MLB Handicapping: Teams to Watch Closely After Break
by Trevor Whenham - 7/19/2013
We’ve seen nearly 100 games played in this baseball season. That is enough for us to mostly have a sense of which teams are real contenders and which are just passing time until golf season starts. There are some teams at this point every year, though, which will look much different down the stretch than they have up to this point. For bettors, the ability to spot those teams — whether they improve or freefall — is a great way to find value and fatten your bankroll. Here are three teams that stand a good chance of reversing their current course the rest of the way:
After their highly-unlikely playoff run last year, the A’s are out to prove that they aren’t a fluke. They have some impressive talent — like recent Home Run Derby winner Yoenis Cespedes. I just find it really hard to believe in them going forward. There are a couple of reasons that stand out among many nagging issues. A team can’t win without pitching. The A’s have had surprising success from their rotation this year, but I just don’t see it standing up to the strain of the rest of the year. I’m almost 38, so I have a soft spot for Bartolo Colon because he’s one of the few guys in the league who is still older than me. He’s pitching the best he has since 2005. However, unless he has discovered a fountain of youth, it’s quite likely he will fade. The rest of the core of the rotation is young and inexperienced and is starting to hit volume levels that could be a strain on their arms. That could hurt the team.
Aside from the pitching, the biggest concern is their schedule. They have thrived partially because of how they have played, but they have unquestionably been helped by the issues the Rangers and especially the Angels have had. Both teams have been playing better recently, though, and have shown signs that they could close strong. The A’s have 13 games remaining against the Angels and nine against the Rangers among their 67 final games, so they are going to be challenged by more talented and more experienced divisional rivals. I just don’t see the A’s winning their division, and I am not even confident that they will play in the wild card game.
I keep hearing that this year is going to be different and that the Pirates aren’t going to collapse again. I really hope for their sake that that is true, but until I see it for my eyes I have to be skeptical. They haven’t been in the playoffs for two decades. They have faded late twice in a row after strong starts. Though their depth is better than it has been — especially in the rotation — there is still a real reason for concern any time a team is relying on pitchers with warts like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano or Wandy Rodriguez. The Cardinals should stay strong down the stretch. The Reds aren’t going to give up without a fight. In other divisions teams like the Nationals and even the Dodgers could have a charge in them. I’m not saying that this team absolutely won’t make the playoffs. I’m just saying that being skeptical makes a lot more sense than buying into the hype and jumping on the bandwagon. It’s usually better to bet on the trend than against it, and the trend for this team is unparalleled periods of futility.
San Francisco Giants
It didn’t necessarily seem likely heading into this season that the Giants would win their third World Series title in four years. It really didn’t seem, though, that they would hit the all-star break with a pathetic 43-51 record. They are two games below the freaking Rockies in the standings. That’s humiliating. While I don’t expect this team to climb into contention or even to finish with a great record, I do expect them to be a solidly better team the rest of the way than they have been. There are some concerns, of course — like a fall to earth for the surprising Hunter Pence, or a slightly less spectacular August and September from Buster Posey. The biggest reason for optimism, though, is that the pitchers — and most notably Lincecum and Cain — have faced bad luck well beyond reasonable expectations that have really hurt their records and other surface stats. If their luck returns to reasonable levels, as we would expect over the longer term, then both of their stars should be much stronger than they have been — a combined 10-15 so far. That alone will improve the fate of this team going forward.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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