by Josh Nagel - 05/22/2008
Although the White Sox have won seven straight, reversing a near-disastrous slide just a few weeks ago, it's hard to stay on the roller coaster that this team gives its backers.
Despite the nice chunk of cash Chicago has given bettors over the past couple of weeks, this is a difficult team to get behind because the club appears to be about as schizophrenic as its mercurial manager, Ozzie Guillen. For my money, it just feels a little safer to stick with teams that have at least a modicum of sanity in their management.
With that said, here are some MLB trends through May 20:
American League East
Boston Red Sox - Granted, there's a stiff price to pay for laying a bet on the Sox, who have won five straight, as of Thursday morning, following a four-game skid. But to pay -170 for a no-hitter from a guy like Jon Lester might be worth the extra vig. However, don't be tempted to lay off some of the juice by playing the run line; although Boston is up 830 units for the season, it's down 530 for the year on the run line.
Baltimore Orioles - Time will still tell if this team has truly started a run toward respectability, but the Orioles haven't slipped up yet. They have won eight of 10, including a 4-1 home stand against the Red Sox and Nationals. This success is despite an offense that ranks in the bottom third in most categories.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox - The aforementioned White Sox got healthy by beating up on a couple of squads from the National League Worst, the Giants and Dodgers. This week's home stand against the Indians and Royals could prove pivotal to re-establishing themselves as the team to beat in the division. They have held opponents to three runs or fewer in five of their last six wins.
Cleveland Indians - In losing four straight, the Indians have failed to muster more than four runs in any of those contests. Which is too bad, because if the team with the league's worst batting average (.234) could provide a little help for its top-ranked pitching staff (3.36 ERA), Cleveland likely would be this division's most formidable club.
American League West
Oakland A's - The A's suffer from a similar plight to that of the Indians; they are second in the majors with a 3.42 ERA in fourth in strikeouts with 343, but have struggled to provide much offense with their Moneyballed lineup. In losing eight of 10, Oakland has scored two or fewer runs six times and has been shut out twice.
Texas Rangers -The Rangers have fallen back on their time-proven formula that blends potent offense with impotent pitching, with the finger-crossed hope that they can somehow outscore their opponents. Still waiting for that one to work; the league's fourth-ranked offense hasn't been able to overcome a 4.76 team ERA, 28th in the majors.
National League East
Atlanta Braves - The Braves have won five of seven and have looked pretty solid in beating up on their old nemesis, the New York Mets, in their past two games. The Tim Hudson-led pitching staff has rebounded from a rough start to climb to a 3.47 ERA, and the Braves are starting to win close games, which has been their downfall for a while. They are up a staggering 1,357 units on the run line this season.
New York Mets - A potentially big slide could be on the way here. If the team wasn't already starting to turn on manager Willie Randolph, he didn't do it any favors by suggesting in an interview earlier this week that some of the criticism he takes is likely due to his color. The more likely explanation is that a team with a payroll that rivals that of the national debt is expected to do a little better than barely crack .500. The fallout from Randolph's comments can only have a negative effect.
National League Central
Houston Astros - The Astros have kept their heads above water with wins in six of their last 10, thanks largely to the MVP-type numbers (.388, 16 homers) that Lance Berkman has been putting up. But it's a bad sign for Astros backers that Shawn Chacon leads the team with a 4.14 ERA while projected ace Roy Oswalt is just 4-4 with a 5.43 ERA.
Milwaukee Brewers - The slumping Brewers have lost five of six, and it remains to be seen whether young star Ryan Braun's comments about the team lacking confidence will give the squad the boost it needs. Unlike Randolph's tirade, Braun's comments were based in truth and he has the support of manager Ned Yost. A little refreshing perspective from a rising star just might be what the Brewers need.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks - The Diamondbacks rolled to 5-1 homestand against the hapless Rockies and Tigers last week. Prices were reasonable, too, as -166 was the most expensive ticket for backing the 5-1 Micah Owings against Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa. Arizona might be worth a look during this weekend's road trip to Atlanta, where prices against the rising Braves are bound to be tempting.
Colorado Rockies - It's a sad commentary on the overall weakness of the division that Colorado's paltry 18-28 record is still good enough for third place in the NL West. That's about the best thing the World Series darlings from a year ago have going for them. Losers of seven of 10 with a three-game win streak sandwiched in between, their team ERA of 4.62 (26th) has been bad enough to lose games, but their struggling offense (4.26 runs per game, 21st) has kept scores fairly low as well. Colorado is 21-25 against the over, including a 10-12 home mark.