MLB Betting Advice: Boston Red Sox
by Trevor Whenham - 4/21/2011
The Red Sox made headlines at the start of the season, but for all the wrong reasons. An aggressive and sensible offseason had expectations sky high, but a 2-10 start had everyone trying to figure out what was going on. They are a more impressive 4-1 since, but the start has raised a number of issues for the team and for bettors. Here’s a look at four of the more interesting ones along with some MLB betting advice:
Playoff hole - This is the most interesting aspect of the slow start in my eyes. It seems silly to be talking about the playoffs in April, but it’s certainly relevant here.
In the last seven years it has taken at least 94 wins to take the Wild Card spot in the American League, and at least 96 to win the AL East. In order to win 94 games and give themselves a chance of making the postseason, they need to go 92-58 the rest of the way — a .613 winning percentage. The Phillies had the best winning percentage in the majors last year at .599. Just two teams — the 2009 Yankees and the 2008 Angels — in the last five seasons have won at a better rate than the Red Sox would need to from the 13th game forward this season. It’s obviously not impossible, but it isn’t going to be easy, and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the Red Sox the rest of the way -- more than they would even normally face in the crazy fish bowl that is Boston.
Some teams can easily handle pressure, and these Red Sox may be one of them, but we don’t know, and we can’t know. At the very least, for baseball handicappers it adds an extra layer of complexity to decoding an already complex AL East.
Public panic - There are few things more entertaining to watch than the public reaction to the struggles of a very public team, and Boston is pretty much as public as they come.
The team came into the season with high hopes and tons of hype, and the average public bettor bought into that hook, line and sinker. That’s not their fault — lots of experts were and are high on this team as well. The problem is that once the team started struggling and it was clear that it was going to extend beyond the opening series the public didn’t know what to do. They wanted to still believe in them because they had the loaded roster and the stacked rotation, but they weren’t paying off at the windows.
The panic caused by a public team is a bit of a nightmare for serious handicappers because it makes the public less predictable, and an unpredictable public can wreak havoc on MLB lines and make it harder than ever to find value. Whether they have enough in the tank to make the playoffs or not, the sooner this team returns to reasonably expected form the better for most handicappers.
Performance against the division - In order for a team in the brutal AL East to survive the division and move on, they have to do well in their division. On this front the season hasn’t been a disaster for the Red Sox. In fact, they have more wins against divisional opponents, with five, than any other team in the group.
Now, they have played two more divisional games than any other team, but despite that their 5-4 record is solid, and well above their ridiculously bad 1-7 record outside the division. Even better, they took two of three from their hated rivals from New York, and took three of four important games from Toronto. Things aren’t quite as bad as they seem, in other words.
It’s also important to note that while they have been losing they haven’t been falling to lousy teams. Texas victimized them to start the year, and the Rangers are certainly a serious playoff contender. Cleveland is a huge surprise this season that has snuck up on more than just the Red Sox. Oakland has some very nice pitching and is in the playoff discussion. Significantly, not only are all three of those opponents good, but Boston was on the road against all of them.
Carl Crawford - Crawford is a perfect example of how ridiculous the public, and the media by extension, can be. Crawford is a good player, and a good acquisition for the Sox. He’s not a totally even-tempered guy, though, and he was faced with making the transition from a market that doesn’t really care about baseball to one that doesn’t care about anything but. The chances that there was going to be an adjustment period were high.
Crawford did struggle out of the gate, and the panic started. He was a mistake, some said. He is overpaid, a bust. That’s all ridiculous, of course — a guy in his prime doesn’t forget how to play ball over one winter. He has the tendency to be streaky anyway, and the adjustment to new surroundings won’t help. Crawford is a perfect reminder that bettors sometimes just need to take a deep breath, relax, and make sure they are keeping things in perspective.
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