by Josh Nagel - 09/25/2008
The Devil Rays are officially in, the Yankees are officially out, and the New York Mets are officially in the midst of their patented late-season meltdown. While the fate of the Rays and Yankees was not expected, you know when the Mets start doing their thing that the Major League Baseball playoffs must be just around the corner.
With this in mind, here is one final look at some MLB betting trends with particular emphasis on teams that have already made or are likely to make the postseason. This recap covers games through Sept. 24:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays just clinched the first postseason berth in franchise history, but they clearly are not satisfied with just reaching the playoffs. They are determined to win this division, and it has shown in four straight dominating wins against the Orioles in Baltimore. They finish with a four-game trip to Detroit which, for better or worse, just announced manager Jim Leyland will return next year. The Rays have won eight of 10 overall and covered the run line in seven of those. For the season, they are MLB's best money-fetching team at +3,030 units.
Boston Red Sox - Have to agree with those who criticized the Red Sox for their wild celebration the other night after simply clinching a playoff, which is looking more and more like it will be the AL's wild card. The frenzied celebration should at least have been reserved for a division title winner, which makes you wonder … did the Red Sox really have such low expectations this year? Or maybe they just like to celebrate? In order to catch the Rays and win the AL East, Boston needs some help from Tampa and likely needs to sweep the hated Yankees in the final series of the season. Good luck with that. Celebrating the last game at Yankee Stadium instead of a postseason appearance, you can be sure that the Yankees would love nothing better than to spoil Boston's bid for the division title, and they have a good chance of doing just that. The two teams are 6-6 in their last 12 meetings.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox - The White Sox had a chance to wrap up this division with this week's series against the Twins in Minnesota, but now cannot do so regardless of the outcome of Thursday's final game after losing the first two. That puts the impetus on the Sox to finish their season strong in a three-game homestand against the Indians this weekend. Chicago has posted a 10-5 record against the Tribe this season, but is just 6-10 in its last 16 overall. The White Sox have played under in seven of their last 10.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels - The Angels seemed to have dropped of the radar a tad ever since they clinched this division what feels like months ago. Despite resting some starters on a frequent basis and nursing a couple of injuries, the Angels have still won seven of their last 10 and shown how far ahead they are division foes Oakland, Seattle and Texas, as all of their wins over the past two weeks have been against those teams. The Angels' net profit of +2,214 is second-best in the majors to Tampa. This pitching-dominated club also has a surprising record of 85-63-8 against the under this season.
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies - This is the one division that both of the top contenders, the Phillies and Mets, refuse to take charge of, despite several chances to do so. Philadelphia appeared poised to finally take it down as New York started to stumble and the Phillies started to gain some momentum. But two straight home losses to the lowly Braves have done themselves no favors. However, a season-ending visit form the Nationals might be just what they need to wrap up the division. The good news for Philly backers is that the team is still playing relatively well, having won seven of eight before the recent two-game slide. Players like Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell, who have struggled with consistency, have been coming through in clutch spots in tight games of late, a good sign if Philadelphia finds a way to reach the playoffs.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs - Given a chance to take part in New York's annual downfall, the Cubs have happily obliged, winning two of the first three in the four-game series, including Wednesday's extra-inning affair. It's a good tune-up against a playoff-caliber club, and moves Chicago toward manager Lou Piniella's stated goal of hoping that both New York and Philadelphia are forced to win on the season's final day to reach the postseason, thus taxing their starting pitching staffs to the max. The Cubs finish with a three-game series at Milwaukee against a Brewers club still desperately clinging to wild-card hopes. The Cubs are 8-6 against the Brewers this season, and have taken six of the last seven meetings.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - Barring some sort of last-minute catastrophe, which isn't out of the question in this rag-tag division, the Dodgers should take home this division title if they manage just a win or two in their last four games. They play one more against the Padres before traveling to San Francisco for a three-game tilt with the Giants. Although this team has performed well below its talent level and expectations this year, the Dodgers picked the right time to heat up and snag this up-for-grabs division. They have won 17 of their last 22, bolstered by the addition of Manny Ramirez to what had been a lackluster lineup. They have long had a playoff-quality starting staff, which should make them dangerous against whomever they face in the postseason.