by Josh Nagel - 05/15/2008
I'm here to make this early-season MLB betting resolution: I'm officially done betting against the Tampa Bay Rays. Not that I have the money to fire against them even if I wanted to; my wallet already is empty as a result of this unfortunate habit. What a devil of a team they have been thus far, especially if you had your cash on the opposition.
Like a lot of bettors, I just couldn't help myself. Yes, I understood that the Rays have a budding young pitching staff and improved roster but, you know, perceptions are sometimes hard to shake. In other words, at the end of the day, you expect that the Rays to wake up and still be the Rays, just as the Detroit Lions will always be the Detroit Lions, ditto for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Some teams you just can't help going against. So when I saw teams like the Angels and Yankees being spotted plus-money down in Tampa, the "value" looked heavenly. But now I want to shout at the devil. Or maybe just the Rays. Either way, you have to tip your cap to a team that has now won seven straight and, for the time being, hold first place in the American League East.
This won't last for long. You and I both know it, but for now I'm done predicting when their "fluke" start will come crashing down and the big money on the other side starts coming in. Why not jump the bandwagon, you ask, and start backing the Rays? Because this would ensure their rapid demise … the sports betting gods have a way of punishing you for switching sides. So, like a bulging zit on your or forehead or the upcoming "Sex and the City" movie, some things are better left alone.
With that in mind, here is a look at some MLB trends through May 14:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - Well, for all the reasons mentioned above, the Rays deserve kudos for rewarding their ambitious backers. The Rays are up a hefty 838 units on the season thanks to a pitching staff than ranks among the top five in most categories and a lineup that has been capable enough to provide ample run support.
Toronto Blue Jays - Despite a pitching staff that ranks third in MLB with a 3.53 ERA and second with 300 strikeouts, lately there's been no "O" in Toronto. In their last five losses, the Blue Jays have scored a total of eight runs and four of those came in a 5-4 loss to the Rays.
American League Central
Cleveland Indians - Cy Young candidate - is it too early to say "winner?" - Cliff Lee has been as untouchable as his .67 ERA suggests, and he has almost single-handedly led the Tribe to a nice turnaround. Cleveland's 25 quality starts lead the majors and its 3.38 team ERA is second. Now if the offense, which is ranked in the bottom third in most categories, can come around, the Indians easily could become this division's frontrunner.
Detroit Tigers - The woeful Tigers have dropped eight of 10 and there does not appear to be a happy end in sight. Detroit ranks dead last in quality starts (10) and team ERA (5.08), which is a real bummer for a team whose acquisition of Dontrelle Willis, to go along with the likes of Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander, was supposed to be its overwhelming strength.
American League West
Anaheim Angels - For a first-place team, the Angels sure seem to have flown under the radar a little bit. A net profit of just 426 units reflects a little inconsistency on their part; last week's four-game losing streak included a loss to the Royals and a sweep at the hands of the Rays. It starts with inconsistent outings from the rotation; when the often-erratic Ervin Santana leads your team with six wins, it's a sign that they are not getting enough from the likes of Jon Garland and Jered Weaver.
Seattle Mariners - The Mariners had playoff aspirations when the season started and, although it's too early to say those hopes are dashed, they certainly are in jeopardy. In a five-game losing streak last week, they scored a total of seven runs. The offensive problems were compounded when ace acquisition Erik Bedard then gave up six earned runs in two innings in a 13-12 loss to Texas.
National League East
Florida Marlins - Another team that is a surprise to still be atop the standings, the Marlins had won seven straight before a recent two-game skid. Underdogs in the last four during the win streak, bettors could have cashed for 769 units even if they had started wagering after the streak reached three games. The extension the team just gave shortstop Hanley Ramirez threatens to single-handedly double Florida's yearly payroll; expect their luck to change if the checks start bouncing.
New York Mets - The Mets haven't won or lost more than two in a row in about a month. But if you're looking for patterns, here they are: For the past two weeks, New York has won every time it was favored with the exception of a 7-1 loss to Cincinnati May 10, and has lost every time it was a dog. Evidently the Mets aren't so unpredictable after all.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs - Although the Cubs have the top-ranked offense in MLB, it's a testament to the power of their offense that they have been able to do so with the strikeout-prone Alfonso Soriano still hitting leadoff. Starting off the first inning with an often easy out doesn't bode well, especially against good pitching, but this is a void the Cubs probably will fill after the All-Star break when they can pick someone up from a team that falls out of contention.
Houston Astros - The Astros rewarded their backers with an astounding 465 units over their three-game sweep of the Dodgers last weekend. Houston got some surprisingly strong starting pitching performances and it's not terribly surprising that they beat up on the light-hitting Dodgers, who scored just six runs in the three games, with five of them coming in Sunday's 8-5 loss.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - It's been a rough run for the enigmatic Dodgers, who have now lost five straight and scored just 10 runs in those games. One of Joe Torre's first major decisions might hinge on what to do with Andruw Jones, the $18 million per year dough boy who made his own struggles worse by telling a reporter last week who asked about his weight, "I don't care." Now that's not what Dodgers fans, or their backers, need to hear.
San Diego Padres - The Padres rank dead last, or near it, in almost every offensive category, and yet their pitching has been good enough for a respectable 4.14 ERA. The predictable result: the Padres are 23-16-1 against the under, with the bulk of that cash earned in the last couple of weeks. They have gone under in seven of their last eight games, scoring more than four runs only once. Since it looks like a team-wide slump is in the making, the under appears pretty safe for a while.