is that the streak, while moving Houston to no better than fourth place in the division, has boosted its season profit to 1,997 for savvy bettors.
National League West
Colorado Rockies - The Rockies have won 12 of their last 18 but they are from salvaging a lost season following a dark horse run to last year's World Series. But with the NL West as bad as it is, it's not out of the question that the Rockies could play spoiler to the Diamondbacks or Dodgers down the stretch.