by Josh Nagel - 04/24/2008
With the Major League Baseball season now a few weeks old, the direction in which most teams are headed is taking a more definitive form.
The Red Sox and Cubs, two popular picks to reach the World Series, have each heated up with big winning streaks, while teams such as the Royals and Pirates, who had nice early-season surges, have settled into their familiar comfort zone at the bottom of the standings. However, for teams like the Phillies and Indians, a couple of popular dark horse picks who have yet to play to their potential, it might be too early to say where their season is headed, although neither has met expectations yet.
Here is a look at some trends around the league through April 22:
American League East
Boston Red Sox - The red-hot Sox have won six straight and nine of 10. The unfortunate result for their backers is a price such as -170 against Jon Garland and the division-leading Angels. While they are up 832 units for the season, the Red Sox are -225 units on the run line, so don't go trying to lay off some of the juice by spotting the opposition 1.5 runs.
Tampa Bay Rays - Now that he has been signed to a long-term contract, third baseman Evan Longoria officially has become the second highest-paid E. Longoria in the country. He's also the second-best known … and second-best looking. Meanwhile, the Rays are 9-11 straight up and against the over.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox - The White Sox are ranked third in the league in runs per game at 5.42, and it's hard to find a weak spot in their lineup. However, their team batting average of .247 (23rd in the league) seems perplexing. Javier Vasquez has three wins to lead a revamped rotation, whose 3.74 ERA is seventh in the league.
Kansas City Royals -- A solid young pitching staff hasn't been enough for the slumping Royals, who have lost five straight. For one, they have only scored 12 runs in this span. But perhaps a bigger problem is that the player who was signed to be the leader of the rotation, Gil Meche, has been disastrous in his last two outings. Their woeful offense has led to a 14-6 record against the under.
American League West
Seattle Mariners - If the Mariners can get a little more hitting - they are in the bottom third of the league in almost every offensive category -- to go with what is an underrated starting rotation (Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva), they could become the frontrunner in this division. Look for a good week with a homestand against the Orioles and A's.
Texas Rangers - It used to be that the Rangers at least had a high-powered lineup that would sometimes offset its awful pitching. Such isn't the case this season; the Rangers rank 28th in ERA and 30th in strikeouts, but their four runs per game is 25th in the league.
National League East
New York Mets - The Mets have cooled off with three straight losses following a five-game win streak. They have scored just six runs during the losing streak, but a staff ERA of 3.56 (fifth in the league) has kept them afloat.
Philadelphia Phillies - Disappointing homestand last week against the Astros and Mets in which the Phillies went 3-3, including losses in two of three to the division rival Mets. But they have shown signs of turning it around with three straight wins.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs - The surging Cubs have won five straight and eight of nine, and they have produced a win of +586 units for their backers, which is third-best in the National League. Their offense got healthy with beatdowns of the Reds and Pirates last week, putting them at the top of the league with 6.30 runs per game.
Houston Astros - The goods news is that when the Astros win, they win big. Despite a struggling pitching staff (4.60 ERA, No. 23 in the league) and an inconsistent lineup, the Astros are up +621 units against the run line, even though they are down -279 units straight up. Go figure.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks - With the best record in the majors at 15-5, the Diamondbacks also lead MLB with +872 units won for their backers. However, it's going to be hard to find a good price on them from now on, especially against the weak competition in the division. For example, Brandon Webb drew a steep price of -260 Monday night against former All-Star Barry Zito and the Giants. When Webb or Dan Haren take the mound for Arizona at home, it's probably not worth the risk.
Colorado Rockies - When betting a Rockies game in Colorado, it's always worth considering the run line. In years past, this meant whether you were betting on or against the Rockies because the absurd amount of offense produced at Coors Field led to very few one-run games. This season, however, the road chalk appears to have added value; in each of Colorado's five home losses, the Rockies have lost by at least two runs.