MLB Handicapping: Early Betting Surprises
by Trevor Whenham - 4/10/2013
A week means nothing in the grand scheme of things in a baseball season. It’s barely a blip on the radar. Still, at the start of the season we are forced to make guesses and rely on assumptions about how teams will perform out of the gate and what that means for early betting opportunities. By looking at how teams have performed in the opening week of the season compared to those expectations — spotting the pleasant surprises and the early disappointments — we can start to adjust our expectations before they cost too much.
Here are five of the biggest surprises and disappointments through the first week of the season — ending on Monday night, April 8.
I’m not sure anyone would have predicted that the Rockies would start the season at 5-2. Heck, some people are probably surprised that they reached five wins before the end of May. They lost their opener in extra innings but then reeled off five straight wins before losing again in San Francisco. While that’s an impressive start, they hardly get credit for beating the elite teams in the league — they won two of three in Milwaukee then swept the Padres. After two more against San Francisco they face San Diego, the Mets and Arizona, so there is a chance that they will have a deceptively strong record after that stretch. If the public gets blinded by the surprisingly-fast start there could be some value when they play tougher teams like Atlanta and the Dodgers at the end of the month.
Boston Red Sox
Talking trash about the Red Sox heading into the season had become a sport. I didn’t see anyone who predicted that the team would win the AL East, and several people predicted they would finish dead-last. Through the first week, though, the Red Sox sit atop the AL East. More significantly, they opened on the road and won series at both New York and Toronto. Then they returned home and won their opener against Baltimore. They sit at 5-2, and they have delivered real profits for those who overcame their doubts and bet on them. The rest of this home stand — two more against Baltimore and then four against Tampa Bay — will give a better sense of whether the team can sustain their play. It will be a strange experience for them at home since their streak of sellouts will end.
Toronto Blue Jays
Thanks to a very successful offseason, the Blue Jays entered the season as the favorites to win the World Series. You don’t win any games in the offseason, though, and so far the team has really struggled to get wins with their radically-overhauled roster. They opened with six games at home but dropped two of three against Cleveland and Boston. The last of the six losses was particularly brutal — 13-0 to their divisional rivals and the manager who left them in the offseason. Ouch. 2-4 was hardly how they were expecting this dream season to start, and it has surely punished the bettors who have bought into this team and their potential.
Los Angeles Angels
Like the Blue Jays, the Angels had a very aggressive offseason, and it hasn’t delivered the return they were expecting early in the season. They opened the season as the first team to play interleague games under the newly-balanced schedule. It didn’t go well — they dropped two of three in Cincinnati. Then they headed to Arlington to play their hated rivals the Rangers. The Texas fans weren’t happy to see Josh Hamilton again, so they were surely satisfied with the two wins in three games. That has dropped the Angels to 2-4 after the first week. The saving grace here compared to the Jays — for both bettors and the team — is that the 2-4 mark was achieved on the road and not at home.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox should have the formula to o “under” the total with reasonable regularity. They have a rotation that has a chance to be decently solid, and there are real questions about their ability to score any runs. The start to the season hasn’t been a success on the scoreboard — they were just 2-4 through six home games in the first week of the season in series against the Royals and Mariners. In all but one of those games, though, the team went under the total. It’s hard to know if they can keep it up — they started their second week with an ugly 8-7 loss when their pitching couldn’t hold up against the big bats of the Nationals — but it is a trend to keep an eye on.
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