by Trevor Whenham - 06/05/2008
Here's a newsflash - there are some really bad teams in the major leagues. I'm not talking about the teams like the Tigers, the Indians, or the Yankees that are redefining the word underachieve. I'm talking about teams like the Royals, Nationals, Pirates and Giants that are lousy and which don't give us a lot of reasons to believe that they won't be lousy for years to come. These cellar dwellers can eventually turn things around, as the Rays have clearly proven, but nothing happens quickly.
These lousy teams are typically just as lousy at the betting window as they are on the field. That obviously doesn't make them very attractive to bettors, but there is at least one exception. The public has a general perception of these bad teams, and they tend to stick to them. Lousy teams can have good pitchers, though. The public perception can often mean that those pitchers face more value than they normally would if they were pitching for a better team. That makes them attractive to seek out and keep an eye on. Here are five good pitchers who are stuck with lousy teams.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants - This guy was only drafted in 2006, but he plays like an established veteran. He made 24 starts as a rookie last year and was solid, but he has elevated his game this season. He's at 7-1 in 11 starts, and he has put together some impressive stats. His ERA is just 2.23, he has 78 strikeouts in 76 innings, and his K/BB ratio is a very nice 2.44. He hasn't lost since April, and he has some wins over decent teams - Arizona, Philadelphia, and St. Louis twice. Most importantly to bettors, the team is 4-2 when he is favored, and 4-1 when he is an underdog, so he has been profitable in any situation. He'll probably hit an inning limit later in the season because of his age, but for now he is a reliable place to put your money.
Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco Giants - The Giants are 10 games below .500, but they really shouldn't be given that they regularly send out both Lincecum and Sanchez. It doesn't say much for the rest of their rotation. Sanchez is in his third year with the Giants, but his first as a full-time starter. If he keeps it up like he has then he'll keep the job. He's not nearly as statistically shiny as Lincecum - he's only 4-3 and his ERA is over four. What makes him so attractive, though, is that the team just wins when he is on the mound. He has made 12 starts this year, and the team has won nine of them. More significantly, he has only been favored twice, and both of those occasions were lukewarm (-102 and -109). He won both of those games, but much more attractive is that the team is 7-3 when he is an underdog. Betting on a record like that is a pretty easy way to make a profit.
Tim Redding, Washington Nationals - Redding is a journeyman that has bounced around since 2001 - Houston, the Mets, San Diego, Washington. He's also bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen. For now, at least, he seems to have found his place in Washington. Only two teams in the National League have a worse record than the Nationals, yet Redding has managed to overcome that and posted a 6-3 record. The Nationals are a lousy 4-10 over their last 14, and that record is pretty indicative of their talent level, yet they have won the last four times that Redding has started. The four wins haven't come against lightweights, either - Arizona, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the Mets. Overall, the team is 9-3 when he has started. He has been at better than even-money odds nine times, and he is a juicy 2-1 when at +180 or higher.
Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals - This always seems to be the way - just as I was getting ready to write this article this week Greinke went out and had one of the worst outings of his career. He allowed eight earned runs in six innings as his team got locked into an ill-advised shootout with the White Sox. Needless to say, he lost. That was his second rough outing in three starts, and the third-straight time that the Royals have lost when he has started, but that doesn't away from the fact that I think he belongs here. The Royals are only the third worst team by record, but they have the least reason for hope in my mind (except maybe for Pittsburgh). Despite that, and despite some pretty serious mental problems he has faced, Greinke has been consistently good. He's at 5-3 on the year for a team that has won less than 40 percent of their games, and his ERA is still only 3.56 despite the two rough recent games. The team is 7-4 in his starts. Just imagine what this guy could do if he pitched for an actual major league team.
Daniel Cabrera, Baltimore Orioles - Many people said that the Orioles were doomed this year after dumping Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard. They don't need to worry about planning a parade route just yet, but they have been better than expected, and a big part of the reason for that is Cabrera. He was a very ugly 9-18 last year, but he's like a new pitcher this year. He's at 5-2, and his ERA has dropped by more than a run and a half. The Orioles are two games below .500, but are 8-3 when Cabrera is on the mound to start.