by Josh Nagel - 05/08/2008
Enough time has passed in the Major League Baseball season that you can now comfortably lock in on certain teams and players and take out some of the guesswork. It seems like it takes about a month or so for things to settle down in the baseball season. Early on, it's like a game of poker; you work with incomplete information and a lot of your decisions are based on educated speculation based on what you know.
But now the teams have flipped their cards up on the table, so although there will of course be aberrations and exceptions over a 162-game season, a good 30 games or so allows you dismiss fluky starts from certain players and teams, and this break-in period helps reveal who will bring home the money.
Here is a look at some MLB trends through May 6:
American League East
Boston Red Sox - It isn't too much of a surprise that the Red Sox continue to roll along, winning five straight to surge ahead in the division. What has been a mild surprise is that the price has been right in many of these games, including a steal at around -155 for Josh Beckett against Tampa Bay upstart James Shields last weekend. Prices in the -110 range are definitely worthwhile at Detroit, and the Sox have covered the run line in five-straight as well.
Baltimore Orioles - The slumping O's have lost five in a row, and the only questions is whether their annual May-June slide will be bad enough to eliminate them from playoff contention by the all-star break. With an offense that ranks in the bottom fourth in the league in almost every category, this is probably a safe bet. Their current losing streak could turn into a double-figure delight.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins - The Twins are up 200 units for the season thanks to a five-game surge in which they swept the Tigers and White Sox at home last week. The value was tremendous; the Twins were dogs in two of those games, and the steepest price was -130 for Nick Blackburn against Chicago's Nick Massett. Although home field probably means less in baseball than any other sport, tell that to the Twins, who are 11-6 at home against a 5-9 road mark.
Detroit Tigers - Just when it looked like things were turning around for the Tigers, the momentum halted with an ugly five-game losing streak during which Detroit has been outscored 33-11. A team ERA of 5.04 (28th in the majors) hasn't helped out the struggling offense, and the result has been an ugly slide.
American League West
Anaheim Angels - The Angels have won four straight and covered the run line in two of those as a chalk; they also beat the Royals as a mild dog to Kansa City starter Brian Bannister. With a pending road series against the Rays and a home stand against the struggling White Sox, this could be the start of a significant hot streak.
Oakland A's - Surprisingly, there hasn't been a lot of value on the overachieving A's, who have been laying huge prices at home against teams like Texas, which took the gratuitous underdog money in two of three. The stats show that the A's are a much better bargain when not much is expected of them. They are up a stunning 896 units for the season; perhaps the only more impressive stat is that they are up a whopping 990 units against the run line. Most of that cash is earned when Oakland is a dog.
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies - With Chase Utley off to an MVP-like start and career underachiever Pat Burrell finally earning his paycheck, it feels like the Phillies should be better than their 19-15 mark and 6-4 in their last 10. But there should be some pretty good value on this team and its explosive lineup during its current West Coast trip. Look for nice, smallish chalk prices against the weak-hitting Giants.
Atlanta Braves - This is another team that appears to be better than its 16-15 record, with Chipper Jones having what might be a career year and the Braves ranking in the top five in both runs scored and ERA. It's been inconsistent bullpen work that has thwarted them thus far, but if they get that taken care of, this could be a breakout year. Their penchant for losing close games is reflected in an overall loss of 261 units for the season, but a stunning +1,123 units to the good against the run line.
National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals - If you saw Rick Ankiel throw out two Colorado runners at third base from the warning track, suddenly letting go of aging veteran Jim Edmonds doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Although they took two of three from the Cubs over the weekend, the Cardinals starters each looked a little shaky at times.
Cincinnati Reds - The Reds have dropped six of eight to fall to 14-21 and you have to wonder if Dusty Baker doesn't wish he were back in the comfort of the analyst's booth at ESPN. But given its extremely erratic starting staff and an offense ranked in the bottom third in most categories, and you have to conclude that Reds are playing about as well as could be expected.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers have won eight of nine to climb above .500 and, surprisingly, it's been the offense that has carried the club. But it also doesn't hurt when you play the Marlins and Rockies.
San Diego Padres - The anemic Padres have scored just 18 runs in their last seven losses, and are 3-7 in their last 10. They rank near last in almost every offensive category, which is negating what is still one of the best starting pitching staffs in the National League. If they could just must some respectable offensive numbers, the Padres have good enough pitching to turn things around.