by Josh Nagel - 04/16/2008
Streak betting can be a valuable tool in Major League Baseball, even early in the season. Although teams tend to win or lose in bunches after the All-Star break - at which point some are making moves to improve their rosters for a playoff run and others are having a fire sale to rebuild - it's never too early to keep an eye out for a good streak to back.
Baseball streaking means getting behind or going against any team that has won or lost three games in a row. Once you have observed that a team really is hot or cold -- thus the three-game wait -- you then ride the streak on or against them until it ends, and sometimes this betting strategy can produce spectacular results.
Granted, a few games into the streak you probably will be laying a decent price the rest of the way, because your streaking winner will be favored, and your streaking loser will be going up against a chalk. Even so, it's a small price to pay when the streak ends for what might amount to a considerable win along the way.
There are usually at least a couple of double-figure streaks per season, from both the winning and losing sides. Already this season, there have been two major losing streaks of note: Detroit's seven-game skid to start the season and Washington's nine-game slide.
If you had been fortunate to latch on to these early-season losers, the reward was substantial; from losses No. 4 through No. 9 for Washington, you could have pocketed approximately 650 units, for a net win of 550 after losing the 10th game (Washington's streak-breaking win). Going against the Tigers would have rung up a tidy profit of 520 units in just four games (about 400 net after adjusting for Detroit's streak-ending win), the number elevated by the fact that Detroit was favored in each of the final three losses to the White Sox, netting bettors plus-money in each contest.
So with this concept in mind, pay attention to the standings in your newspaper and keep an eye open for whenever the streak column reads W3 or L3. If you jump on it right then, there's a good chance you'll see the benefit of this betting strategy. For what it's worth, it says here that in the American League, a good candidate for a winning streak likely is the New York Yankees, while you can expect the Oakland A's to cool a bit, perhaps to the point of a serious losing streak. In the National League, don't be surprised to see the Florida Marlins crash hard in the near future, while the Philadelphia Phillies appear primed to break out with a win streak.
Here is a look at a few other trends around MLB (all stats and analysis come from games played through April 14):
American League East
Baltimore Orioles - Although the Orioles are 6-1 at home and up a hefty 377 units for the season, a good test will come this week with a home stand against the White Sox and Yankees, teams they have struggled with in the recent past. Don't be surprised to see them drop three of four here.
New York Yankees - The under is 11-3 for the Yankees, and you have to think that is destined to change with a lineup energized by the return of Derek Jeter and some likely high-scoring affairs on the horizon against the Red Sox and Orioles. Same goes for the Red Sox, who are 6-7-1 against the over so far, but appear to be breaking out of their early-season hitting slump.
American League Central
Kansas City Royals - An early-season surprise at 8-5 and up 555 units, there's no telling whether the Royals can continue their winning ways. However, their young pitching staff should continue to keep them in a lot of games, which has led to an 11-2 mark vs. the under. This is a trend likely to keep up.
Minnesota Twins - The retooled Twins, minus Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, might be an interesting team to keep an eye on. If veteran Livan Hernandez can build on his hot start and Francisco Liriano can realize some proverbial potential, there might be some good values on the Twins, particularly at home, where they have historically overachieved.
American League West
Oakland A's - The A's will never be as bad as they appear on paper, though the trades of recently signed Nick Swisher and Dan Haren are still baffling. Even so, the A's somehow have mustered a 9-6 start worth 595 units, largely on a streak of six wins in road games, including a sweep of Toronto. Their team ERA of 3.35 is fifth-best in the league, and they are 9-5-1 against the under.
Seattle Mariners - If the Mariners can get healthy - major acquisition Erik Bedard already is battling an injury - they have enough starting pitching to do a lot of damage in the American League. Bedard, Felix Hernandez and Jerrod Washburn are enough to carry what so far has been an underachieving lineup.
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies - The Phillies have too talent-rich of a lineup to be lingering around the middle of the league in most offensive categories, as they have done thus far. This week's homestand against the Astros and Mets looks to be a prime opportunity for them to breakout a bit.
Atlanta Braves - Something has to give in Atlanta's three-game series against Florida, with both teams heading into the series 4-1 in their last five against division opponents. If the Braves' pitching can come around a bit to help the league's third-best offense, this could be the week that Atlanta starts to turn things around.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs - The Cubs have shown some signs of life in winning six of their last eight to climb above .500. They have winnable home series this week against the Reds and Pirates. Starting pitchers such as Ted Lilly and Jon Lieber need to come around a little to complement an offense that appears to be on the rise.
Pittsburgh Pirates - The Pirates are a surprising +239 units to the good thanks to a four-game win streak that has been the product of, in a major surprise, timely hitting, the likes of which hasn't been seen in Pittsburgh since about 20 years and four hat sizes ago for Barry Bonds. It will be interesting to see how if a solid young pitching staff is helped by last year's head-scratching, late-season pickup of the enigmatic Matt Morris, who can be fearsome when at the top of his game. However, he has appeared past his prime the past couple of seasons.
National League West
San Diego Padres - Look for the acquisition of Greg Maddux to be a huge factor in the success of the Padres this season. His veteran presence, not to mention his ability to still shut down an opponent as he did in Sunday's 1-0 shutout of the Dodgers, will be key for the Padres, who appeared to be just about one good veteran player away from breaking out last year. Randy Wolfe adds another potentially savvy veteran to the rotation.
Colorado Rockies - The Rockies appear to have been hit hard by the post-World Series blues, as they are ranked near dead last in the league in every pitching category (never a huge surprise for them) but also near the cellar in all offensive categories (this was not expected). However, wins like Sunday's 13-5 romp over Arizona can sometimes steer a team in the right direction; road series this week against the Padres and Astros will prove to be a major test.